5 Tips for Aspiring Self-Published Writers

Begin One Way by Andy Arthur

I am a self-published writer at the beginning of my career. I’m not a master passing down wisdom from on high. I’m just another traveler on the same road as everyone else, and these are some of the tips and reminders I give myself from time to time. Maybe some of them will speak to you, too.

1) You’re at the beginning of a long road. You know that old saw about enjoying the journey and not the destination? You better be ready to believe that, because the journey is the only thing you’re in control of. You can write, and polish, and publish, improving your craft with each cycle, but no matter what you do, there’s no guarantee you’ll become a bestseller or even make enough to pay your bills at the end of the road. Which brings us to point number two:

2) You gotta have faith, a-faith, a-faith-ahhh*. Trust yourself. You’re doing this for a reason. You’re passionate. You have stories fighting to escape from your mind and burrow into your readers’ imaginations. Finding those readers can be difficult at first. You might feel like you’re writing into the void. Keep going. If this is something you are passionate about, and you’re willing to keep improving your craft, it will find an audience. Someone will read your work and be transported to another world. How cool is that? Which reminds me:

3) You are awesome. And you stink. Both, really. At the same time. You have to be able to hold both of these thoughts at once, in balance, and not succumb to the dangers of excess belief in either. If you think you’re completely awesome, you might risk not getting some second opinions on your work before you publish, at which point finding out you are not the next Stephen King can come as a tremendous blow to your ego. If you think your writing stinks worse than last week’s beef and broccoli, you’ll paralyze yourself before you can bring a story to completion.

Remember, you are awesome, but you’re not perfect. Some of what you write will be downright horrible. Allow yourself to stink the place up in your first draft. Polish it. Share your writing with some trusted fellow writers or complete strangers and get some feedback. Polish it again. Try to have an objective eye for your work and, if you think it’s ready, put it out there.

4) Write, publish, repeat. No, I haven’t read the book of the same name, although I think I bought it in a bundle a while back. But I digress. I don’t need to have read the book to agree with its mantra. I know too many writers who have never pulled the trigger on publishing their work. They have so many unfinished projects, but for whatever reason, they won’t actually release any. If your goal is to grow as a writer, I suggest that you finish what you started and publish it. It feels good to have accomplished something, you’ll have proven to yourself you can do it, and most importantly, you can move on to the next project. And the next one, and the next one.

5) There’s a lot about selling books that is out of your hands, so for the things you can control, make them as excellent as you can. Note the italics on “as you can.” I’ll come back to that in a second.

The biggest item you can control is your writing, but don’t make the mistake of striving for the perfection of some ideal Book or Story. Write the best work you can. Get it edited if you can. Get beta readers if you can. Have it proofread by a professional if you can. Get an awesome cover if you can.

If you can. Notice I’m not saying you must or you should. I think we all, given the choice, would have a team of experts assisting us with every aspect of our book. Many of us aren’t at the point where this makes financial sense, however. We can afford some experts, maybe. Or we can’t afford any but we have some trusted associates we can trade with. Or we can trade beta reads, or find a writing group, or an online community.

Produce a work you’re proud of and accept that there will always be those who will tell you what you must do and what you should do, but in the end, do what you can do. Keep doing what you can do for long enough, and maybe you’ll be able to afford all the things you must and should do.

Bottom line: if you believe you have created the best work possible for you at this point in time, publish it. Then listen to reviews and pick out the constructive criticism. Use it to improve your next work.

Whatever road you’re on, I wish you the best of luck along the way.

*If you don’t get this reference, you’re probably starting on the road to self-publishing much earlier in life than I am. 🙂

Photo Credit: Begin One Way by Andy Arthur.

Moorcock and Tolkien

The scales of justice, photo by James Cridland.I can’t get worked up about a lot of things, and certainly not about what books people like to read, so it is always with some amusement when I see someone or other trash someone else’s writing. It is even more amusing (or perhaps confusing) when I find out one of my writer heroes, Michael Moorcock, despised another of my writer heroes, J.R.R. Tolkien.

I’ll spoil the ending of this post right now: I like both of them and I’m cool with that. But I think it’s interesting to look at their different styles, as I experienced them, and see what I can make of Moorcock’s attitude and what effect each writer has had on my own style.

In a recent piece in the New Yorker, “The Anti-Tolkien,” Peter Bebergal writes: “Moorcock, one of the most prolific living fantasists, sees Tolkien’s creation as little more than a conservative vision of the status quo, an adventure that brings its hero “There and Back Again,” rather than into a world where experience means you can’t go home again.”

