Sounds like your on the right track. Just remember, chili like many other dishes is a personal thing. Try your base recipe, taste and make adjustments to your liking. Keeping a log for each pot will really help with your progress. And yes you can lightly toast cumin seeds in a dry pan for a few minutes, then grind in a spice grinder or a morter and pestle. I'm with Grillingfool on the liquids, stock and beer or ale.
"You wouldn't know a diamond if you held it in your hand. The things you think are precious I can't understand" STEELY DAN.