Tick, tick…

After a long Christmas holiday where I switched off from everything; the day job, writing and general real life stuff, I found it quite difficult emerging from my chocolate coma and finding my new year mojo. Going cold turkey and banning myself from eating anything from my Christmas chocolate basket, starting from my first day back at work, didn’t help matters, though the will is strong and I have stayed away….

I’ve found it hard to get back into my writing, spending far too much time over-anlaysing my work, (in a critical way that always kills the creativity), and dithering about what to focus on next.

When I saw a post on a facebook writing group the other week with a quote from the musical drama, tick, tick…BOOM!, I decided to watch the film. (Warning: if you read on, you’re going to find out Jonathan’s ending.) The film is based on the autobiographical musical by play write/composer Jonathan Larson. The story follows his life where he is waiting tables at a New York City diner in 1990 whilst writing what he hopes will be ‘the next great American musical’. On the run up to his 30th birthday, and a very important make-or-break showcase, where a musical he has devoted eight years to writing and re-writing will be performed, the pressure is ON.

I like seeing/reading stories where you get a glimpse into the way writers and artists torture themselves as it makes me realise we’re all a bit mad to put ourselves through so much emotional turmoil, but it kind of goes hand-in-hand when you’re passionate about creating art and trying to connect with an audience. This film sees Jonathan experience all the torture; self-doubt, procrastination, crippling writers block, comparing himself to other successful creatives (listing famous song-writers who had ‘made it’ well before the age of thirty). There is a sense of panic running through the narrative for Jonathan, that time is running out (which is sadly prophetic). He feels crushed when the musical he invested years in doesn’t quite work or make the impact he had dreamed of. (And the performance at the showcase was amazing, which again is a cruel reminder that you can be the most talented creative, but if your story doesn’t quite fit what the industry is looking for, it could be passed over time and time again).

The quote that brought me to the film was from Jonathan’s agent, who consoles him when things don’t go the way he hopes, with the words: ‘You start writing the next one. And after you finish that one, you start on the next. And on, and on…that’s what it is to be a writer…You just keep throwing them against the wall, and hoping against hope that something eventually sticks.’ For Jonathan, something eventually did stick. Six years later, his musical Rent began its run on Broadway for twelve successful years. But to say Jonathan got his happy ending has a tragic finality to it, as he died the morning of the first performance. That was a gutter punch moment of are you kidding me??

And it made me think, thoughts I know I have expressed before in posts. How much time do we waste letting self-doubt hold us back, being too afraid to put ourselves out there, worrying about our audience, giving up after rejections, criticism…or sometimes never even starting because we tell ourselves we’re not good enough, or this is not good enough. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it never will be. But you never know who might read your words and feel a connection. Jonathan left behind words and music that will reignite every time someone new connects with them.

Something I’ve missed during covid times is the lack of (face to face) connection with other writers and readers. Even although things have started to slowly re-open, at the moment I’m still not a fan of spending much time in crowds. (Travelling on a busy train and subway into my day job which is public facing often makes me crave time away from people in my downtime just now) I have recently dabbled in Tik Tok as a way of ‘connecting’ with readers and writers, but in a lot of ways Tik Tok confuses and depresses me, and goes against all of my introvert tendencies.

So I still feel that my life is missing a lot of those natural connections and the buzz you get from ad-hoc, unexpected interactions with other writers talking about projects and ideas, hearing writers perform their work and tell their stories, or getting immediate feedback and interaction from readers at talks and workshops.

There is nothing quite like a young reader seeking you out at the end of an event to tell you they were up to 2am the night before finishing your book, or that your words have made them want to read more and write. A work colleague delighted me recently by telling me Promise Me was the first book she had read since high school and she loved it and it kept her turning the pages, making her want to read more again.

It’s often those little sparks of realisation that my words have made a connection that keeps me believing in the magic.

