Matt Lichtenwalner

Mobile mapper for Ushr - roaming the US and Canada constantly. Maybe a bit of art and/or writing here and there to spice things up.

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Do any of you recall my brief attempt at NaNo back in 2022? I've been thinking about that a lot lately.

Why? Well, it's because I'm being... condescending. Not my proudest moment, but if I can't be honest with you folks, who can I be honest with?!

Condescending how, you ask?

Well, I've been listening to a lot on Audible recently. (Yes, I know there are other, ostensibly better audio book storefronts out there. Yes, I should give them my business.) Like, A LOT of audio books. I stopped listening to podcasts altogether for a few months. That dumped a lot of listening time back into my schedule. On top of that, the hours for this 'new' job are... significantly longer.

If I'm doing the math right, I've listened to 42 books since starting the job in November. Some of these are pretty lengthy.

All but two of them are in the LitRPG genre.

I'm kinda fascinated by what I'm hearing. Partly because it fits that ooooold fantasy trope that I so enjoy - someone from 'the real world' going to a fantasy world. This trope is not the newest thing in the world (the Guardians of the Flame series was one of my favorites as a kid) but the LitRPG genre is at least new to me.

So I'm making a little 'study' of the genre. Trying to figure out the similarities and differences between the different authors. Figuring out what the audience of the genre expect.

From what I can piece together, the LitRPG genre is to fantasy novels as streaming is to video game playing. There's this sense of 'no real start or stop - just follow along with out hero on the adventure!'.

Some series even seem to eschew the whole 3 act format. More than once, I found myself surprised by the Audible Guy saying "Audible hopes you have enjoyed this program." Side note: if you see me in person? Ask for my imitation of that guy. I have heard so many audio books, I feel like I can actually nail his every nuance.

What's more, the writing is... not amazing. Some series are better than other, for certain. And the voice actors really help here. Still.

Seeing it yet?

My NaNo thing was fun for me in part because I used a randomizer to create a kind of prompt for that day's writing. That, in turn, made the whole thing a bit like a solo TTRPG for me.

And I think that the audience for the genre is so hungry for MOAR they don't care that it's not as polished. Call it the YouTube-ification of novel writing.

I say all of this to simply say that I write moderately well during my first draft of most creative writing.

In other words "I could do that. Maybe better than that."

A novel series (especially in an audio format) is obviously a looong way out. If I was to get a three book series completed, it would arguably be the biggest accomplishment of my life.

But I'm looking at NaNo 2022 and thinking...

Did you read my efforts in 2022? Would you like to see Morgan make a return?

ETA: Looks like I never posted the words I did for Day 4. I'll see about doing that asap.

Oh wonderful!

I have the solo adventurers toolkit (I find the tables so useful when I’m at an impasse for where or how to progress a story) and yes, I definitely use it more for writing than I do for playing 😬😊

I’d be interested to read along with your NaNoWriMo
Ohhhh... I don't know about the SAT. I might just have to check that out!

Also, in that vein - PLEASE check out if you haven't already. It's amazingly simple to create random tables of your own that you can use for whatever. That's what I did for NaNoWriMo2022. I _definitely_ use it more for writing than I do for gaming.

I'm detecting a trend here.... Hmmm...
This exchange makes me so happy! <3

Also, I loved Guardians of the Flame too! I forget the books themselves except the premise and that I liked them a lot.
oooh checking out perchance.... thank you for that.
Absolutely. It's entirely too excellent to be free. It's like Tom made it or something. ;P, prompt = "cosy tea shop frequented by odd patrons", Style = Fantasy Painting. The prompt that I modified was "interdimensional tea shop frequented by odd patrons", which was very cool, but not cosy enough.
Oh it’s wonderful!
Ok so is not a Boutell jawn, which doesn't surprise me because it's cool, but not THAT cool. I kept trying to get it to make a coven picture for us, but every prompt I put in for "group of women" yielded white faces unless I specified "mixed race". I might drop them a line if I can find a way to say it effectively and not "hey did you know your app is racist?" People respond poorly to that.
I haven’t messed with the A.I. stuff yet. Still a bit too jaded for that. Not surprised it works well though!
Teaser graphic for IonQuest Games' The DOORS of ETTIN location from the Location Lexicon.

