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It all started when...

Updated: Jul 6

Every idea starts somewhere. And for Mr. Tout's Magical Forest that somewhere was an interesting old house I lived in back in the early 1990s when I was a sports writer for the Watertown Daily Times. When I say old I don't mean run-down. Far from it, the house itself was beautiful.

But what really caught my eye was the front yard leading to this fine old place.

Back then I was quite involved with the Dungeons & Dragons role playing game to the point where I created several of my own "worlds" and dungeons. (As an aside, my favorite dungeon will be used in book V of the series, The Big Show, while the front yard of this stately mansion is the setting for books I and II, The Uninvited Guest and Fall to the Forest.)

It was like something out of a magazine with a wonderful collection of trees, plants and flowers along with a small vegetable garden. Everything in it was well maintained, and it doubled as a sort of sanctuary for birds, butterflies and small animals. The house itself was positioned as the last residence on a dead end street, and it was a very impressive sight to look at. There was a sidewalk that ran smack down the middle of it, (likely a holdover from the days when people actually walked from point A to point B and visited with their neighbors) and overall the yard was a thing of beauty.

One inspired afternoon I got the bright idea to try and pattern a D & D world after this impressive front yard. Armed with my college physics notebook full of blank pages of graph paper (I wasn't much of a physics student-truth be told-and I'm certainly not much of an artist as you can probably tell from the picture below of my original map) I began plotting and sketching the yard. I imagined it being much bigger, grand enough to be considered its own small world if you will. Comic books and fantasy have been my go-to places for as long as I can remember, so once I finished plotting the yard, the real fun started.

As a child of the 70s I was a little too late for Woodstock, but just in time for what some might term as the "golden age of rock and roll." I'm a huge fan of the progressive rock genre, and several of my college friends were (and still are) great enthusiasts of the group Genesis. Their early album covers and songs feature some pretty unusual concepts and interesting pictures, and since one of my fellow D&Ders is a Genesis disciple, I decided to incorporate elements from their songs into this new world. I'll leave it up to my readers to notice them, and also point out that I've been known to lift a few lyrics here and there from my long history listening to great music.

This is the rough sketch I made of the front yard which eventually led to the creation of Mr. Tout's Magical Forest. Artist Kim Kittleson has turned this into a much nicer map which can be found elsewhere on this web site.

There is more to this story that I'll relate in a future blog, but for now, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the world I created so very long ago.

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