Happy Winter Solstice

I love that the darkest day has such a magical and soothing name, with a list of rituals and celebrations that focus on light illuminating the darkness and letting go of fears and focusing on a fresh start ahead. At a time where staying optimistic feels challenging, any focus on positive and simple rituals gets a thumbs up from me.

So today on the Winter Solstice I will be lighting some candles, cranking up the Christmas lights, reading a good book, maybe watching another really bad Christmas film (A Castle for Christmas on Netflix is truly special), running a bath, eating home made lasagne, and stealing some Christmas chocolate (it will be replaced!!),

Whatever your Christmas looks like this year, I hope you find some comfort in small rituals that make you happy. Much love to you all.


November has been a busy month. In amongst re-adjusting to life back in a busy office in my day-to-day life, I’ve enjoyed connecting with writers at a couple of events.

I’m in the middle of judging a teen short story competition for Erskine Writers group, where I delivered a workshop last month. Erskine Writers was where I first shared my work in public many years ago, and it’s lovely to return to lead workshops.

A couple of Saturdays ago I delivered an online workshop to the Teen Igniting Writing group (part of Wokingham Libraries), talking to a group of young people about what makes a good Mystery/Thriller. I was blown away by some of the extracts they read out of their own work, and had fun answering questions and talking about mystery books we love, (as well as telling them where my inspiration for writing mysteries comes from). I was very grateful to my school friend, Elizabeth, (or Lis as I know her), for organising this amazing session as part of her role as Young People Outreach manager. I don’t often get to engage with teens outwith Scotland, and I think one benefit of lockdown was the realisation online connections can be a positive way of reaching wider audiences/providing wider access.

One young person asked me, “What compels you to write?” It’s a good question, and one that has been circling in my head since. On the day I think I said it was ultimately my love of reading that sparked the desire for me to create my own stories, and I love seeing a story unfold and characters take over, which is all true.

But ultimately I think there is something deep within us all where we crave to connect with one another, and make sense of the world around us, and storytelling in all of its forms allows us to do that.

I was invited to a wonderful session last Saturday at Greenock Central Library as part of Book Week Scotland, celebrating creativity and writing within Inverclyde, organised and led by Writer In Residence, Katharine Macfarlane (who is an amazing Slam Poet. I am currently reading her poetry collection Home Words – it is full of beautiful imagery. You can buy a copy here).

Katharine is so enthusiastic about creativity and has got me involved in amazing events in the past, working with young people in Inverclyde. I grew up in Inverclyde, and previously worked there for ten years as a careers adviser, so it will always be a place I feel connected to. During this particular session I really enjoyed meeting other local writers and hearing them read their work, as well as finding out about future projects. Martin O’Connor, the Inverclyde Artist in Residence, also generated interesting discussion about how we all engage in some form of storytelling every day.

Some of the general discussion about Storytelling, and all of its forms, again made me think about how important it is for voices to be heard and that writing, (or spoken word), is a really powerful way we can encourage people to express themselves and tell their own stories.

In other news Promise Me is now available through wider distribution, both in digital and paperback formats, World Wide. It can be ordered into Waterstones here

Launch of my new YA Mystery Promise Me

Tomorrow I am having an online celebration for the launch of my new YA mystery Promise Me. Anyone can join the facebook page to take part in giveaways and watch some videos/find out more about the book!

Follow the link here: to the page … and this link takes you to the platforms where you can purchase Promise Me

Cover Reveal for Promise Me

Young Adult Mystery ~ released end of October

One of the most exciting things on the lead up to the release of a book, (I think anyway), is getting to see your cover come to life. I am delighted today to ‘unveil’ the front cover of my new Young Adult mystery Promise Me which will be released at the end of the month.

I think my talented designer friend Rebecca Johnstone, (check out her Dainty Dora website here), has done an amazing job of putting together a dramatic and eye-catching design. I gave Rebecca a rough outline of what I wanted, then Rebecca worked her creative magic to pull it all together. It was a fun, collaborative process and it has been lovely to commission a friend to work on such an important part of my book.

