Monday, 14 December 2015

Through the Looking Glass

It wasn't until I logged into Blogger today that I realised it has been nearly two months since I posted on here. This is partly because I sometimes now post short updates on my author website here, but also because I use this blog for more personal introspection, and I feel like this year has flown by at such a break-neck exhilarating speed, that I've not always had much time to just sit and reflect on things...which I miss, as I feel one essential ingredient to achieving creativity and letting your imagination flourish, is to ensure you have time to reflect and daydream.

During the last Christmas holidays and start of 2015 I let my imagination run wild, and got thoroughly lost in daydreams as I composed a secret 'Future Dreams' board on Pinterest. I love the visual worlds you can create on Pinterest and have read a lot about the power of positive visualisation, so instead of writing a list of goals for the new year, I decided to post pictures, relating to things I wanted to achieve. One of the images had the words; 'Achieve your publishing dreams: Ready to make your dreams come true? It's Time!' And four months later that time did indeed arrive! 

I also started to post pictures of nice houses, and things relating to a new home, as I knew I was going to put my flat on the market. I just moved out of my flat last week - it was on the market for most of the year, and even although I've temporarily moved back in with my parents until I find a new place, I've taken a big step in the right direction. I'm going to enjoy adding new images to my board during the holidays and it's an enjoyable way to keep focus. 
Over a year ago I also created a 'mood board' for my book Follow Me, which made the story and characters stay present and real in my head throughout the whole submission process, and it was very useful to be able to transfer some of these images onto a new board for my cover artist to access. I printed out and laminated my 'mood boards' to show pupils during a school workshop  showing them how it can help to build on atmosphere and character when you write. 

So many new, exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, things have happened to me this year that I think it's going to take me some 'downtime' to actually absorb everything. I've called this post Through the Looking Glass because a turning point for me in my writing career was when I went through quite a transformational time in my life, and when I named this blog. I've mentioned this before in a previous post, but the name for this blog came to me when I was on a trip to Vancouver, and was standing looking in the window of a shop with lots of Alice in Wonderland paraphernalia. 

That trip was really important to me because it was the first time I had flown anywhere alone, and as I was visiting a friend who was living and working there, I spent a bit of time travelling around the city solo. It was also the first big holiday I'd taken since the break-up of my longest relationship to date, (even although I was well over it by then, I still felt I was going through a period of re-adjustment and was at the positive stage of viewing life as being a bit of an adventure, full of unwritten possibilities). I had also just turned 30. I returned home from that trip with a sense of determination and focus, and probably entered one of the most fulfilling and creative periods of my life. A lot of people have described my writing in  Follow Me as assured, and when I think back to the frame of my mind I was in when I started to write the book I think I was probably the most centered and creatively free I've ever been, which maybe carried into my writing.

Now I feel I've entered the next stage of my writing journey, and I'm looking through the glass from another perspective.  With every stage of the writing process there are re-adjustments, challenges and learning curves. There is a big part of me that would love to hire a doppelganger to manage my social media, events (and to do my day job for me!), to allow the 'real' writer me to go back to my daydreams and get my next book finished. 

But really, I do love the interaction part too. In my 'day job' as a careers adviser the aspect I enjoy the most is my attempt to motivate and inspire teenagers. So it was very rewarding to step inside a school, this time as an author, and see the enthusiasm from some fourth years at a recent workshop who constructed some very imaginative flash fiction stories. Talking to them about some of my earliest writing attempts when I was at school reminded me of the fire which has always burned inside of me to construct imaginative worlds and attempt to create a little bit of magic. I'm looking forward to hiding away for a little while over the holidays to drift off into an alternative world where the characters from my imagination get to lead my story again for a while. 

