A few months ago I had a work colleague who introduced me to the idea of digital gardens. Here is a brief explanation of the concept from the linked article:
A garden is a collection of evolving ideas that aren’t strictly organised by their publication date. They’re inherently exploratory – notes are linked through contextual associations. They aren’t refined or complete - notes are published as half-finished thoughts that will grow and evolve over time. They’re less rigid, less performative, and less perfect than the personal websites we’re used to seeing.
A stellar example of this kind of thing is gwern.net, though I’m not sure if that would be described as a digital garden exactly. I was intrigued by the idea, and researching a little further I found this tutorial and Jekyll template on GitHub for a note-based digital garden. Jekyll if you are unaware is a static site generator that converts files written in Markdown into HTML, spitting out a website with no backend server. I decided that I wanted to use it for this writing website for a few different reasons.
- I wanted a looser structure, not only blog posts and a few static pages
- I wanted a place where I could worldbuild and expand on my fictional universes and characters, to try and help me keep details consistent
- I wanted an easier way to store book, film, and music essays that I write
What you are seeing now is the end result. I worked on it for a month or two at first before stalling and getting stuck in my head. Who would read this? Is this the right direction to go in? Shouldn’t I just be writing instead? I almost abandoned the project altogether. But then around December last year I started to think about it and tinker with it more as I worked on ideas for The Marrow King Saga. I thought that it really would be nice to have a place of my own where I can build up the world of my stories in a way that I can easily link between. So, I continued the arduous work of moving things over from my old blog, changing link formats, tweaking styles, and so on until I landed on this and relaunched the site a few weeks back.
The main areas to look at or start from are my Works page, which links to hub pages for all of my manuscripts. The other is the Library which is a catalogue of all the books I own with links to essays for some, as well as essays on films and music. Hovering over internal links will show a small preview window of the article. At the bottom of each note (such as Hell’s Angels) you will see a graph of all notes and how they link to one another, with links to the current note in the sidebar. But, enough about the Arcana of this website – it has been a long time since I wrote an update on my projects, starting with The Thaw.
Since last time, it feels like there has been little actual physical forward movement for the characters in The Thaw, though they have pushed forward mentally and emotionally along their long road to Colorado.
At Pinnacle Mountain the Gardeners, after some initial prudent wariness by the occupants of the fortified community, were welcomed inside with open arms. The familiar face they found there was none other than George Thurman, Sam’s father-in-law, who established the community around a year after he was last seen by Pat defending his country estate. Guided through the inner walls by Easton, they see a thriving populace much larger and better defended than their own back on the island, with horses and other livestock, walls, and more specialized workers.
The chapter focuses on the Gardeners telling Thurman and the other founders of Pinnacle Mountain about their mission, and hearing the colonist’s own stories. A great feast – great for the post-Fall world – is prepared in the caves underneath the mountain, likely more than is sensible as the crop blight has affected the colonists of Pinnacle as well. There is dancing, music, and mead, and the Islanders can feel safe and happy for a little while. Sam and Gloria are able to escape ot the walls outside, and finally are able to admit their feelings for one another, and share a kiss as snow begins to fall. Meanwhile, after Cortland and George swap war stories, the old Colonel seeks Pinnacle Mountain’s support if he returns from Colorado with the seeds and the remnants of the military.
This is easily the largest chapter I’ve written for anything so far. It’s been interesting to write about another group of characters , and I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface with them. One outcome of this chapter is that now the Gardeners will be crossing the Arkansas border not at Fort Smith as I originally intended, but south at the town of Bates after travelling through the hills and Ouachita forest. My plan was for them to vaguely follow the route of the Arkansas river in this journey, however they have diverged a little. I plan on utilising it more for the return trip, as they will be able to find boats to take them downriver to skip some of the arduous overland travel. Fort Smith must be avoided based on the advice of Barbara Conway, one of the founders of Pinnacle, who has just returned from a scouting mission in the area and has reported it overrun. This is a happy divergence, because it will give us a chance to travel through some rugged backcountry, with many perils including a pitch dark thunderstorm, and signs of a monstrous black bear. Easton will be the Gardener’s guide along the way, before he turns back at the Oklahoma border. There are many perils awaiting the Gardeners in the Sooner State – an irradiated city, desperate and sick refugees, and a dangerous warband who rule over Tulsa.
As for Sarah, it’s now up to her to convince the King to let a group of islanders travel to the overrun town of Greenville under the pretense of finding medicine. Their real mission, however, is to find some poison or laxatives to poison the King’s men with. will be sent along with her and the others on the rain-soaked mission to the dead town, and another group will make themselves known. may find himself in big trouble for some time, which in turn will make the King much more paranoid and less trusting of Sarah, who in his mind sometimes appears as his lost daughter, .
I’ve also made some progress for The Marrow King Saga. I’ve been further expanding on the story of the first novel (well, first chronologically), which details and the Dawnfolk’s exodus from Revana and their arrival in the blessed land of Altor, along with the woe and conflict with the people of that are the first people who live there. Exploring the religious background has been interesting, establishing how the religion of Revana works and how it is different from the dawn religion (Usol). I was also introduced to the concept of Heiromonks (and Easton Orthodox monasticism generally) from an episode of Gordon Ramsay Uncharted. I found this fascinating, and from the Arisen Knights I want there to be several branches – a monastic order, the main religious clergy, and also a warrior order similar to the Templars.
For the names of the things and people in Revana I want a Balkans/Slavic feel to them, and I’m also maintaining a list of interesting names I see in various sources to use throughout the stories. For the Dawnfolk I was originally going to use more Scandinavian-sounding names, though because they are originally mostly from Revana I will mix influences. I have not yet focused on the people of Lacera much, but will need to in time because they are bound strongly in royal marriage with the line of . Building a fantasy world takes time, and even if some things don’t make it into the books it’s still useful for me to know these things.
Well, that’s it for now – I can’t predict when there will be another update. I have tons of type-written and hand-written pages that I must put into the word processor and that’s always much more work than I expect. One other tidbit is that I switched to OneDrive after using Dropbox for years. I already pay for Office 365 for Word so their much higher storage limits are a pleasant side-effect. Dropbox has been frustrating me more and more over the years with their bizarrely low storage limits and the three device limit on the free plan, and they constantly nag you with emails if you are anywhere close to the limit. Their paid plan of $20AUD/month for 2TB of storage just doesn’t make sense for me, maybe if they had a 20GB tier for $5 a month or something I would pay it but as it stands it makes no sense and I am happy with OneDrive.
At some point in future I would like to put a section of my film photography on this site as well. It’s been immensely enjoyable to pick up as a hobby, and I like it a lot more than I ever liked digital photography.
Until next time!