~ Here is a teaser blurb for Promise Me~

When threats begin, Darcy realises someone might be prepared to do anything to hide the truth

Following the separation of her parents, seventeen-year-old Darcy moves with her mum to a wealthy Scottish village which hit the headlines when a local girl was stabbed at a Halloween party two years previously. 

Darcy always wondered about Christian Henderson’s conviction of murder, fascinated by this attractive misfit and his story. 

Much of Christian’s trial took place online, before he even reached the courtroom, with witch-hunt style podcasts and online forums spinning stories of what happened the night of the party. 

Darcy befriends the inner social circle at school and strikes up a friendship with Christian through letters, determined to uncover unanswered questions around the conviction

But who can she believe? 

Book news


If the past year and a half has taught me, (and you, I’m sure), anything, it’s that life is unpredictable and short, and all the clichés that go along with that line of thinking.

If the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that the publishing industry is even more unpredictable and slow, and often constraining. Constraining in that you’re left to depend very much on someone else setting your timelines, and there’s a lot of waiting around wanting to know what’s happening, often ghosting, and that then gives you a lot of time to then wonder about your writing, and if it’s any good, and if you will ever see your next book in print. After taking my second book back from my publisher by mutual agreement it threw me out into the world of submissions again, you see. For the non-writers reading this basically think about any time you have tried online dating. It’s not all bad of course. In the end online dating was actually a success for me, and I have been traditionally published before, but… you know…you have to go through a bit of pain to get to the place you want to be.

For me, it felt like I’ve been standing still the past few years when it comes to my writing, even although ‘behind the scenes’ I have very much been getting words down on paper (or onto my screen). Too much of my thoughts were occupied with but when will these words be out there in the world again, will they ever be out there in the world again...everyone is going to think I’m a failure, and I forgot to enjoy the process and I fell out of love a bit with creating.

So then I started to ask myself what do I actually want from my writing? and I talked A LOT to people close to me who I feel very lucky to have in my life as they keep me sane , and I asked a good friend and colleague of mine (thanks Hilary) to give me a career coaching interview so I could dig a bit deeper into that question, (what do I want from my writing), and most importantly set myself some actions that would help me move forward.

I realised I am sometimes so immersed in the world of writers, on social media predominantly, especially the past few years, I subconsciously absorb what I think is the right or coveted direction to travel in terms of a writing career. And I put a lot of pressure on myself and I don’t actually focus enough on allowing myself to just actually ENJOY writing…to go back to that raw feeling of excitement that I get from joining words together that are actually forming into a story, and to enjoy seeing where it is going to take me.

After my first book launch friends bought me cards and bookmarks and there was a common phrase appearing on these: ‘ Create Your Own Story.’

So that’s what I am now doing; I am taking control of my own story, and this was a really long winded way of saying I have a book coming out next month and that I am going full Indie with this, self-publishing (but actually I have a team- my Mum has been amazing with the technical side, final edits, and I have a fab cover artist, Rebecca, and professional platforms which will deal with distribution).

It feels good. Promise Me, my next Young Adult mystery is finally going to make its way out into the world. And I hope some readers find it, as really that’s all I want. Readers, and a sense that I am connecting with people.

I will be doing a cover reveal very soon for Promise Me, posting my book trailer, and probably posting far too much about it in general, so I apologise in advance for that.

I’m finishing this post with a link to wise words from Ethan Hawke (a crush of mine back in his Reality Bites days, and who knew he has a lot of soul too…). This is titled: ‘Give yourself permission to be creative The underlying message is basically stop worrying about the quality of your creative work and what other people will think of it, as the ‘world is an ‘extremely unreliable critic.’ And it is very important ‘to play the fool.’

