The power of language…

We’ve been having some interesting discussions over the past few days on the power of language, and starting to draw ideas together for our forthcoming project.

The idea is very much in its infancy, but in broad terms, it will be about the aspects of language that are in danger of being lost in this world of text-speak and tweets – the finer nuances of language; the poetic element; the turning of a phrase that conveys more than just a surface meaning.

We’re starting with a few questions:

What is language for, other than basic communication?

What can language do, beyond the merely utilitarian?

What is the publisher’s role in supporting and fostering an appreciation of the richness of language?

“Project” is perhaps a rather grand title for this idea.  Projects tend to have project plans, milestones, outcomes, things like that.  We actually want to open a discussion in the first instance, or perhaps get involved in discussions that others are having.

But alongside all the discussion about text-speak and its impact on literacy, about multi-million dollar lawsuits arising from poor punctuation, even about the demise of the English language itself – alongside all these we reckon there’s still room to talk about and to celebrate the power of our language in all its vigour, variety and versatility.

We’ll start with a series of guest blogs from some of our own authors,  beginning in about a week’s time.

Watch this space.

Gambler, gaoler, soldier, sailor, smuggler, spyman, traitor, thief… OF HONEST FAME launches in Winchester, 14 Oct

Join us at the marvellous P & G Wells Bookshop in Winchester on Thursday 14th October at 7.30 pm, for the launch of M.M. Bennetts’s gripping new novel Of Honest Fame, set at the height of the war against Napoleon.

To whet your appetite, you can read the opening online.  And there’s still time to enter our Last Word competition for a signed copy of the book.

You can also read M.M. Bennetts’s guest post on The Power of Language blog –

We look forward to seeing you there.

RSVP to the Facebook event

Stop Press:  There’s now another launch event in London on 21st October.

Who will get the last word?

We’re very excited about the forthcoming publication of M.M. Bennetts’s Of Honest Fame on 8th October.   And we’re enormously proud of Bennetts’s achievement.  It’s the first time we’ve taken on an unfinished manuscript, so we’ve had the chance to see the book come to life over the past months.  It’s been a privilege to see a real craftsman at work, and it’s a privilege to be publishing this book.  (If you haven’t already, read Bennetts’s latest blog post here.)

While we’re busy finalising the launch events that will be taking place in October and November, here’s something to keep you occupied–a competition for a signed first-edition hardback of Of Honest Fame.  All you have to do is to work out the last word of the book from this cryptic crossword clue:

Cooling system in fast food outlet gives support.  (4)

E-mail your four-letter answer to ohf (at) diiarts (dot) com, quoting LAST WORD in the subject line.  The winner will be drawn from amongst the correct answers out of a suitable item of period headgear, and will be announced on publication day, 8th October.

Please don’t post your answer on the blog or on Facebook.

Meanwhile, you can read the opening chapter online, and if you’re not a cryptic crossword buff, you can pre-order a signed copy.  (If you pre-order a copy and then win the competition, we’ll refund your payment.)

Good luck!

International Napoleonic Weekend – 25th September

Saturday 25th September will find M.M. Bennetts–exhausted but triumphant from the completion of Of Honest Fame (published on 8th October)–at the 17th International Napoleonic Fair at Kingston Maurward House, near Dorchester.  (DT2 8PY, for those whose travel arrangements are managed by satellite.)  The event runs from 10.00 – 5.00.

Yes, there will be signed copies of May 1812.  Yes, you can pre-order a signed copy of Of Honest Fame.  And alongside Bennetts will be Jonathan Hopkins, cavalry supremo and author of Walls of Jericho–a new novel based on the much-neglected story of British cavalrymen who fought against Napoleon.

Rumour has it that there will be a strong smell of black powder hanging over the proceedings, and quite a bit of derring-do on display.  We’ll hope to see you there.

Watch this space

for an announcement next week sometime about an exciting forthcoming project on the power of language.

And yes – that’s all we’re going to tell you for now.  A little suspense never hurt anybody.

But do leave a comment if you’d like to.  Start with this – whose use of language has stayed with you, and why?  Poetry?  Speeches?  Lines from films?

More next week.

Gambler, gaoler, soldier, sailor, smuggler, spyman, traitor, thief

On a summer night in 1812, a boy sets fire to a house in Paris before escaping over the rooftops.  Carrying vital intelligence about Napoleon’s Russian campaign, he heads for England.  But landing in Kent, he is beaten almost to death.

The Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, is desperate for the boy’s information.  He is even more desperate, however, to track down the boy’s assailant – a sadistic French agent who knows far too much about Castlereagh’s intelligence network.

