Thursday, March 11, 2004

Bring Me the Head of Gabe Chouinard

Is S1ngularity really dead again? What the hell happened? Who did what to whom, and was Bob's Glock involved?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Camorr Patois

This week's bright and shiny bonus feature is my in-progress glossary of the slang of Camorr. I made a conscious decision not to tart up any of my dialogue with "dialect" cuteness ("Oy, it warsh a narsty rum' tosh, guv, bort I gort a noice shoiny penny out'er it!"); I've found that the trouble with creating fantasy slang/dialect is that it ultimately tends toward a state of Charles Dickens on crack.

Nonetheless, a bit of slang is still required here and there; no criminal subculture in history has ever pranced around openly saying things like "Last night the boys and I murdered someone, stole the contents of his pockets, and conveyed them to a purchaser of ill-gotten gains." Slang evolved to prevent the uninitiated from comprehending the true nature of an overheard conversation, and became a powerful assurance of subcultural security and solidarity. Someone who doesn't know the right words, or use or pronounce them properly, will have great difficulty infiltrating a criminal subculture.

Yet when I say "a bit" I mean "a bit;" there's a scene in Guy Ritchie's lovely Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels where two characters have a high-speed conversation entirely in arcane London underworld slang. It's subtitled, and not just for poor Americans like yours truly. I can't let slang intrude into TLOLL to the point that the reader's brain explodes out of his nose ("Yeah, after we rimmed the jobber he bitched on the peel; the whole mess went south on the flim-flam, so we cut bait with the cold fish and fucked his sister lengthwise in the jimmy-can.")

Hopefully, it will be just enough, here and there, with context helping to make it clear. If you're ever stuck overnight in Camorr, memorizing a few of the following terms (some of which, to be honest, are people and organizations rather than mere slang terms) could help save your life:


Bad Mustard
A troublesome or incorruptible member of the Camorr city watch; see "Mustard Man"

One of the Duke of Camorr’s household troopers; the Blackjackets are a battle-hardened and loyal force, bad news in any tussle

Black Twist
Drugging a victim at an inn or tavern and stealing his clothes or money

Bond Hawk
Hunter of runaway slaves

Bucket Wine
Human urine

Legitimate, authentic

Canal Jumper
Thief specializing in stealing unattended boats or rafts

Boss; the chief of Camorr’s underworld, currently Capa Barsavi

Card cheat, specifically one that haunts the streets

Cold Salt
A sailor without any money and/or luck and/or enthusiasm for spending

Pickpocket, specifically, an inexperienced or clumsy one.

Pickpocket, specifically, a deft and capable one

Convincing Stick
Truncheon or quarterstaff

Slaver or press-gang operator; kidnapper

Independence; A thief “given the distance” is allowed a certain measure of discretion and sovereignty by the capa, who considers him unusually trustworthy.

One of Camorr’s two sisterhoods of organized prostitutes

Honorific used to refer to the nobility of Camorr; “Dona” for females

Accountant, record-keeper

A liquid narcotic administered by dropping it onto the eyeball

Gimp Steel
Any short blade such as a dagger or stiletto

Guilded Lilies
One of Camorr’s two sisterhoods of organized prostitutes

Hangman’s Wind
The wind that blows out from the city and onto the Iron Sea by night

Hard Talk
Armed combat, with murderous intent

A hiding place

Commoners, a pun upon “nobility”

One of the Duke of Camorr’s secret police and shock troopers

Mustard Man
A member of the Camorr city watch; see also “Yellowjacket”

Eyeglasses; expensive and rarely seen, but growing in popularity

Patience Man
Keeper of scales and measures, so-called because he does all the weighting



Right People
Thieves, crooks, members of the underworld

Very, exceptionally, good

A swindler or a card-cheat

Promissory note or cheque


Soft Talk
Fisticuffs; fighting seriously but without murderous intent

Sweet Mustard
A city watch member in the pay of the Capa of Camorr

A thief (usually an apprentice) who creates distractions

Teeth Show
Gladiatorial match peculiar to Camorr, woman vs. shark

Teeth Lessons
To be fed to the sharks, to have one’s corpse disposed of in Camorr Bay