Moorcock’s work, especially the Elric series, is presented as a rebellion against Tolkien’s traditional fantasy.

Bebergal again: “In the nineteen-seventies, swimming in the shadows like a remora alongside Tolkien’s legacy, was a hero of sorts with a slightly darker nature than that of Bilbo or Gandalf. His name is Elric, a frail, drug-addicted albino and the reluctant ruler of the kingdom of Melniboné, where revenge and hedonism are abiding characteristics, and human beings are enslaved. The inhabitants of Melniboné are not the spiritual, almost angelic elves of Lothlórien, but a race of decadent autocrats whose magical gifts are bestowed by demons.”

I had never really thought of Moorcock’s work this way, probably because I read Moorcock before I read Tolkien (the Lord of the Rings trilogy seemed dense and overwhelming to me in my teens, when I devoured dozens of books each month and formed some of my strongest reader/author bonds).

Granted, I always found something cooler about Moorcock’s worlds and heroes. They were tragic, usually barely hanging on to their lives, and even when they succeeded, it wasn’t long before a cruel world swept the rug out from under them once more. Perhaps Moorcock’s writing better agreed with the way the world felt to teenaged me (and, I’ll admit it) adult me.

I rarely participate in epic quests and ultimately conquer evil. Life is a series of small battles and the outcome is usually questionable, so I can relate more to Moorcock’s heroes in this way. As Bebergal writes, “Elric is not about abstract ideas of good and evil, with faceless powers looking to strip the world of its trees and its hobbit holes. Elric is about law and chaos, and how, sometimes, choosing one over the other is no more or less just.”

All that being said, epic fantasy, with the forces of good eventually winning a hard-fought victory over the nameless evil, definitely has its time and place. I love the scope, the world-building, the mix of characters and personalities. I love that Tolkien’s world feels like a real place, a piece of our own history, with a sense that around any corner of the world, something else awaits, some adventure or hero or villain or ruin with a story all its own.

Even though I tend more toward stories about individual heroes trying to balance law and chaos within themselves, often with bittersweet victories at the end, I don’t feel the need to dismiss one type of story over another.

As a writer I tend toward one side of the balance, but as a reader I enjoy both equally, at least until the next book I read tips me more toward one side or the other.

(Speaking of which, Michael Moorcock’s new book, The Whispering Swarm, is out on January 13!)


Photo credit: The scales of justice, James Cridland.

Book Tour: The Only City Left


Twin Opinions is hosting a belated book tour for The Only City Left this week. Visit the page to see where The Only City Left will be showing up this week, and also enter to win one of two ebook copies of The Only City Left!

Writers: If you’re interested in having Twin Opinions host a tour for you, they have a sale going right now. Check out their Pricing page.

Meet Allin Arcady

Ryan Toxopeus nominated me to participate in the Meet My Character Blog Tour, and lo, after weeks of procrastination, here it is.

Meet Allin Arcady

1) What is the name of your character?  Is he fictional or a historic person?

Allin Arcady. He’s fictional but part of a grand future history I have planned. (I can’t resist future histories. Cherryh. Asimov. Heinlein. Niven. I love it when an author’s many and varied works share a universe and timeline.)

2) When and where is the story set?

The Only City Left is set on the planet Earth, tens of thousands of years in the future. At this point, the planet has been paved over, dug out, and built up to the point where it is one giant, hive-like city that completely covers the planet. Oceans still exist beneath the city, and some towns and cities were swallowed whole, especially if they had some historical value, but from the outside the Earth would be unrecognizable to a visitor from our time.

They might recognize the Moon though, still orbiting the Earth as it always has.

The city called Earth is largely empty now. No one knows where the majority of the population went, but there are many rumors as to why they disappeared. All agree that it must have happened a long time ago.

3) What should we know about him?

Allin has survived on his own in the depths of the City for the past three years. Before that, he lived with his parents as a nomad, always moving throughout the City, never settling down. He’s used to scavenging old tech to create new devices to help him survive his often-perilous journey.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

Allin’s running from the horrors of his past. He thinks if he can climb out of the dark depths of the City and see the Sun rise over the Roof of the World, he’ll have accomplished all he can hope for in life. Unfortunately, making his way up through the deadly maze of the City is not easy, and it becomes even harder when a menace from his parents’ past comes calling. Allin may want to be rid of his past, but it’s not going to let go that easily.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

To survive and to see the Sun for once in his dark, dreary life.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

It’s called The Only City Left. You can read a sample on Amazon, or read some of the wonderful reviews it has received.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?