It's the new year, and it's time for new things.

After working on this concept for over a year, Brad and I have started the production season for IonQuest Games' Location Lexicon.

Anyone who has ever been a Dungeon Master has had the experience of trying to get something ready for their players in the Nth hour. Scrambling to getting something ready for them to play for the next game session and the (perhaps inevitable) writer's block that will go with such efforts.

It's stressful, it's frustrating, and it sours a lot of folks on the idea of being a DM in general.

That's okay, though. We got you.

The Location Lexicon is a series that we will be running for quite a while. We'll release one Location every week on the IonQuest Games Patreon page. One location every month will be free and public.

The Locations will have everything you need to cover a game session on a single page pdf. Each will have a challenge for the characters and everything the DM needs to run the session.

Simple, effective, and waiting to make the effort painless.

Oh, and my art to help bring each Location to life.

The teaser above just hints at everything in the full page pdf.

Right now we're only charging $3/month. We want to make it effortless for those who want to support us from the getgo. We will be upping those prices in the very near future (maybe even February 1st), but those who get in at the beginning will get to keep the lower rate. Kinda sending the love back and forth as it were.

Anyway. If you're into ttrpgs, and / or want to support Brad and myself doing this sort of thing, check out the Patreon page. Sign up for free even if you don't have the resources to pay - you'll still get one free location every month!

Any questions? Ask away!

Yaaaaay! This is so exciting!! Well done to both of you!
Thanks! We've worked long and hard just to build a buffer so that our audience doesn't suffer if we have something come up that temporarily derails us and so we have our process well worked out BEFORE folks are relying on us.

All of which is to say that it's REALLY nice to actually be able to start showing folks the results of all that effort! :)
Thanks, bud! I'm pretty jazzed to see how folks respond to it.
Oooooooooooooo! Were I GMing...
Heh. Yeah. Honestly, that nicely encapsulates my biggest fear. We are appealing to roughly 1/4th to 1/7th of the audience.

That’s something that I considered, but remain hopeful we can overcome.

If you’re NOT in the GM seat, we would deeply appreciate you pointing us out to those who are! :)
The only GM in my life these days doesn't use a single off-a-shelf product outside the core (PF1E) rules. A total world-builder and improviser. Alas. But I always keep you in mind, brother!
Roger that - and thanks!
What I great idea. So weird coincidence, I GM'd for the first time in decades just before Christmas. We're doing a thing where we are rotating GMs so everyone gets a chance to play/GM. Mine was going to be a one-night-only sort of thing, but then real-me failed a Save vs Food Poisoning so I sent everyone home early. The upshot is

1. I have only half a session prepared for our next time. So I need some more!

2. This is very timely so I'll check it out.

3. I'll pass it along to our group cause we're all kinda GMs these days.
Yay! Glad this will be useful! When is your next session where you're GMing?
Friday! I'm running them through this It's going to be exciting because we're a Pathfinder party and this is for D&D 4e. No idea if it's going to be balanced. But some point I figured it was easier to just have a resurrection/rescue plan than to attempt to rebalance
A few of the posts at the top of the pile on
  1. was down for a while.
  2. Contacting my web hosting provider for support pretty much always results in "To fix that problem, I would recommend paying $5 more per month so that you get upgraded service on..." and that makes me supremely angry.
  3. So I did a bunch of Googling and some FTPing and then finally, some code editing.
  4. is back online!

Not going to lie - it's been a long since I've done something that felt so outside my wheelhouse. Feels pretty damn good.

11/12 '23 3 Comments
Sweet! Yeah, a successful solo debugging can feel pretty damned good. Especially when it's not your own. :)
Excellent! I like this whole new Matt With Extra Confidence added.
Tough, but you should pat yourself on the back because you rock.

You rock even if you rock in the forest and no one is there to hear you.


Some people have a shoe addiction.

I'm addicted to tools. Software. Stuff I can use.