I also recently read ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott (every writer should read this) and I loved the line, ‘Be afraid of wasting…time obsessing about how you look and how people see you.’ And ‘Write towards vulnerability.’

Putting my work out there myself does make me feel vulnerable, but I’m ready to play the fool!

Heart-shaped clouds

I spent this afternoon getting lost amongst the pages of a wonderful book, My Heart Wanders by Pia Jane Bijkerk, a visual memoir which documents Pia’s creative and personal journey as she ‘follows her dreams’ and sets up home in Paris, then Amsterdam. (see Pia’s creative blog here ) This book was gifted to me a couple of years ago by my artist friend Rebecca (you can view Rebecca’s Dainty Dora site here). Rebecca understands my love for Paris, and this book definitely evoked wistful memories of a beautiful city. Even although I had dipped in and out of the book several times over the past couple of years, I was saving it for a day when I craved inspiration, and had time to pay it the attention it deserved. As I now have the luxury of using Fridays for my writing days, (or creative days is the way I am going to start thinking of them going forward), I devoured it all in one afternoon and it successfully made my mind go on a wander.

Lots within the book resonated with me, (and I am sure I will return to other aspects in other posts), but this statement in particular jumped out at me today:

I realised that having a little faith in myself and learning to be more patient were two attributes I needed to continue working on” Pia Jane Bijkerk

Sometimes the way our world is designed makes it hard to allow ourselves to be patient, and to just ‘be’ (I’ve touched upon this in another post). I think lockdown has enforced this upon is in new ways we could never have previously imagined possible!

Still, I feel we are very much living in a world where we are encouraged to work towards milestones, to achieve ‘life goals’, ‘career goals’ ‘family goals’ ‘creative goals’, whether self-imposed or absorbed from societal views. And If we take too long to achieve them, or never achieve them, then it is easy to become self-critical.

It can of course be quite helpful to have goals if it makes you feel motivated. But sometimes goals can make us feel pressured.

It can be helpful to take a step back, and reassess these ‘goals’, and question what they really mean to you. Recent conversations I have had with friends, with work colleagues and with writers, over the past few weeks all tie into different aspects of this chain of thought.

I keep thinking there is sometimes such an obsession with the destination, rather than the journey, (I don’t care if that sounds cheesy, it’s the best way I can think to describe it), that it blinds us to the things that are so important along the way: experiences, the learning, the giving it a go and the failures, the doing things and trying things for the indulgent sake of enjoyment, and the small steps.

Not enough praise is given for small steps. As a side-note: Education officials: please stop trying to judge young people by statistics. The very definition of Education is supposed to be learning and within learning you’re not doing it properly if you don’t fail sometimes.

Taking time out and hiding away and giving yourself a break from even thinking about achieving anything when you need to, is also so important. Especially just now.

I know I am guilty of setting myself high expectations and striving for perfection. Whenever I start writing a new book for example I want it to be the best thing I have ever written, (doesn’t everyone??), but it’s much more realistic to approach a new project with the realisation it’s probably going to be pretty rubbish, until at least a number of edits have shaped it into something more readable. Maybe even then it won’t be amazing, but there’s always something to be learned, and hopefully something enjoyable, throughout the process.

I’m going to end this post with another quote from My Heart Wanders:

If we started becoming more aware of the beauty in the details of our surroundings, then we might appreciate the moment we are living in – rather than the moment that passed years ago, or the one we wish for in the future. Pia Jane Bijkerk pg 291

I know for many of us right now it might be hard to find the beauty in our current situations, but I’ll leave you with a great challenge that the writer of this book proposed within her blog. To find a heart shape in unexpected places – a simple kind of beauty that might brighten up your day in an unexpected way.

I seem to have pre-empted this one as I posted a photograph on social media a few weeks ago, where I saw a heart- shaped cloud, (I saw this shape anyway!) surrounding a rainbow. It seems an appropriate image to accompany this post!