The Only City Left is currently available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. I’m currently at work on the sequel, The Fifth House.

The Only City Left: One Month Post-Release

Photo by Lies Van RompaeySince it’s been one month since I released The Only City Left, I thought I’d do a review of how things have gone.


Full disclosure. I didn’t set the world on fire with the release of The Only City Left. I sold 7 ebooks and 9 paperbacks in the first month. For all but a couple of these, I know to which friend or family member each copy went. So it goes.


I’ve done two things to garner reviews. 1) I offered 100 ebook copies to LibraryThing members through their Member Giveaway, with a request that they provide honest reviews in exchange for the book. 77 people took me up on the offer by the end of the two-week giveaway period. It is not required that any of them actually provide a review, however. 2) I contacted book bloggers that review books in my genre and requested reviews from them in exchange for a copy of the book. (See end of post for two great lists of book reviewers.)

So far, 4 LibraryThing members have provided reviews. All 4 of them posted their reviews to LibraryThing, 3 copied their review to Amazon, 2 copied their review to Goodreads, and 1 copied the review to their personal blog. Since the LibraryThing members have only had the book available to them for two weeks, I am hopeful that more reviews will come of this.

Regarding book bloggers, I have contacted 48 reviewers so far. 8 bloggers have stated that they will read the book for a possible review, although timelines for the review may be months out due to their large reading queue. 2 more showed interest but have not confirmed their plans. 2 bloggers have declined to read the book, 1 offered an Author Spotlight feature in lieu of reading the book, and the rest have not responded. 1 in 6 bloggers showing interest is actually a positive ratio in my book, and I will continue to request reviews from new bloggers as I discover them.


Other than a couple of mentions on my social media streams and the requests for reviews, I haven’t really had a marketing effort. This is a judgment call on my part. I don’t think I should put time and money into marketing one book. Once I have more books published, I will have to look more closely at book marketing efforts. I also haven’t inundated my social media stream with requests for people to buy my book. Again, with only one book out, I don’t feel it’s worth nagging my social media friends about my book over and over.

I did have some book business cards printed, for those times when I’m talking in person with someone and the subject comes up. This way, I can leave them with a physical reminder of the book. They were relatively low-cost, but time will tell if that expense was worth it. toclcards


I appreciate all the friends and family who bought my book, but of course I have to reach farther afield if I ever want to supplement my family’s income by writing books. Since I’m not going all out trying to drum up sales on Book 1 of The Only City Left, I need to focus on writing Book 2, which is what I am doing. I also hope that after a certain number of reviews, Book 1 might gain some traction in and of itself. There’s a long road ahead and I’m only at the beginning, but I’m happy to finally be here, looking forward to the future again.


The Only City Left on Amazon (Note: The ebook is free with purchase of a paperback. Also, the ebook is DRM-free.)

The Only City Left on Goodreads

The Only City Left on LibraryThing

Indie Reviewers on The Indie View (Note: Check back frequently and sort by date to see when new reviewers are added. Contact them quickly as I get the sense that reviewers become inundated with requests in a short amount of time.)

List of Online Reviewers Who Accept Self-Published Books (This is a great list that was published on 8/6/14. Thanks to Erica Verrillo for putting it together. There are no dates attached to the entries and I’m not sure it will be updated, so its long-term usefulness might be limited.)

Image of baby tortoise by Lies Van Rompaey.

The Only City Left Is Here!

2014 07-18 The Only City Left Cover

I am happy to announce that, at long last, The Only City Left is available for purchase (Kindle|Softcover). Since it was first released as a serial, the book has undergone two edits: one minor one to convert it into a book rather than a serial, and a major edit under the guidance of developmental editor R.J. Blain. I am quite happy with the results and I hope that this science-fantasy adventure finds an audience looking for a fantastical adventure through a dying Earth.

If you are a reviewer/blogger and would like a review copy e-mailed to you, please send me an e-mail at lithicbee+tocl1@gmail.com. Please include a link to your site.

Thanks to everyone who supported me along the way, be it through comments and shares on the original serial, or words of encouragement as I spent months editing the book.

Work on Book 2, tentatively titled The Fifth House, proceeds apace.

(The above links are affiliate links, meaning if you use them to purchase anything on Amazon, I will receive a small payment in return. One more way to support an independent author. Thank you.)