I will spend many hours browsing through options and learning about the capabilities and faults of various tools or programs.

Then, finding the 'right' one, I get super jazzed. I'll proclaim "I'm going to use this for ALL THE THINGS!" and I will believe it. Every time.

Then, after one hot minute genuinely using whatever it is, I'm moving on to the next one. Because I feel like I've done the 80/20, and now it's boring drudgery like everything else.

Yeah. ADHD. Le sigh.


One example of this is Tiddlywiki by Jeremy Ruston. And to be fair to myself, I used this one pretty extensively.

I mean, it really is awesome. A single HTML file that functions as an entire wiki. While I was at BCUS as a tech guy, I filled one with problems and solutions for my team and it got used pretty heavily as a time saver. Someone even caught wind of its usefulness and started one for the Telephony team.

It lost its functionality for a while because of some aspect of more modern browsers, but checking the website, I just saw that someone created a plugin for your browser to use Tiddlywikis in Google Drive! May just have to dust this one off and get using it again…


I was looking for something a bit like a wiki, honestly, and found myself checking out Obsidian and now, recently, Logseq.

I don't foresee myself being a power user of either, but the base elements of Logseq got my attention and I've downloaded it to check it out. It's certainly an impressive app and more so when it's for free.

Mainly, I like that everything is about outlining. It's an 'outliner'. As a side note, that's a term I'd never heard before - didn't realize there's a whole category. I would have just sounded ignorant saying something like "A program which helps you outline." 😏


Point being - I would like to do more writing online. Specifically, on my various websites, Patreon, and... who knows - maybe even do some guest writing spots in exchange for others? Whatever.

If I do that though, I'll need to get better at structure. Pushing myself into outlining seems a good way to do that.

What's more, it's a skill that will help in a snowball / avalanche sense. Some of that increased writing is meant to eventually lead to a book I'm working on for folks to learn to draw. Specifically How to Draw Fantastic Humans. If things go as planned? Eventually followed by How to Draw Fantastic Elves. And Dwarves. And... yadda yadda.

And all of that will require better structure in my writing.

Me use gooder words, but me structure so un good.

The Dismount

I suppose there are far worse addictions. Especially since my tastes tend towards freeware and physical tools. I can't keep many physical tools with me, so that side of things is fairly self limiting.

I've managed to avoid becoming a Linux guy so freeware doesn't generally pile up for me. Mostly.

How about you? What do you spend entirely too much mental, emotional, or financial resources on?

10/15 '23 2 Comments
You might like Notion. It's not locally installed freeware (there's a free tier, but I know what you mean by freeware here) but dang it's nice.
Yeah - I keep hearing about it. A lot of RPG folks really seem to like it. I just haven’t sat down with it for a bit yet. Thanks for the heads up!

Today is my friend Thomas Boutell 's birthday. 

It's quite possible, even probable, that no one I know has done more good for more people on the planet. 

As if that weren't enough, he's a good, fun, interesting dude. 

So if you have a minute, please consider wishing him a kind word or three. 

9/29 '23 2 Comments
I put my pants on one leg at a time like any other octopus.
While I’m sure that’s true, I’m particularly fond of the fact that this particular octopus is a friend. :)

Another one I'll never get to.

Tag line for a comic series. Or a book. Or something.

"Every man must face his demons, but in this case, they're real."

It's a bit weird, because I do NOT want to imply that non physical demons are any less real, but I was trying to think of a simple, snappy tagline. 

The idea is that his internal problems create / spawn tangible monsterous creatures. Perhaps based on the 7 Deadly Sins.

So he has to fight them on two battlefields - in his mind and with his body. 

Seems like it could be a lot of fun. 

Maybe I'll do some daydreaming / sketch / concept work on it if I get some time. 

7/7 '23 2 Comments
That could be your hook. He says, “in my case they’re real.” By the end of the series, he realizes that everyone’s demons are real.
Oh, I kinda _love_ this.

Okay, y'all are probably sick of seeing that dragon's head at this point, but it kinda started something for me.

