Hiking Bennett Springs Mo

Bennett Springs

If you like to fish and live near Missouri, there is a good chance you have heard of Bennett Springs. If you are not into fishing … well, there are a couple of trails and plenty of car-camping sites.

Bennett Springs

A couple weeks ago we decided to take a short weekend trip out to Bennett Springs to check out the trails, specifically the Natural Tunnel Trail. It is listed at 7.5 miles, but the GPS reported our trek at closer to 9.5 miles. We found the trail fun, but bring bug spray and keep checking for ticks. Also, bring a second set of shoes for water crossings.

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Minimalism Status Update

Minimalism

Ball of TwineEarlier this year I came up with a brilliant idea: get rid of 2017 items in 2017 as part of a minimalism challenge. The idea’s purpose simply to purge items in my life that were just taking up space and not providing real meaning. Take the proverbial ball of twine that our lives become and try to unwind the noise and get back to the core.

So, where am I? Did I say the idea was brilliant or completely crazy?

The short answer is that I am behind. I had a strong start early on, but over the last couple of months, I had become rather busy with other activities and stopped actively going through my possessions to see what I can live without. I have resumed the effort in the last couple of days, but I went from needing to get rid of just over five items per day to just under 8. The old adage of why do today what you can put off until tomorrow … wait, I think the one I wanted was, make hay when the sun is shining. Continue reading

With a heavy heart

A little more than a week ago I learned that the Reader’s World in Lee’s Summit will be closing their doors at the end of June.

The store is run by amazing people who have always been very good to the local author community as well as their clients and I wanted to say thank you to all of them for everything they have done. I know I personally will keep some fond memories of the events I participated in at the store. I wish all of them the best in where life takes them.

If you are in the area, please stop by the store. They are offering discounts on the merchandise they have in stock and it would be a good chance to wish them well.

D&D 5e Campaign Set Before the Books

Running the D&D Campaign

Dungeons & Dragons DiceI mentioned previously that I am planning to run a 5th Edition D&D campaign set in my world. I will be doing this at Pawn & Pint, a great game shop in Kansas City.

This post will outline the rules for the campaign as well as give some back story for the world. I will warn you now, there will be some minor spoilers in the back story, so stop reading if you want to avoid those. However, those spoilers are not directly related to the characters in the stories, just the world.

I will use this post to lay the framework for what kinds of character races, classes, and rules will apply to the campaign as well as set the initial stage for the players.

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Gaming and Writing

Gaming and Writing

Dungeons & Dragons Gaming DiceI’ve played D&D for years, starting back when it was not the popular thing to do. I’ve always found it a very pleasant pastime and a good way to express creativity. Sure, there are rules (more guidelines really) and getting a handle on the complexities of the system can be daunting, but if you are a creative type, it is definitely worth giving gaming a chance.

So, you may be asking, what does gaming have to do with writing? Well, for many, when you play D&D, you are telling a story. Sure, there are stats and numbers and random dice rolls to make decisions, but for most, it is less about the stats and more about the adventure that unfolds.

The Dungeon Master

For most of my gaming life, I have been the Dungeon Master (or DM). For those not familiar with D&D, this is the person who acts somewhat as a narrator that sets the scenes and guides the players on their journeys as well as an arbitrator of the rules. However, the best DMs ignore the rules (or dice rolls) when doing so tells a better story. After all, the DM’s goal is not to kill the players, but to challenge them and help them create an interesting experience.

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Planet Comicon, here I come

Planet Comicon

Heirs of Cothel Series CoversPlanet Comicon starts on Friday and I have to say I am really excited! It is the first big event I am doing this year and I have missed hanging out with the crowd of very talented authors, artists, creators, and cosplayers. In all, just a really great group of people to spend time with.

This year they have many wonderful actors and celebrities attending and I am jealous of those who will have a chance to meet them all (I, of course, will be mostly behind my table).

This year I have new maps to go along with the books and I really hope everyone will love them as much as I do. I learned a lot in creating them and will definitely be doing more of the old world style maps. In you are interested in them, I am offering a bundle deal.

Map of CothelMap of the Sea of Tet

My table is in the Artist Alley area, number 2340, stop by and see me!

In high school, my wife divorced her husband when…

Telling Lies

dishesLast week I told some people the story of when my wife was in high school and she divorced her husband because he refused to buy her a dishwasher. I enjoy watching people react to that leading line, and the best part is, my statement is completely true.

However, as in life, characters in stories don’t have to be truthful. They can be deceitful and manipulative and try and influence people to do what they want, or react in a certain way, as I had intended by my high school divorce statement. In fact, a story is often better when it includes that kind of behavior because telling lies mirrors real life. Unfortunately, this aspect of storytelling is too often overlooked.