The Evolution of The Only City Left: Part One

Cover by S.A. Hunt.

The Only City Left has been a long time in the works, and has been through three phases of existence so far. In this post I’m going to talk about its origin and the first phase of its life as a serial.

The Only City Left was inspired first and foremost by the many fine independent webcomics I was reading. I was impressed that artists, writers, and artist/writers were throwing their work out there for all the world to see, and often learning and improving as they went. I thought, “Why can’t I do the same thing with my writing?” I hadn’t written consistently for a while, and it seemed like a great way to encourage myself to write more: write for fun, set a schedule, and don’t worry about mistakes. (That last part turned out to be the most difficult of course.)

My first entry for The Only City Left was posted on 2/26/12, and there wasn’t that much preparation that went into it. In my writing notebook for 2/24/2012, I have this entry: “The entire world is underground to the level of the tops of skyscrapers. (Think Trantor, but run-down and dying.)” Yup, The Only City Left was invented and begun in less than two days. This lack of lengthy world-building meant that I didn’t get stuck on the details, but it also meant that I had some sections of the story that were bogged down while I spun my wheels trying to figure out what happened next.

In my 2/24/12 notes, I went on to list every trope, cliché, and straight-up stolen idea that I could throw into the mix: “Vampires, kung fu, robots, werewolves, nano-swarms, aliens, mutants, mutated animals, treasure caches, ghosts, guns, lasers, swords, martial weapons, avatars of gods, underground oceans w/ preserved cities, twisted gravity, portals, bad air/no air, undead/zombies, charms.”

Several of these items made it into the first draft of The Only City Left, especially early on as I struggled to write 1,000 words each week to get the story started. One goal I had, though, was to put a twist on my use of familiar tropes.

Yes, there are werewolves, but how do they transform deep underground without moonlight?

There are ghosts, but there’s a pseudo-scientific explanation of their existence.

There are mutated animals, but they’re more civilized than the remaining humans in this tired, battered Earth.

I described my planned story to myself as “Trantor meets Cube meets Mad Max meets monster movies.” While that vision of the world and the story has changed over time (and through rewrites), this description has stayed essentially the same: “1st person viewpoint of young man, orphaned, only goal is to see the surface once before he dies, but he has no idea how far down he is, and there is no clear path up.”

That young man is Allin Arcady, whose name is a nod to Arcadia “Arkady” Darell from Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation. Asimov is a big influence on The Only City Left (see my The Caves of Steel re-read for more discussion on that), and there were even some subconscious connections I made that I didn’t realize until later, such as Allin’s mother being named Jessie, the same name as Lije Baley’s wife in The Caves of Steel.

From February to November of 2012, I wrote The Only City Left as a 1,000-word-per-week cliffhanger serial. I used NaNoWriMo to write the last 50,000 or so words, but continued to post the story one week at a time. I figured that by the time the story ended online, I would have a second book in The Only City Left series ready to go. (That didn’t happen as planned, but more on that next time.)

During that time, I learned some of the ropes of the online serial game. Share your post each week at Tuesday Serial, submit it to the Web Fiction Guide (which also gets it added to the Top Web Fiction list), respond to every comment someone leaves, and keep to your schedule as much as possible.

For a while, I posted links to each new post on all the regular social media sites, but over time I felt like this was too much bluster for too little results. (Your mileage may vary.) Most of my visitors found me through one of the sites I shared in the previous paragraph.

If I had it all to do over again, I don’t think I would change a thing about the serial. I met my goals of finishing a book, I had fun, and I earned some dedicated readers. Even without new entries, people continue to find and read through The Only City Left, which is immensely gratifying. I was even invited to have the first three sections of The Only City Left made into a podcast by Webfiction World, which was a very cool and unexpected accomplishment.

The next step in the process was to convert the serial into a novel and work on the second book in the series. More on that next time.

The Only City Left: Part 89 (The End)

Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of Part 88Allin returned to Pudlington, uncertain about who controls the cat city.

The Only City Left: Part 89

As it turned out, Tumble was back in control of Pudlington and I was allowed in without any confrontation, but the good news ended there. Once inside the city, I was not kept waiting for long before Tumble arrived. His face lit with a weak smile when he greeted me, but it quickly disappeared.

“Emperor Banshee?” I asked.

“Is beyond the help of our finest physicians,” Tumble said, his voice catching in his throat. “He is hanging on to the barest thread of life, but when I told him you had returned, he requested your presence. We must hurry.”