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Blog Posts and a 5 * Review

Today I am featured on Patsy Collin's Words about writing and writing about words blog, providing an insiders guide to a book launch night. Thanks for having me on your blog, Patsy! You can read the post here

My friend Rebecca also did a lovely post about my book Follow Me on her creative blog The Magpie Diaries, with reference in particular to Ode on a Grecian Urn, a John Keats poem which is quoted in my novel. You can read her post here

And I was also delighted to see a lovely 5 star review popping up on Amazon yesterday for Follow Me. I really appreciate readers who take the time to leave thoughtful reviews as they can help sales on sites such as Amazon so much.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Launch Night

Hi all,

I'm conscious I haven't posted on here for a while. I had a brilliant time at the launch night for my YA debut Follow Me the other week at Waterstones in Argyle Street in Glasgow. I did a short post about this on my author website which you can see here. One of my work colleagues (and a few friends) took some great photos from the night so I managed to set up a slideshow of these on the homepage of my website. The photo at the top of my blog post was taken by my colleague, Derek Mooney. He put a great 'Pop Art' effect on some of the photos, to link in with the Pop Art/Andy Warhol theme in my book.

I was overwhelmed by all of the encouragement and support I received both on the night, and on the run-up. And some lovely emails and texts are now arriving from readers who have enjoyed the book (which is always a relief!). It's quite a strange feeling knowing Follow Me is now 'out there' in the world being read.

I was also asked to write a guest post on another writer's blog about my experience of having a book launch, with any tips, so I will be linking to that post when it goes live in a few days.

A new print-run was put in for Follow Me after the sell-out success on the launch night, A couple are still in stock on Amazon, so you buy a copy here

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Ready for Take Off

Tomorrow is the big launch for Follow Me and I am putting the final preparations together today for little things I want to take along. I've put together a montage photo (at the top) with some moments from my day yesterday. One big moment was getting to hold my book Follow Me for the first time in my hands - such a great feeling! And I also received a pop art card from one of my work colleagues - that's me, Andy Warhol style, which is just brilliant. All of my work colleagues have been so supportive and excited for me and it makes the whole run up to launch day even more exciting for me!
The coke bottles are a little extra thing I am taking along to my launch, keeping in with the Andy Warhol, pop art theme.

One of my biggest champions since I could read and write was my Mum, the writer Rosemary Gemmell, and I was delighted to be interviewed on her blog yesterday. You can read that here  I couldn't ask for a more inspiring and supportive Mum and it's brilliant being able to share a love of words and writing with her. I was so happy when she got her brilliant book, The Highland Lass published earlier this year (one of many), as I know this was a story close to her heart, and I think this is probably my favourite book of hers.

 I'm really lucky to have been brought up in a creative and supportive family (my Dad and brother were always very encouraging also, and I am lucky to now have an extended family in the form of a literature loving sister-in-law and an already creative little niece).  

And thanks to everyone who reads this who has offered me encouragement along the way!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Author Interview

It is now only two days until the release of my book and I am sitting wondering where the time has gone. Since the meeting where I heard my book was to be published, life has been a bit of a whirlwind. In the run up to my launch night I have been busy preparing essential things, such as buying my dress, ordering cake toppers of my book cover to put on, well, cakes! I have also found the time to answer some interview questions from Fiona, on the Authors Interviews site. You can read my interview here

My author profile is also now live on Amazon here, with my updated cover image on the pre-order link page.

Thanks to everyone for all of the support and encouragement on the lead up to launch day. It means a lot!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Launch Night

So excited to reveal that my book launch event for my YA debut Follow Me, will take place at the Argyle Street branch of Waterstones in Glasgow on Friday 9th October. I love nothing more than browsing the shelves of Waterstones, (and buying books to add to my already over flowing bookshelves), so it feels amazing to know that I will get to launch my own book in one of their stores!

There will be drinks, nibbles and of course book signings on the night so I hope you can join me in celebrating!

For those of you further afield my book will be available to buy from other branches of Waterstones, independent book shops and Amazon from 30th September.

You can read a coming soon blurb on the website of my publisher, Strident, here 

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Book Cover Reveal

The cover design for Follow Me went through some last minute, quite dramatic, changes the other week and I am delighted to be able to reveal the final finished version above. The artwork/photography is by artist Ida Henrich, and I am really happy with how it turned out. It makes everything feel very real seeing my name on a book cover!

