A New Look

Hey everyone! This is just going to be a quick update.

For those of you who have been following my blog for some time now, you might notice some major changes recently. Firstly, there’s a new domain name now.

I started this blog back in 2011 as a college freshman with absolutely no idea how to utilize social media (not that I’m much better about it now) and even less knowledge of marketing. I started blogging mostly because everyone else in the writing club I was a part of did it. I called it “Gilleland Creations,” thinking that I would randomly post about what I created on here (doodles, poems, stories, etc). What it turned into, however, was a site dedicated mostly to my novels and the art of writing. Thus, the name “Gilleland Creations” was not only a bit difficult to remember, it was actually a little misleading, too. So, with that in mind, I decided today that it was time to change the domain name to something simpler: my name.

The other change you’ll notice is the change in theme (page layout). The theme that I have had up until this point is the same one I chose five years ago when I launched the blog. With a new name, I figured it was time for a new look, too.

For the next week or so, you’ll probably see a few more changes as I try to see what works for me and what doesn’t. To those of you who have been following me for a while, thank you for all your support. I hope you continue to enjoy my work. And to those of you who may have just recently found me, I hope you’ll endure the messiness of all the changes my website is going through and stick around for the long haul. Thanks, and happy reading!

Fact in Fiction

Hey everyone! My apologies for my random long absences. Since clearly I am one of the world’s worst at keeping up with my social media, I thought I would carve out some time today to give you an update on my writing status and talk a little about some of the new aspects I’ve been adding to my most recent projects.

To be honest, I don’t have one particular project I’m working on right now, though there are, at least, only a handful that I have been focusing on.

On the not-so-serious front, I’m just about finished with my Skyrim fanfic, which is currently sitting at over 117,000 words (longest single project I’ve written so far).

I also have the sequel to Prism World still in the works, though the story has taken several twists that have stumped me and, as such, I’ve put it on the back-burner for now.

The second book in the Star Trilogy, The Secret of Erris, is also on my list of things to write, but with all the changes that occurred in the rewrite of the first book (and a fair amount of pressure to maintain or improve the quality of the writing in this newest one), I’ve been a bit slow. (I’ll try to post some of the rewrite for The Secret of Erris here pretty soon, though).

And so, for the time being, my main writing focus has been on my 2015 NaNoWriMo project, Infinite.

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you may remember that for National Novel Writing Month 2015, I started my first ever sci-fi story, which is based in a future where teleportation is a reality and which centers around a VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) set in a mythology-inspired, fantasy-esque world called Infinite.

The main character in Infinite is a young woman whose player name is Vigil. In the game, she plays as a Cleric/Beastmaster (healer/animal summoner), but in the real world, she is a librarian.

From my first concept of Infinite, I knew it was going to be a story heavily entrenched in history and culture, as each of the continents in the game contains monsters and characters inspired by real-world mythology. This also meant, of course, that a fair amount of research would be required to make the story more dynamic.

Now, to be fair, most sci-fi and fantasy novels contain some measure of history in them, and those novels which are most successful are generally the ones where the authors have done a fair amount of research in order to create them. This goes for video games and movies as well as literary stories. (If you’re in doubt, check out ShoddyCast’s “Hidden History” series on YouTube). But for all the hours of research that we authors put into our work with the hope of making it more dynamic and believable, most of these factual treasures go unnoticed by our readers. It was while I was pondering this truth that I came up with an additional piece to add to Infinite, something I call “Vigil’s Journal Logs.”

“Vigil’s Journal Logs” are, for lack of a better explanation, mini-chapters that follow larger ones. While the regular chapters center specifically around the story itself, the journal logs act as interesting little asides where Vigil records, comments on, and ponders aspects of the world around her, both the real one and the virtual one.