Hurry we did, to the top of the city where Banshee lay under blankets amidst a room full of the blossoms he loved so well. Their aroma was nearly overwhelming but it only barely covered the foul stench of death coming from Banshee himself. Tumble stayed at the door while I approached the bed and knelt down beside the fallen Emperor.

“Allin, is that you?” he asked, opening his eyes ever so slightly.

“Yes, your highness.”

“So formal now that I am dying,” he said with a tiny grin. “Doyle?”


“Good, good. Then we are even, at least.”

“Sir, I think Fordham was working with—”

“Yes, he was, but he has fled. That is Tumble’s problem now,” Banshee said. He paused to take some shallow breaths. “Allin, you must accept my apology.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for. I made my own choices.”

“Ah, but I forced your hand,” he said, his voice starting to slur. He mumbled something I couldn’t hear and then said, “Bait to lure Doyle out. No thought for you. I was wrong.”

He put his hand out and I cupped it in both of mine.

Bait? I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant, but it didn’t matter anymore and I told him so.

“Kind. Kind of you,” he said, his eyes closing. “Tyena?”

“I don’t know. Disappeared.”

“If you see her, tell her. I’m sorry. To her. Too.”

“I will,” I said, the tears running down my face as I felt his grip weaken. “Goodbye, Emperor Banshee.”

I felt a touch on my shoulder and looked up to see Tumble standing beside me.

“He did the best he could in his life,” Tumble said. He moved around me and smoothed the fur on his brother’s face. “What more can be said?”


I left Tumble to mourn his brother’s passing in solitude, and made my way back to my room to bury myself in blankets and self-recriminations. Doyle was dead and the plague of the werewolves was over, but the costs had been great. I played over and over in my mind the moment when the rogue guard pulled the coil out of his hat. If I had been faster, I could have stopped him and Banshee would still be alive. He had apologized to me, something about using me as bait. But I should have been the one to offer him an apology before he died. I felt miserable. Eventually, I fell asleep.


For two days, I stayed in bed. When I was awake, I lay staring at the ceiling, pondering all the wrong turns I had made. Cats came by to leave me food and to take it away after I ignored it, but otherwise they left me alone.

On the third day, I had a visitor who was not so easily put off.

“Go away, Ballister,” I said when he pulled the blanket off of me.

“Whew. You have all this nice stuff, a shower, clean clothes, but you smell worse than any of us ever did crammed into our little room.”

“Your opinion has been noted. Go away and you won’t have to smell me.”

“Can’t. Been sent to get you cleaned up and presentable-like.”


“The mourning period for Banshee is over. Tumble’s to become the catfolk’s new Emperor today, and you’re to attend the ceremony.”

“Don’t want to,” I said, and turned over.

“I don’t much care,” he said. He grabbed me by the shoulder and wrenched me back to face him. “Tumble’s following through on Banshee’s agreement with you. Me and my people’re being allowed to stay, and more’ll be let in after us. Won’t look good if you’re in here practicing your mopey face when Tumble announces all this, you being a hero and all.”

I shook his hand off and sat up.

“Some hero. I killed a bad man and I was too slow to save a good cat. Does that balance out?”

“You followed through on your word to Banshee. The werewolves are done. Doyle’s dead. I’m not living in a room scraping algae for dinner anymore. The world’s a safer place, for a little while at least. Pretty damn heroic, if you ask me. So you couldn’t save everyone. That’s the way it is. Now get cleaned up and dressed nice and be at the throne in an hour, or you’ll embarrass us all.”

I didn’t answer him and he left without another word.

I sighed and allowed myself to notice my own stink. Damn, Ballister’s right. Again.

An hour later I stood in attendance at Tumble’s coronation, in a place of honor two steps below him (and one below a cat named Taleon whom I had never met before but who was the new new Envoy). I wore fine clothing that had been laid out for me by the cats, but I left my now-defunct coil in my room so as not to stir any bitter memories of recent events.

As Ballister promised, Tumble spoke of a new era in which Pudlington would be a refuge and a shining example of how life can thrive even in the depths of the city. He thanked me for my service to the throne and asked the citizens of Pudlington to offer me their every courtesy.

Considering the turmoil that had greeted Banshee’s similar announcement, I was surprised at the rousing cheers that Tumble’s words received. Perhaps without Fordham agitating the crowd, they were more accepting of the idea of human refugees sharing their city. Or maybe, I had to admit to myself, it was the fact that I had followed through on my side of the bargain, had proven that humans could keep their word. For whatever reason, my heart felt lighter by the time the ceremony was over. If the cats could accept a change of this magnitude, perhaps there was hope that the city itself could change, given enough work and time.