Happy New Writing Year

A room of one’s own

I’m going to start off my post by wishing every a hopeful year. Entering a new year always gives me a sense of renewed hope, which I’m definitely holding on to as 2021 rolls in. My biggest hope as we move through the months is that 2021 triumphs over the weirdness and weirdos of 2020.

Something positive that came of the weirdness was definitely the renewed importance I placed upon my writing. At the end of the year I was able to drop my hours in my day job, giving me a day all to myself to write. I feel very lucky to be in a position to be able to do this, and grateful to my employer for approving the change of hours with zero fuss. It has been something I have been desperate to do for so long, and much needed to help me focus. I close the door to my writing room, sit down at my desk and get lost in words. My partner has also given me access to his Spotify so I have now started to put together writing song playlists. I find choosing mood appropriate music really helps me get into ‘the zone’.

Other positives at the end of the year was finding time to explore other forms I love, such as flash fiction. My short piece, Exhibition featured in the first issue of the Dillydoun Review which you can read here: https://thedillydounreview.com/victoria-gemmell/ This particular publication meant a lot to me as the editor, Amy Burns, used to oversee the wonderful Literary Journal Spilling Ink and back in 2010 she accepted my first ever published piece of work, a flash fiction/prose poetry piece called Performance. So thank you, Amy, for once again giving my work a home in a brilliant journal.

I didn’t make it any further in the Guppy Books YA Open Submission competition but making the final eleven was a big boost, and the editor Bella was very generous with her time, offering all short listed candidates an editorial chat which I found really helpful. I have now started to submit to agents. Most of all I have stopped obsessing about the end results and have found a renewed enjoyment for the process!

Working remotely has given me confidence using new technology to deliver workshops. Workshops are one thing I feel will always work better ‘live’, especially when it comes to discussing creative writing as I like the interaction from participants, but the past week I managed to record a workshop within Powerpoint for the Scottish Association of Writers remote conference in March. The hardest part was getting the file to upload on the platform I needed to transfer on (due to what I think was a security glip!). I hate listening to my voice, never mind watching myself back on video, but I felt a great sense of achievement pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I think we’ve all done that the past year and I like to think we’ll all look back thinking about the good parts, as well as the challenges.

Good luck in all of your endeavors in 2021, writing and otherwise.

Locking down some words

Since my last post in April I have moved house, finished book 3 (which will need lots of edits as the estimated 70,000 words has turned into 94,000 words), AND I was shortlisted in the Guppy YA open submissions competition.

When I found out I made the long list in June for the Guppy Books competition I didn’t dare hope that I would make it through to the final 11. Then on the Sunday evening of my first weekend in my new house I got an email telling me the amazing news. Getting this far with the competition has given me a much needed boost and nothing beats the excitement of opening a ‘good news’ email relating to your writing. One winner will be announced in a few weeks and a distraction for me is making sure I just keep writing and getting on with other projects, and mentally preparing myself for a swift ‘move on to the next plan’ if things don’t go any further with this one!

I’m lucky that my fiance is very supportive of my writing and encouraged me to set up one of our spare rooms as my writing room (he has a playstation den!). Since I’m still doing my day job from home at the moment my room is also an office but I am trying to ensure that doesn’t kill the creative vibe I want (need!) to have in my space. So this weekend I spent some time constructing an ‘inspiration’ board, which could also be called a ‘feel good’ board as I’ve been pinning random things on it that remind me of things, people, places, goals, sentiments etc etc that make me feel inspired, motivated, encouraged and loved. 

During lockdown I’ve enjoyed a slower pace of life, where I’m not spending two hours of my day commuting in to a busy town centre, or working in an open plan office that operates at a hundred miles an hour (though I am still very busy working from home- actually more busy in some ways), or squeezing in social events/meetings too many evenings a week ….and now my partner and I live together I am no longer carting around parts of my life in an overnight bag.

