It’s always fun to learn a new word that means exactly what you were looking for. I was working on a story today and needed to describe an old man’s arm as “leathery.” But I didn’t like the word “leathery”–it seems cliched, and besides, I was already using it enough to describe real leather objects in the story. That, and whenever I read the word “leathery” now, I can’t help but mentally associate it with an essay in Michael J. Nelson’s Mind Over Matters, in which he uses the adjective to refer to the appearance of certain private parts of very old men in gym locker rooms.

So I checked the thesaurus and came up with “coriaceous.” It’s worth noting that this word is so obscure that Microsoft Word didn’t recognize it, though any dictionary I consulted had it. So I went with it. Yes, it will probably send more than one reader looking for their dictionary, but as a reader I always enjoy meeting a new word (I picked up “coolth” from Fritz Leiber, who used it as an alternative to “warmth”), so hopefully my readers will feel the same. It doesn’t evoke quite the same immediate visual imagery as “leathery,” but I’m not too concerned about that in this particular description.

The story I’m working on is a short fantasy tale for a contest. The characters in it are new, but I haven’t yet decided whether it’s set in Atreval or not. If I do decide to set it in Atreval, I may set in a period before the events in Tales of Atreval–perhaps long before. But as of now, I’m thinking I’ll leave it ambiguous in this particular story and make the decision later.

This has made me realize that I need to flesh Atreval out even more. I’ve been thinking I could get away with minimal world-building, as Leiber did with Nehwon in his Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser stories. But he wrote his stories for individual publication in the 1950s and ’60s, before huge fantasy novels became the norm in the post-Tolkien era.

The first thing is a map. A friend of mine drew one years ago, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on it, so it looks like I’m going to have to put pen to paper myself.

What I’m reading: I finished reading the first three stories in The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, the first volume in Del Rey’s excellent collection of Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales. I’ve picked up the style of them, as I needed to, and I may take a break and move on to something a bit longer that I haven’t read before–perhaps Gene Wolfe’s Shadow and Claw, or Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana. I’ve recently started taking suggestions from posters on the discussion forums at I’ve heard good things about Steven Erikson’s “Malazon Book of the Fallen” series, though I’m hesitant to start another epic until I’ve at least finished the published volumes of George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Fire and Ice” books.

It’s also quite possible I may just re-read E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros.

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