Hours later, the ceremony had become a party with the throne platform as its epicenter. I stood near the platform’s edge, looking out at the lights of the city and talking to Ballister. He nodded at something behind me and I looked back to see Tumble—Emperor Tumble—approaching.

I turned back to Ballister but he was already walking away. He waved goodbye and headed toward a buffet table for thirds or fourths.

“Ballister seems to be settling in quite nicely. Who knew there was such a gentleman underneath all that dirt?”
“I think you had an idea,” I said, and remembered to add, “Your Highness.”

Tumble sighed, and in it I heard him yearning for a time when his brother was alive and he was free to run through the city, chasing adventure with a foolish young man. Much had changed in a few days. We stood in silence for a while, festivities taking place behind us, while before us the city lay dark and still except for islands of light and activity.

“What exactly happened with the coils?” I asked. It was something I had been curious about ever since it happened, but had been too caught up in my moping (as Ballister would have it) to ask about until now. “They got shut down just in time, but you couldn’t have gotten back here yet.”

“You’re right. You have Fordham to thank for the coils. If he had left well enough alone, Professor Copper wouldn’t have touched the satellites until Banshee or I ordered her to, but Fordham didn’t know that. He tried to shut the project down, so she ordered her team to initiate the procedure while she stalled him. Fordham was enraged. He locked her up but the damage was already done.”

“Then I owe them both my life, I guess. Any chance of me being able to thank him personally?”

“We haven’t found the exit he used yet, which you can be sure is giving me no end of worry. If he got out without us knowing, what’s to keep him from coming back in the same way?”

“The days of Pudlington hiding behind closed doors are over anyway, right?”

“True, but I still don’t like that he’s free. Who knows what he’ll be up to.”

“Yeah. And not just him. The Fifth House, whoever they are, must have given Doyle power for a reason. I doubt they’re going to sit back and take this loss without a fight.”

Tumble hummed in agreement and asked, “And you? You’ve seen the sun rise on the Roof of the World. Your uncle is no longer alive to chase you endlessly through the city. What’s next for Allin Arcady?”

I looked out at the lights in the darkness. One by one, as partygoers returned to their homes in the cat’s cradle of a city, more lights went on.

“Well,” I said. “It’s a dark world out there, and if we don’t do anything, it’ll only get darker. Ballister told me I can’t save everyone, and he’s right. But Earth is the only city left, and I’m not going to let it die without a fight.”

“My brother would be proud of that sentiment, Allin. As am I. Know that so long as I am Emperor, you shall never be alone in this fight.”

I looked away, a little too tight in the throat to reply immediately. When I could speak again, I tried to lighten the mood.

“Come on, let’s get some more to eat before Ballister finishes it all.”

“Banshee would approve of that sentiment as well.”

With that, we turned away from the darkness and headed toward the light and noise of the celebration, to enjoy the good times for so long as they should last.

* * *

10/27/13 News: That’s it. The end of the serialized version of The Only City Left. This has been an incredible ride. If I had understood the amount of work involved, I might never have had the courage to start the project, but I’m glad I went into it somewhat blind. In the process, I’ve interacted with wonderful readers, discovered other creators’ amazing endeavors, and pushed myself to grow as a writer. I can’t wait until the final, edited version of The Only City Left is released, and I can get to work on my next project. Thanks to everyone who has read, commented, and shared.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!


Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.

The Only City Left: Part 88

Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of Part 87, Allin had survived the final encounter with Doyle and returned to the penthouse on the Roof of the World, where he saw the sun rise for the first time in his life.

The Only City Left: Part 88

I must have stood at that window for an hour, soaking up the sun’s rays and basking in its warm, comforting presence. At one point I found myself holding onto my lantern coil, happily surprised that Doyle had left it on me and that it had survived last night’s activity. It no longer worked, of course, and had never come close to the feeling of actual sunlight that I now experienced. Still, I would miss its glow. My travels through the city from now on would be that much more dark and dangerous.

Thoughts of travel spurred me to finally leave the window and search the penthouse for anything that might help once I left this room. I winced when I saw the corpses that littered the area around the bar. Doc Needles and Doyle’s guards, human once more, still wore confused and anguished expressions from their sudden demise.