Captain George Shuster is a veteran of the Peninsula, an aide-de-camp to Wellington, now recalled from the continent and struggling to adjust to civilian life.  Thomas Jesuadon is a dissolute, living on the fringes of society, but with an unrivalled knowledge of the seamy underside of the capital.  Setting out to trace the boy’s attacker, they journey from the slums of London to the Scottish coast, following a trail of havoc, betrayal, official incompetence and murder.  It takes an unlikely encounter with a frightened young woman to give them the breakthrough that will turn the hunter into the hunted.

Meanwhile, the boy travels the breadth of Europe in the wake of the Grande Armée, witnessing at first hand the ruination they leave behind and the awful price of Napoleon’s ambition.

This companion to M.M. Bennetts’s brilliant debut, May 1812, is a gripping account of deception, daring and determination, of intelligence and guile pitted against brutality.  Bennetts brings to vivid life the harrowing devastation wrought on the civilian populations of Europe by Napoleon’s men, and the grit, courage and tenacity of those who stood against them.

Of Honest Fame will be published in hardback in the UK in October 2010, and worldwide in paperback and e-book formats in December 2010. You can read the opening chapter and pre-order a signed copy on the Diiarts website.

Authonomy’s second birthday

Today is the second official birthday of HarperCollins’s website Authonomy.  And since without Authonomy, Diiarts would never have been founded, we felt the occasion deserved to be marked.

Authonomy was, and is, a remarkable innovation – a self-filtering, pre-sorted, peer-reviewed electronic slush pile. Authors could (can) upload their works in progress for comment and criticism; every month the five manuscripts with the most backings are given the fabled gold star and read by HC’s editors.  And of course there’s the Forum, that hotbed of lively discussion, passionate debate, flirtatious badinage and–yes–the occasional insult.

Anyone who has spent time on the site will know that it is never quite that simple.  There are a few usernames that still cause this old-timer, and doubtless many others, to shudder politely or at least to raise an involuntary eyebrow (though, in the words of Hugo Hammersley, “I am not the sort of chap to have cocked it”).  The backing and ranking system has caused much comment on the Forum–both the algorithm that generates the rankings, and the frenetic on-site activity it has engendered–though the system is now being overhauled, to loud cheers from the gallery.

But Authonomy has done what it was (presumably) intended to do–HC has picked up six books for publication, books like the delightful (and bestselling) Fairytale in New York; authors have been picked up by other publishers such as Diiarts; still others have taken the plunge into self-publication.

We met authors on Authonomy who had spent years honing their craft and researching their material.  Paul House and Jason Horger both have several books to their credit; PistolsTulagi Hotel and Ask Me If I’m Happy are their authors’ first forays into the written word.  May 1812 was the result of more than ten years of specialist research; Greta van der Rol, who wrote Die a Dry Death in the space of a few months, says that without M.M.’s Bennetts’s encouragement on the Authonomy forum “this book would still be rattling around in the space between my ears”.  All our authors have, somewhere along the line, experienced the kindness and generosity of others from Authonomy–fellow authors and others who have shared their specialist knowledge, expertise, skills and time to help make someone else’s book better.

May 1812 received its Authonomy gold star in January 2009, Common Places in February and Pistols for Two–Breakfast for One in May.  By this time last year we had founded Diiarts and signed our first four authors; by November 2009 we had four marvellous books in print, now joined by three more, with another two to come in time for Christmas.

To celebrate their birthday, and to thank them for what they’ve done for us, we’ve given Authonomy a copy of each of our books – including our two forthcoming titles – for them to give away.  No doubt their blog will have something on the subject.

So Happy Birthday, Authonomy, and God bless all who upload to her.

Call for submissions – still open!

We’re very excited about some of the short stories we have received as a result of last month’s call for submissions.

As we said last month, the opportunity has arisen because a developer has asked to work with us on an iPhone/iPad application.  Once the app is ready, we’ll be offering readers a subscription to a regular download of short stories.  This means that we’ll have an ongoing need for high quality writing.  So – please keep submitting!

If you’ve already submitted but heard nothing, don’t worry – it means that your work is still under active consideration.  We’ll contact you as soon as we know anything.  (The timescale for this project is driven by two things – the development of the app, which is outside our control, and our other commitments in respect of Of Honest Fame and Ask Me If I’m Happy).

If you haven’t submitted but wish to do so, we’d love to hear from you.  Please follow the instructions in the previous post:

  • e-mail your submission to books (at) diiarts (dot) com
  • as an attachment in .doc, .docx, .rtf and .odt formats
  • with SHORT STORY APP in the subject line
  • and please include a 50-word bio and your mailing address and a contact telephone number in your email.

It really does help if you follow these instructions exactly, as it means your e-mail will be routed and stored correctly.

Submissions can be any genre, any length up to 25,000 words, and must be suitable for general release – we cannot accept hardcore or explicit material.  We’re still looking for original (previously unpublished) work if possible; if your story has previously been published in print format, you must be able to offer us exclusive electronic distribution rights.

Bring it on!