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Project Blackford and Tales from the Archives

Way back in October I introduced Project Blackford, my super secret foray into the shared universe of some well known, well respected, and award winning authors. Much to my astonishment, I found I wanted to keep most of the information to myself.

My self esteem is just a bit more fragile than I realized.  I didn’t want to announce what I was doing for fear of failure, I mean, what if they didn’t like it? What if I made a big deal about writing a story for them and it just didn’t make the final cut?

Why don’t I stop whining and build some excitement instead?

I’m being disingenuous, I don’t think I was ever going to tell, except Tee recently posted the above image on Facebook, extolling the virtues of whiteboards. As you can see, I haven’t Lepetomane‘d it yet.

You are looking at the task list of award winning authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. TFTA, or Tales from the Archives, is the Parcec Award winning anthology set in The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences universe; the setting for a successful and ongoing series of collaborative works. And yes, that says “Edit Paul Ellis story for TFTA – Pip.” I guess she drew the short straw. (Remind me to apologize to her later.)

I am incredibly excited by the opportunity and having a bit of a fanboy moment. I am also scared to death. Last year, I asked Pip & Tee if they would be open to a short story pitch. I can’t claim to know them personally, I’ve only met them at book signings and conferences. We don’t hang out together, or ask each other for advice. They are authors; I’m a fan. But I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. At worst, they would tell me no. That’s what I told myself. Little did I know what would happen when they said yes!

I froze. Then, I dawdled for a while. I had sent samples of my writing (at their request), so they evidently saw something, but I was having a protracted and unaccustomed bout with self-doubt. I had the courage to ask, but having fallen victim to talking a big game, I was balking on delivering.

It took me awhile, but I finally got over myself and wrote. And wrote, and wrote, and wrote! Over three and a half times what they ask for! Which turned out to be three and a half times more than they could use. Pip and Tee are gracious. Instead of just telling me ‘No,’ they asked if it could cut it down to something manageable. I said yes, winced, then got out the ax.

My story was way too big. The worst part: I knew it. Pip and Tee had told me, rather specifically, what they were looking for length-wise, and I allowed the story to get away from me. And, run clear across state. I was in a quandary of my own making.

So began the laborious process of unwinding parallel plot lines and characters, in an effort to fit into the story requirements. After a week of cutting and pruning, including dumping one entire plot line I believed pivotal (it was key in the pitch) and excising one scene where a character’s spouse dies, revealing that character’s central motivation, I stitched my tale back together. It was a little longer than requested, however it was accepted for edits.

What does this mean? In the short term, I wait and see what, if anything, survives said edits. This is one of the expectations I have steeled myself for. I have found working collaboratively in a shared world presents a set of unique challenges and truths.

  1. It may be ‘my’ story, but it’s not ‘my story.’ My tale is set in their world, one I wrangled an invite into. No matter how groovy I think this story is,  ultimately it’s their call.
  2. I can take as many chances as I want, provided I realize they may not want those chances taken. It’s their characters and their intellectual property. I have a day pass, and need to respect that.
  3. Pip and Tee may have no objection to my story at all, but they may not feel that it is canon. I have incorporated some pretty cool plot twists. I think they will like them, but they may not want to take the franchise down that road. They have a profitable series of books and may not care to allow me to monkey with that.
  4. Some characters are unkillable, and some plot devices are unusable. That’s a given, this universe is shared between many authors.
  5. In the end, I just may not be a good fit.

So now, I write other stuff while I wait. I’m not going to lie, it would be incredibly cool to have my story accepted, and a great deal of fun to voice the accompanying podcast, but the reality is, I’m the newb here.

I’ll kept you posted on the progress

About the Author: Paul K. Ellis
Author Website:


  1. […] yet to produce a novel. Yes, I’ve been published in one anthology, and it looks like another short may be published “soonish,” but despite that (or, perhaps because of it), I feel […]

  2. Davey says:

    Well, following the link and browsing down the interminably-long page, I finally found mention of a story by you in one volume. You finally made it; why didn’t you update your legions of adoring and/or sparkly fans that it’d been a successful run for participation in a Shared World?


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