I realized that one of the guards was missing and I recalled that he had fled through a door along the wall behind the bar. I followed his course and discovered another wing that included a large bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a small dining area. I also found the guard, who hadn’t made it ten feet into the room before the ghosts had caught him. I covered him with a large blanket from the bed and continued my search.

Much like the house in Clinkerville, the penthouse was well stocked. I could only imagine that Doyle had used this penthouse to impress others or maybe as a reward for good service. He certainly couldn’t have availed himself of any of its amenities. I, on the other hand, most certainly could.

I took a warm shower with the sun shining down on me through the clear walls, dressed in spare clothes I found in a closet, and filled up on water and preserved food from the pantry. I even found a canvas bag which I used to store extra food, a spare set of clothes, and a towel. Behind the bar I found some empty plastic containers which I filled with water. Even better, I found a tiny but powerful flashlight. I had food, clothes, and light. I was ready to face the world again, even if I didn’t know where I was in it.

I opened the door to leave but stopped to let the sun soak into my skin one last time. Who knows if I’ll ever see it again? I thought, but without any sadness. I’d had my time in the sun, but there was no life to live up here. Everything I knew, everyone I loved, was down in the darkness, and that was fine with me.

As I turned to go, the sunlight filtered past me into the hallway, and I saw that someone had etched a large arrow into the floor, pointing away from the penthouse. Next to it: a dash and the letter X.

I traced the X with my fingertips. Xerxes. He must have done this before the ghosts poured into the room and overwhelmed Doyle and his men. I thought again about their sacrifice. They had used their numbers to somehow provide Doyle with enough material to completely rebuild his body rather than take over mine, at the cost of their afterlives. I didn’t wholly understand why they would do such a thing, but that it had been the plan from the beginning I now had no doubt. Otherwise, Xerxes wouldn’t have left this mark. Or the next one, or the next one.

He had, as it turned out, left marks along the length of the route from the Garden to the penthouse, as if he knew I would be returning alone and would need his help one last time. Without that trail to follow, I might never have returned to a part of the city I knew. With it, I made it to the Garden in half a day.

The Garden. What a mess. From the number of lantern coils strewn about the streets, I got the sense that the slaves had gained the upper hand while I was away. Maybe the former wolves had abandoned the coils when it became clear that they were both useless and unpopular. To be on the safe side, I took mine off and hid it in my bag.

I needn’t have bothered. The entire place was abandoned except for corpses. Whatever struggle had occurred, neither the winners nor the losers (if any had survived) had stuck around this already picked-over wasteland. Fires burned unchecked, making it hazardous to breathe, but I had to look for Tyena before I left. I wasn’t surprised when, despite calling out for her and searching the building that used to be Doyle’s headquarters, she was nowhere to be found. I only hoped that she and her mother had managed to get free in all of the confusion, and would end up somewhere safe.

Me, I wanted to return to Pudlington, and with the Garden going up in flames around me, now was a really good time to get going. Fire in the city, I worried as I scampered out of there. Not good.

It would run out of air and combustible material in time, but it would leave behind one last piece of useless city in its wake. Doyle’s legacy.

I made my way back to Pudlington, reversing the route along which the ghosts had led me. Had it only been yesterday? It seemed like another lifetime.

I crawled through the ducts, thankful that the ghosts hadn’t reset all the traps they had disabled, and from there into the sterile white corridors of Pudlington’s bailey. Finally, I stood before the gates of Pudlington once more. I didn’t know if I would be met with a friendly greeting or the barrel of a gun, but there was nothing for it except to walk up to the guards, announce myself, and find out.

“Hi. It’s me, Allin Arcady. I’m home.”

* * *

Continue to Part 89.

10/20/13 News: The penultimate post! Next week is the nearly double-sized ending, wrapped in a bow for my loyal readers. Thank you for sticking with me to the end.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!


Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.

The Only City Left: Part 87

Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of Part 86, Allin sent his uncle Doyle plummeting into the abyss and decided to try to save himself by climbing Up one more time.

The Only City Left: Part 87

I pulled my beaten, bitten, and bleeding body over the ledge and back onto solid ground. I lay there for a moment, a shivering, achy mess. I had done it. I had killed my own uncle. Maybe even my own father, if he was to be believed. No, whatever else he was, he wasn’t my father, wasn’t Dad. Only one man had earned that title, and he wouldn’t have wanted me to lay there worrying while there was still work to be done. Always stay alive.