Don’t get me wrong, I have not turned into one of those crazy I now have so much time I can write seven novels in seven weeks type of person – my day job still takes up my 9-5 but my head often has quieter moments, (occasionally 7.30am moments- let’s say very occasionally for them), where I can lock down some words.

And my imagination woke up a bit more; I’ve had more spare time to daydream and think. I’ve talked about the importance of this before in an earlier blog post and this is something I feel we creative folk are bad at giving ourselves permission to do – to just BE; not to think I need to finish that next chapter, that next story, that next print (whatever your creative discipline might be). If you are juggling lots of projects you can feel guilty about laying them to one side, and just doodling and daydreaming and seeing where your mind takes you. And those moments are often the most enjoyable and important because I certainly let go of that inner critic voice that can be so obsessed with producing something perfect it takes away the spontaneous mess. And so often this ‘mess’ fits together into something wonderful. 

Starting Again


I didn’t realise quite how long it had been since I’d written on here. As 2019 drew to a close I had to make the difficult decision to part ways with my publisher. After spending the last two years anticipating a publication date for my second Young Adult novel, only for said dates to arrive and then pass with no launch in sight, I felt I needed to take some control back with my writing career or I was in danger of giving up (and losing my sanity). Never the writing, as I have still continued to write, albeit never as much as I want to (I am just about to finish book 3). I was on the verge of giving up on the hope of continuing on a path I felt I had merely dipped a toe in, only to get  lost as soon as I’d turned a corner.

Many times over the past couple of years I have felt like a fraud whenever anyone asked, “When’s the next book out?” and I answered with an optimistic, “I’ve been assured it will be x month,” only for x month to come and go, taking my hopes with it.

I will always be grateful to my publisher for putting Follow Me out in to the world. I am especially grateful to encouraging librarians I have been lucky enough to be supported by on the back of Follow Me, (and my short story collection Exposure), who invite me to deliver creative writing workshops to young people. They remind me that this path I’m following  isn’t just about publication, because I genuinely enjoy the creativity of writing and if I can inspire a young reluctant reader to pick up a book/story, or even better, try to master their own, then any number of disappointments along the way will always be worth it.

I was involved in judging a fantastic flash fiction competition for pupils in Inverclyde schools in November, working alongside a librarian, Katharine, whose enthusiasm for words and encouraging young people always leaves me with a spring in my step. (She is an award winning slam poet). At the prize giving presentation I used examples of famous writers such as Dr Seuss who nearly gave up before his career even started, but thanks to a chance encounter one day his manuscript finally found itself in the right hands and the rest was history. It wasn’t until I started researching the start of many famous writers’ careers that I realised how close a lot of them had been to giving up. Stephen King’s wife was the one who pushed him to finish and submit Carrie, even picking his scribbled notes out of their kitchen bin. I realised as I put the presentation together that these were words I also needed to hear: never give up.

In my day job as a careers adviser when I work with young people or adults a big part of what we discuss is asking, ‘Where are you now?’ and ‘Where do you want to be?, figuring out small steps along the way to reach the ultimate goal.

At a recent training event, (before we went into lockdown and were allowed out), I re-enacted a motivational interview technique I had tried on myself years ago when on the cusp of publication. You physically step onto a bit of paper, imagining you haven’t taken any action against a goal you want to achieve (ie. You’ve given up sending your work out – how does that feel?) then you step onto a bit of paper which has the opposite scenario; you’ve kept working towards your goal  (You’ve not given up, book 2 has just been published and book 3 will be soon – how do you feel?).

That all important question, How do you feel? is a powerful question as it taps into emotion and intuition. My two colleagues asking the questions reported my body language instantly changed when I stepped into the box where I was still working towards my goal (in a positive way). Then I had to take steps backwards, naming all of the things I would do now to get there.

The first thing on my list was to write a post on this website, because I knew it was a way of re-committing, to say I am still here, I am still writing and I am looking forward to what the future might bring.