I've been really enjoying this super simple (technically speaking) technique. I do a very fast, rough 'pencil sketch', create a new layer, and just use a single ink brush which varies widely in line weight based on pressure applied to the stylus.

What that does: It makes it really easy for me to 'intentionally make mistakes'. Or as Bob Ross would say: "Happy little accidents." That, in turn, creates a kind of bold detail work. Lots of visual texture where my stuff is usually so very steryl in its cleanliness.

Also, these look like they would make for amazing stickers - which are also available on the site.

So I'm going to do some more. I'm trying to stick primarily to 'the heads of creatures of known types'. Dragon, bugbear, and I cheated a little with the goblin.

What kind of creature would you like to see next? Bonus if it's a type that live a VERY long time so I can use lots of lines to make it look 'grizzled and old'.

6/26 '23 6 Comments
Ents live quite a while. And they've lots of fiddly bits if you like lines.
The Ents would object to being drawn quickly, of course. But you don't have to tell them.
I won’t tell if you won’t.
Love it! Yes.
It just occurred to me...I don't know that I've ever seen you draw a wizard? Wizards can be old and grizzled.
True, on all counts! Consider it added to the list!

Working on my first instructional ebook. How to Draw Fantastic Humans.

The idea is to follow it up later with How to Draw Fantastic Elves, then Dwarves, etc..

If you've ever wanted to learn how to draw people, I would deeply and sincerely appreciate any questions you might have so that I can address them in the book.

Please and thank you!

6/18 '23 23 Comments
Hands: how do I even
I'm on the job!
Starting in on this. Is there anything specific you’re wondering about?
There will be text to go with these, obviously, but for now, I’m working on the illustrations.

Are these helping to make sense of hands at all?
Holy crap yes!!! This is all considerably more thorough than I expected from this book. Way past beginner's/simple. But in a good way. But also could reaaaaallly split this up I think into multiple books.
Eyes: how to make them look normal, and more or less the same size, and eyes. Young eyes, old eyes. Squinty, wide-eyed, surprized, narrowed, loving, contented, laughing, angry...
Good call - I planned to do something about eyes in general, but I really appreciate the clarity on finer points, and I will be sure to add them!
Ooooh this is exciting!
Maintaining proper proportions of parts while the figure is in motion. I'm thinking back to a drawing I did in school of a soccer player kicking a ball towards the viewer....had the worst time getting the kicking leg to look right.
Ohhh. That’s a tricky one. Perspective and foreshortening are both challenging on their own, but together, they grow exponentially harder. I do plan to at least start into them in the book though, so I’ll let you know when I have something.
Oh that's a good point. Maybe doing a beginner's book would be good and then you can get into the finer points in a second edition since people like to learn one chunk at a time...?
Or, in our modern era, I could create a ‘living book’ that grows over time. 😏
I like it. Though ya may lose some revenue there as you won't have repeat customers on the same topic.

I've seen people do a similar thing for courses though that helps you get something out fast.

Beginner's version: First incarnation sells for a lower price, and ya get feedback to find out what else people want. Then as you add more from their suggestions or questions, it sells for more, but the OG's get the additional content. Win Win for everyone.

Then the Intermediate book, same thing, etc.

So you're at the public pool. You finally managed to learn to keep your head above water all by yourself.

Then, you get splashed a lot and when you look around, you realize that you're in a pool where olympic athletes come to do their laps. You're surrounded by them.

Then someone comes along and says "Guess what folks, we figured out individual motor boats. No need to know how to swim anymore!"

Makes it kinda hard to keep your head above the water.

* * * * *

In case it's not abundantly clear - I'm kinda burning out. I'm still plugging along, but my heart's not really in it. There's a tremendous sense of "What's the point?"

Anyway - the image(s) up top are what I did today on my day off (rain).

Tried a new technique. Someone pointed out in one of the videos I watched that there's no real reason to stick to the old process of a. pencils, b. inks, c. color flats, and d. rendering because that was designed for the comics of old based on physical limitations created by the printing process. So if you're working digitally...

So I went straight from 'pencils' to 'painting'. Dunno. There's some good texture in there, but I think I should have spent more time on the figure's silhouette. The arms get a bit confusing.