I spared a glance into that dark chasm before I left. Werewolf or human, anyone who fell into that was a goner. So long, Uncle. I’m not proud of what I did, but the world’s a better place without you in it.

With that back-handed eulogy out of the way and the moon sinking beyond the towering wall across the chasm, I set out to get back to the penthouse. It was slow-going at first as I tried to make sense of where I was. Luckily, Doyle and I had left a trail of devastation in our wake. Dented metal, crushed and broken pipes, that sort of thing.

I followed that trail back to the first large gap we had crossed, where Doyle had caught up to me. It was twice as wide across as I was tall, and the far side was half-a-story higher to boot, but the encroaching shadows spurred me on. I made a running jump and caught the lip of the far edge, barely. My left shoulder, the one that Doyle had gnawed on, sent tendrils of pain shooting up my arm, and I involuntarily let go, but I held on with my right hand until I could use the left again. It was a close thing. The cold, the accumulated deficit of good oxygen, my myriad injuries, they were all combining to rob me of both strength and stamina. Once I pulled myself up, the going was easier. My usual knack for noticing landmarks and keeping track of where I’ve been worked as well on top of the world as inside of it, and I was able to retrace my path to the penthouse. Every once in a while I would dare a glance back at the setting moon and the shadows that were almost upon me. The thought of freezing to death, so close to my goal, kept me stumbling along, one foot in front of the other.

Finally I reached the glass walls of the penthouse, but something was wrong. The break in the glass was gone!

Not good. Not good at all. The moon was cut in two by the horizon, the shadow line crawled ever nearer, and I was stuck outside.

Breathing heavily, I ran my hands across the face of the glass and moved along the wall, trying to figure out what had happened. I stopped when I saw a large chunk of broken couch on the other side of the glass. This was definitely our exit point, but the gaping hole we had crashed out of was gone. In its place was a tiny one, smaller than my hand and with smooth edges. As I watched, the glass reformed from the outside in, healing itself. Desperate to get inside, I punched at it before it filled in entirely. This broke a small piece off and I repeated the process until the hole grew big enough that I could get my hands in it and start prying pieces out one by one. By the time the moon disappeared beneath the horizon, I had not widened the hole enough to fit through it. I cried out in shock and despair as my body reverted back to its human form.

The cold air burned my skin and the shallow pull of breath I took seemed to deliver no oxygen to my starved lungs. With the last of my strength, I pulled myself through the opening I had made in the glass. It had been too small for a werewolf but ended up being just right for a puny human. The air in the room was barely warmer and richer than outside. I fell onto the floor, rolled over, and passed out.


When I awoke, I felt comfortable and warm. The air was breathable again and I stretched out on the plush carpet, luxuriating in the simple act of taking one deep, satisfying breath after the other. The room around me was lit in a sort of murky half-light that felt unreal. That, in combination with how good I felt, left me to wonder: Did I die? Is this the afterlife? Worse thought: Did I die and get hit with a Lazarus swarm?

That had me sitting up in a hurry, rubbing my arms and checking myself for the telltale blue glow. From what I could tell, I was human again and alive, albeit shirtless. It must have been torn to pieces in my fight with Doyle.

Doyle. I had survived the battle with my uncle but just barely. The patchwork of scars and scratch marks all over my chest and arms stood as testament to that. My shoulder was the worst; the wound was closed but an impressive imprint of his teeth pitted either side of it. My final transformation from wolf to human must have been responsible for how much I had healed so far. One last gift from my uncle, the werewolf king.

His last words came to me: Don’t do this. We’re family!

No, we might have been blood, but family meant more than that. My family was back in Pudlington: Tumble, Banshee, Ballister, Copper. And in the Garden: Tyena. I needed to get back to them. Problem was, I had no idea where I was in the city. I had been drugged for most of the trip and all I knew was that everywhere I needed to be was somewhere Down from here.

I closed my eyes and covered my face with my hands, but a sense of movement behind me had me on my feet and turned around in an instant. No, not movement. Light.

The sun.

I walked over to the glass wall of this room on top of the world, put my palms against it, and watched the sun rise for the first time in my life.

* * *

Continue to Part 88.

10/13/13 News: No cliffhanger this week, just sunrise and a return to humanity for Allin, in more ways than one.

Only two more posts and then this draft of The Only City Left is done. Originally, I had a quadruple-length Part 90 which touched on four separate characters (or groups) at the moment the coils stopped working. This broke the first-person nature of the book, so we’ll end up learning about those events when and if Allin does in later books.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!


Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.