The Sin of Truth

Artwork by Duncan Long

Artwork by Duncan Long

The novel is finished, but not yet published. Many thanks to Duncan Long for the cover art.

The story is a historical adventure that crosses two continents and the borders of four empires. The Ottoman Sultan Murad IV is invading the empire of Persian Shah Safi. In Russia, the first Tsar of House Romanov, pressured to accept the throne at a young age, consolidates power in the Baltic states and fights off the Ottomans in the south. In continental Europe, the Holy Roman Empire is being torn apart by the Thirty Years War.

The Renaissance and the Reformation, underway for two hundred years, have changed everything: science, medicine, trade, religion, politics, art, and war. Against this historical backdrop, three unique individuals fight to survive and flourish in a world that is struggling to be born anew.

Mina: A young Hungarian girl, enslaved by the Ottoman Turks in 1630, escapes from Istanbul with an ancient manuscript. She makes her way to the Caspian Sea and joins a German trade mission on its way home up the Volga.

Jens: A Swedish trader, formerly of the Hanseatic League and now the wagonmaster of a German mission trying to open a new Silk Road to Persia.

James: His parents killed by Catholic forces of the Holy Roman Emperor, James is raised by his uncle, a Protestant military officer.

Can a slave girl learn to be free? Will an old Hansa trader, grieving the loss of his wife and daughters, learn to accept new ways? Can a Protestant boy raised on war forgive the faith which murdered his parents?

And underneath it all, will an ancient truth finally be revealed, or will it sink back into obscurity?

APE, Benny Profane, and Me

APE: How to Publish a Book Following some advice from APE, I’ve posted the first two chapters of my novel on WattPad. The “artisanal publishing” experience gets more interesting all the time.

I picked up the Kindle version of the book a few days ago, and I’m about a third of the way through. Most of the mechanical advice is old hat — in former lives I’ve been a reporter, editor, managing editor, professional desktop publisher, photographer, corporate communicator, webmaster, and IT help-desk geek. But it’s all solid advice, and I’m especially enjoying the sections on social media and e-book publishing.

Despite my past experience, I’ve discovered that approaching these subjects as a novelist is strikingly different from consulting for other authors, or putting a newspaper to bed five nights a week — even though the required technical skills are very similar.

One huge difference is that … well, let me stop and consider.

[Stops and considers.]

When I was in college, one of my favorite books was Thomas Pynchon’s V. It was published in 1961, the year I was born. It begins like this:

Christmas Eve, 1955, Benny Profane, wearing black levis, suede jacket, sneakers and big cowboy hat, happened to pass through Norfolk, Virginia. Given to sentimental impulses, he thought he’d look in on the Sailor’s Grave, his old tin can’s tavern on East Main Street. … Since his discharge from the Navy Profane had been road-laboring and when there wasn’t work just traveling, up and down the east coast like a yo-yo; and this had been going on for maybe a year and a half. After that long of more named pavements than he’d care to count, Profane had grown a little leery of streets, especially streets like this. They had in fact all fused into a single abstracted Street, which come the full moon he would have nightmares about. East Main, a ghetto for Drunken Sailors nobody knew what to Do With, sprang on your nerves with all the abruptness of a normal night’s dream turning to nightmare. Dog into wolf, light into twilight, emptiness into waiting presence, here were your underage Marine barfing in the street, barmaid with a ship’s propeller tattooed on each buttock, one potential berserk studying the best technique for jumping through a plate glass window (when to scream Geronimo? before or after the glass breaks?), a drunken deck ape crying back in the alley because last time the SP’s caught him like this they put him in a strait jacket. Underfoot, now and again, came vibration in the sidewalk from an SP streetlights away, beating out a Hey Rube with his night stick; overhead, turning everybody’s face green and ugly, shone mercury-vapor lamps, receding in an asymmetric V to the east where it’s dark and there are no more bars.

I feel like Benny. I’ve been working the district for years, honing my technical chops, telling others how it’s done. Now I’m out of the business, so to speak, coming back to it from a different direction, and it’s all lit up with strange mercury-vapor lamps.

I’m leery of streets like this.

Which is but one reason that APE is such a good resource. If you’re thinking about self-publishing, you can’t go wrong with it. Just ignore the part about buying a MacBook Air.