The pose was based a little on the third one below - all of which I did yesterday just to be 'putting pen to paper'.

6/11 '23 9 Comments
I hate to say this because I think I know what the answer is, but what if you drew with actual pencil/pen/paper or stopped using digital media for, say, a week?
I know, there’s a limited amount of stuff you can carry around with you. I get a lot of enjoyment out of the tactile part of art and crafts: writing in a notebook with a good pen, doodling with a pencil on paper, knitting with different kinds of yarn. Maybe this would help you find some enjoyment in it again.
It's funny you should mention that...

I just made myself a little 'traditional media art kit' that I keep in the car. it's another man-purse (I'm a bag whore) with the following things in it (if my memory covers everything):
* moleskine sketchbook
* small pack of watercolors (2 different packs) with brushes
* pencils
* ink pens (fineline)
* kneeded eraser
* a couple of card games
* a watercolor postcards pad (paint your postcard, then tear it out, apply postage and send)

I too get a lot out of traditional media work. It _feels good_ to do.

Two problems I have:
1. I KEEP trying to tape the page with two fingers and 'undo' the last stroke I made. I can't tell you how many times I do this. I really am a trained monkey.
2. It feels SO inefficient now. It's silly, but this actually bothers me down deep. There's a part of my brain that's constantly whispering: "We could do that faster. That wouldn't be an issue if... You know, that would take as long if..."

That's not to say it's without value. I really will try to do more, but it's a convenience thing on top of everything else.

If I stop to grab a bite, which of the two bags will I grab? The one with traditional media? (Cumbersome, no art in it to show folks who ask, can only do one thing) Or the iPad bag (with ALL my art in it, games to play while I'm eating, etc...)
Is it because of the pressure of trying to make a go of it? Figuring out how to sell, etc?
I know that can sometimes take the joy out of a thing...or is it the A.I. situation alone?
Yes to both.

And more.
I’ve been in a similar state of disheartened frustration myself lately. This is the advice my brain barfed out this evening. It may or may not make as much sense as I’d like it to.

Doug Adams said the answer to life, the universe, & everything is 42.

That's likely true. But I think all the answers can more easily be found in The Princess Bride (though towels are helpful in most any situation…).

When one has a solid direction & is aware of the terrors, one can move with effortless ease through the fireswamp. Without the awareness & direction, one spends the majority of their time fighting off R.O.U.S., half drowning in the lightning sand, whilst repeatedly falling victim to fire spurts.

Is that the definition of living there quite comfortably for some time?


That’s just surviving out of sheer will, determination, & an intense distaste for Humperdink.

But that doesn’t allow time for thinking things through clearly, or thoroughly. Or the brainpower to ask pertinent questions like…

"What are our assets?" and "What are our liabilities?"

Take some time. Do some stuff you enjoy. Do your art for the sheer love/fun of it.

Fuck Humperdink (don’t literally fuck Humperdink…he looks like a super selfish lay…just let go of the pressure).

That’ll give ya the opportunity to assess what the assets and liabilities are.

Which generally brings clarity and direction.

So creativity can burn brightly.

Like a holocaust cloak.

And then all ya gotta do is lay around in bed admiring perfect breasts & making a few brilliant verbal stabs at that stupid Humperdink.

And Voila! Ya got the Princess.

Yes, and, yes, I wholeheartedly get it. I once was in a situation where I had to revise a play I wrote for the Philly Fringe by a specific deadline and my computer DIED. I had to rewrite by hand on paper. This was 2003 or so. Nobody had smartphones. I had to rewrite it by hand, then take it to my parents’ house and type it really fast and send it to the director.
The slow, tiring process of writing it made me think my way through what I wanted to say and use as few words as possible.

My point is, the slow process will make you learn what AI never will.
Too true. And I really do need to 'disconnect' more often than I currently do - that's for damn sure.
I just looked through the list of stuff in your non-digital art bag and I love it so much I had to buy watercolor postcards.
I overthink my visual art because I worry about wasting art supplies but then I don’t improve because I don’t practice. Unused art supplies are a bigger waste.