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Old World Maps

Old World Style Maps

Map of CothelIt took a bit of time, but I finished my first old world style map! It shows far more detail of Cothel than my original maps and I actually had a lot of fun making it (aside from all the bloody trees). Everything is hand-drawn, from the trees to the border lines, to the compass rose. My aim was to generate something that looked authentic and old. In the process, I found quite a few maps on-line to use as references. My favorite map site is Old Maps Online. It lets you browse through maps that correspond to an area on a current world map.

In the process of creating this map (which is 20″x16″ in size) I really learned a lot. I wanted to have the underlying parchment appearance come through to overlays or what I intend to be ink washes. I scrapped more than one layer and went back to rework entire effects several times. But I think I have the process down now and hope to be able to do the next map in perhaps half the time this one took.

Another thing I learned is that old maps really did have a lot of bright colors in them. Initially, I felt reluctant to use anything too bright (and I did mute quite my map a bit to give it a faded and used effect). However, many of the reference maps I examined actually had some neonish coloring to them.

I have prints on order and will have them available with boards and bags for Planet Comicon at the end of the month. I also have mailing tubes on order and will make the map available for order on-line as well.

Map of the Sea of TetIn addition to the old world style map of Cothel, I have produced a 20″x16″ version of my large world map. I formatted it down to size and ordered prints that I will sell at Comicon and on-line. This one should be easier to read than my 8.5″x11″ copies.

What’s Next?

Well, now that I am done with crunch time for Planet Comicon, I will get back to writing more. The time I spent on the map did eat into my writing time a little too much. The next map should hopefully take less seat time, but I will stretch out the actual drawing time to about the same length so I am not single focused on the task.

I also need to get back to purging things for my #Minimalism2017 challenge. I put a lot of the “going through things” on hold to draw the map. Now I can get back into my closet and deal with a few boxes of items.

And lastly for this post, find some time to do some hiking. The weather is getting nice and I’m itching to do some camping and put in some miles on the trails. Yesterday my FitBit told me I had traveled a lifetime of 2,400 miles while carrying it. The gave me the Monarch Migration badge, which made me think about how many miles I have actually walked in my lifetime before having the FitBit. A big factor as a kid was that I had a paper route. So roughly 4 miles a day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for 4 years or so comes out as just under 5k miles. My feet have done a lot of walking and that doesn’t include the several miles a day walking to and from school for a couple of years.

Minimalism — 2017 Challenge Update

Minimalism 2017 Challenge

Earlier this year, I set a minimalism challenge for myself, get rid of 2017 items in the year 2017. There are a number of rules I set for myself. So far, I am just a little behind my target (36 items as of Sunday). I have managed to get rid of 356 items ranging from CDs, to decorative items, to school notes, to DVDs.

At first, I found it exciting, the challenge was new and thrilling. I managed to get rid of quite a few items in those first few days. Then as I started working through a backlog of stuff, it became a little daunting to process folders with hundreds of pages of notes (and only count the whole folder as a single item). However, I am now into something of a groove and I have been able to generally keep steady progress each week, moving through parts of the house and collections of belongings.

Have I found it hard to get rid of things?

To be honest, not really. I have never been overly connected to physical things. But, even still, I did amass a fair amount of stuff over the years (just not an overwhelming amount). For the most part, I am really just cleaning and organizing with the question my wife keeps asking: Do I want to pay someone to move that? The answer for the most part tends to be no.

The real benefit has been that I have found a number of items I forgot I even had. Add in the fact that I have cleared space on shelves, and now I can even display those things.

In Progress map of CothelThis week left me a little behind for a couple of reasons. First, I spend some time mudding a ceiling in the bathroom (we are removing the popcorn and making the ceilings flat). Second, I worked on a map. Here is a bit of a preview. I have more mountains to add in, a lot more cities to draw, not to mention forests, marshes, and other details. I had a few redo’s when I first started working on this project. However, as with the getting rid of things, I think I am now finding my groove. When the map is done, it will be 16″x20″ and if all goes well, I hope to have prints available at Planet Comicon.

FIRE – Financially Independent, Retired Early

Also known as F*** It, Retire Early

Financially Independent MoneySomething that often goes along with Minimalism is FIRE (Financially Independent, Retired Early). They don’t have to go hand in hand, but from what I have seen, many FIRE people tend to divest themselves of unnecessary and less important things (a.k.a. they are minimalists). They tend to purge the expensive items that bring less value (or even negative value) from their lives.

There are extremes in everything. For instance, some people will take the aim of financial independence and turn it into a competition to see just how little they can spend each year.  Others take a more measured approach, but they still divest many of the trappings of modern life.

For those that are successful, they manage to cut their ties to day jobs and live off saving, residual income, or small odd jobs that help them get by when they need a little more spending money. With their modest lifestyles, they are often achieving a goal of not having to worry about grinding away their lives for someone else.

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