For instance, during NaNoWriMo, I posted a segment in which Vigil and her best friend, Wraith, battle against a boss monster called Regulus the Basilisk King. (If you missed it, here is the post where you can read the scene about Regulus). Considering what I know of the character of Vigil and the idea I had for the journal logs, at the end of the chapter following the conclusion of their battle with Regulus, I started up with “Vigil’s Journal Log – Entry 1: Basilisks”:

The word “basilisk” comes from the Greek word basiliskos, which means “little king.” Regulus is the Latin version of the same word. Its name came from the belief that the basilisk wore a diadem, a symbol of royalty, on its head.

In Greek mythology, the basilisk was a creature variously described as a dragon-like reptile or a chimera containing the head, body, and legs of a chicken and the tail of a snake. It was considered one of the most poisonous creatures on earth, and most believed that it could kill a person with a single glance. Its breath was also believed to be poisonous enough to melt the flesh off the bones of its victims.

Though this monster was mentioned in the works of several famous writers of antiquity, such as Pliny the Elder, the legend of the basilisk became particularly popular in the Middle Ages of Western Europe. The Venerable Bede, Leonardo da Vinci, and Geoffrey Chaucer all make mention of the basilisk in their works, and it was believed during that time that only a mongoose or the crowing of a rooster could defeat it. For this reason, many medieval travelers would carry a rooster with them when journeying through regions where basilisks were said to live.

Most people nowadays believe that the legend of the basilisk came from travelers’ exaggerated reports of cobras, snakes that are known for their extremely potent venom. Several variations of cobras can incapacitate their victims from a distance by spitting venom into the eyes of their target, and the king cobra is known for having a crown-shaped spot on its forehead.

The “Journal Log” entries are intended to be short one or two-page notes on major things that happen over the course of the story. As of right now, the ones I have written focus on: basilisks, Narcissus, oracles, the Hermes System (and, subsequently, the myth of Hermes himself), resources (the in-game type), and nightshades. My favorites, so far, are the entries about the basilisks and nightshades. Here’s the one about the nightshades:

Vigil’s Journal Log – Entry 9: Nightshade

In the world of Infinite, one of the foremost poisons comes from a plant known as “Devil’s Nightshade.” It is a bushy plant with purplish-black, bell-shaped flowers and black berries that are sweet to the taste. The plant is so deadly that any part of it can be used in most poison recipes, although the berries are preferred since most recipes require fewer of those than they do the leaves or flowers.

According to Yoshitsune, however, what we from Infinite know as “Devil’s Nightshade” is only one variation of a larger family of plants, simply known as solanaceae or nightshades. The variation that inspired “Devil’s Nightshade” is more commonly known as belladonna.

The solanaceae family of flowering plants consists of over 90 groups (known as “genera”) and more than 2,500 individual species. Along with the exceptionally deadly belladonna, other types of nightshades include the potato, tomato, eggplant, and chili pepper plants.

The nightshade belladonna has been a widely-used poison for centuries, and was once a favorite among assassins. Because the berries are at once extraordinarily deadly and pleasingly sweet, this type of poison was easy to slip into glasses of wine. It is believed than in the year 1030, Scotland’s King Duncan I passed out bottles of nightshade-infused wine to an army of Danes, effectively destroying an entire army without ever having to lift his sword.

Ironically, belladonna’s use was not limited to warfare. It was also used in early cosmetics to dilate a woman’s pupils (something thought to be highly attractive at that time) and in medicine as an anesthetic (as the poisonous properties of the belladonna also had the effect of paralysis and numbing).

I like the concept of Vigil’s Journal Logs because it really helps, for me, at least, to tie the fictional world to the real one. I am a lover of both history and information, so having an opportunity to share the knowledge I have acquired for my story is a very exciting thing for me. I think that eventually I’ll also start working on a sort of resource index that will go at the back of the book as well, in case any of my audience are interested in reading my sources for themselves.

And on that note, I guess it’s back to real life for me. Please feel free to let me know what you think of this new idea, as well. Happy reading!