Where in the world is Mr. Tout's Magical Forest?
Every idea starts somewhere. And in the case of Mr. Tout's Magical Forest it started back in the early 1980s as a map for a Dungeons & Dragons world I was creating. At the time I was living in an apartment on the second floor of a beautiful old house that featured a very unique front yard. Like something one would find in a magazine like Better Homes & Gardens, it had a little of everything. There were flowers and plants and several different types of trees as well as a tiny little "pond" which was really more of an elaborate bird bath. A sidewalk ran straight down the center of the yard, a holdover from the days when people walked rather than riding a car everywhere.
I was so taken by the yard that I decided to create a map of it. My old physics notebook from college still had lots of blank pages of graph paper in it, and I knew my days studying physics were long behind me. With great detail I plotted out the entire yard, right down to the broken pieces of the sidewalk. I can't remember whether I actually ever used it for Dungeons & Dragons, but at one time I worked with a video game company who considered using it as the basis for a new game. That didn't work out and the map and other story elements were placed in a pile of unfinished ideas and ultimately forgotten.
That "pile" piqued my interest in early 2020, and lo and behold I came across the notebook with the map and the bare bones of a fantasy story. When the world shut down on Friday, March 13th, 2020 due to the spread of the deadly covid-19 virus, I suddenly found myself with a wealth of spare time. Armed with the map and my notes, I decided to go to work. It was slow going at first, but I stuck with it and now, a year later, I have written four books about Mr. Tout's Magical Forest and the characters who inhabit it.