A trick, a ploy, a criminal technique, a trade secret

A member of the Camorr city watch; see also “Mustard Man”

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

In Which The Author Achieves Internet Stability, More or Less

I'll be resuming my old posting habits, more or less; online for at least a bit almost every day of the week. And now a reading from the Book of Blog:

"Blessed are the poor in updates, for they shall receive a multitude of make-up posts, and the author shall strive to be at his most amusing, so that they shall not deprive him of his tender bits with a poleaxe."

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

"A map... why does every fantasy have to start with a map?"

Because making maps is a jolly good time, if you're an anal-retentive oddball like me.

After fiddling with Photoshop for a few hours, ladies and gentlemen, I'm pleased to present a very nearly finished map of Camorr, the city in which I lay my tale.


Camorr is a city-state on the Iron Sea; the river flowing through the city and feeding its canals is the Angevine. The area on the map marked "the five towers" is where five glass spires, each more than three hundred feet tall, soar up out of a smooth-surfaced curtain wall of something not unlike obsidian. These towers were built by the Eldren, the alien civilization that vanished mysteriously and violently about eight hundred years ago, book time. Each major human city on the continent is built in or upon the remnants of an Eldren city; the largest Eldren structures, such as the five towers of Camorr, are all but indestructible and have been taken over by human squatters.

One tower is controlled by each of the five most powerful noble families in Camorr. The towers are called, in ascending order of size and magnificence, Dawncatcher, Blackspear, Amberglass, Westwatch, and Raven's Reach. The last is the home of Duke Nicovante, ruler of the city. The grasping, feuding, scheming houses of the lesser nobility make their homes on the Alcegrante slopes in the shadow of the towers.

Major landmarks not indicated on this map include:

Meraggio's Counting House on Coin-Kisser's Row, the economic heart of the city and a major player in commerce and usury across half the continent;

The Floating Grave in the Wooden Waste, a permanently moored hulk turned into a floating fortress for Capa Vencarlo Barsavi, the undisputed master of Camorr's underworld;

The Last Mistake just north of the Snare, a favorite watering hole for individuals with a criminal bent and the bottom-most tenant of the small tower in which our two heroes Locke and Jean rent a set of rooms, some nine floors up;

The Palace of Patience in the Old Citadel, headquarters of the Camorr city watch as well as the Duke's secret police, the so-called Midnighters;

and last but not least--

The Bone-Boxes, aka The Anthill, a kingdom of orphan thieves and beggars living in a network of tunnels beneath Camorr's oldest (and now disused) graveyard. The gangs of Camorr take recruits from the Anthill after they've had a few years of seasoning to the demands of a hard life.

If anyone is foolish enough to buy this damn book from me and let me write more of 'em, Camorr is the first of four cities in which Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen will cry havoc and let slip the dogs of plot: Camorr, Quarthain, Tal Verarr, and Emberlain, each of which has a number of weird larger-than-life features left behind by the Eldren.

When The Lies of Locke Lamora was originally conceived, the setting was an analog of our own 13th century, but that idea got old in about six minutes. Too many urban settings in historical-analog fantasy are drab, palsified medieval dirt towns straight out of Central Casting, and while my novel might not be any good, at least the setting will have some frickin' mojo. I coined a phrase while describing Gangs of New York that has served as my guide ever since: "Gritty phantasmagoria."

I didn't want to be quite as deliberately anachronistic as Matt Stover, nor as gleefully squalid as China Mieville-- I wanted a place that would be exotic and beautiful even while being dirty and dangerous, as I imagine Babylon, Venice, Constantinople and old New York once were. A fantastic place to visit, a questionable place to live-- an Ian Fleming thriller setting for a fantasy milieu.

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