I was lucky to be consulted about my cover (I wonder how many authors are?). My publisher, Strident, even asked me to write a short brief of any ideas I had before work began. I had always visualised woodland being central to the image as Eddison Woods is a central feature in my story (and leads to the Barn). I love the green light in this too.

The release date is 30 September, so not long to go now. And as any writer knows, this is when the true work just begins :)

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

First Blog Feature

Hi all,

Just a short post to alert you to the fact that I am featured on Margaret Montgomery's fantastic blog, Notes from the Blunder Ground, today. You can read the post here 

Margaret's debut novel, Beauty Tips for Girls, was released in March, published by Cargo, and is a brilliant book. (you can read my review of that here).

You'll maybe notice from the image on Margaret's feature that the cover for Follow Me has gone through some last minute changes... I'm still waiting on the absolute final version, but it will look pretty close to that one and I love it!

The release date is creeping ever closer...

Sunday, 9 August 2015

The Writer's Journey...and why it should be a personal one

If you’ve ever read a writing magazine, or friended writers on social media, then it’s fairly easy to gain an insight into the writing world and all that entails. When I catch glimpses of other published authors posting constant updates about round-the-country book tours, school visits, library talks, multiple launches, multiple guest posts, tv appearances, the #amwriting hashtags announcing that another 5,000 words are complete, I get a little bit anxious (and envious) about being tied to a full time 9-5 day job. I always like a challenge, but I know it won’t be possible for me to be able to engage in the same level of activity as some writers, at such a constant pace.

A friend said something to me the other week which resonated with me – ‘Don’t focus too much on what other people are doing. Remember this is your own unique journey, so just focus on that’.

The same friend let me read an article in Mslexia magazine (Issue 66) titled, ‘Don’t give up the day job’, by Naomi Elster. This article upset my friend a bit due to the fact she had given up her own full time job to pursue creative projects and it made her feel a bit guilty.

I have to admit when I first started to read the article, I felt an element of relief – here’s a writer I can relate to, she understands the challenges which come from working a full time ‘day job’ and writing. But I stopped identifying with her pretty soon into the article and actually started to get quite annoyed. She wrote her piece in reaction to articles from other writers who believed, ‘You can’t write if you have to work too.’ Seeing as I’m living proof, (along with millions of other writers), that yes you can, I’m not disagreeing with the premise of her article. However, what she went on to do, in my opinion, was insult and condescend the writers who have given up the ‘day job’, as well as devalue the writing profession.  Her line, ‘We live in a world with very real problems, problems that can’t be cured with an appropriate sonnet’ seemed quite disparaging. It made me think, but imagine the world we would live in if the creative arts didn’t exist? Books can be powerful, educational and magical and provide many with a very important escape from their repressed and limiting worlds.

The article continues with lines such as , ‘I doubt that any writer who isolates herself in the proverbial ivory tower will ever create stories and characters that anyone else can engage with- apart from another isolated writer, that is.’ This made me wonder ~ does she have an imagination- is she creative? If I gave up my ‘day job’ tomorrow I certainly wouldn’t be sitting in a ‘tower’ locking myself away from the world all day long, but even if I did, I know my imagination would conjure up some three dimensional ideas for me. And a lot of the time, if I’m in the middle of an intense piece of writing, isolation from distractions is necessary. An ivory tower would come in rather handy…

She implies that working a ‘day job’ is the only way to really live and experience ‘real life’. No, it’s not – being employed by a company means being restricted to a 9-5 (or set hours), often getting bogged down with repetitive tasks and surroundings. Don’t get me wrong, at times my job can be varied and interesting– I’m in a client facing job so I get to interact with new people every day, but elements of my job definitely drain my energy and stifle my creativity. I do like the routine of a job,(though would prefer a more part time routine!), and get fulfilment from it, but I have a much more fascinating and enjoyable time outside of work.

This writer then goes on to talk about how she had to spend a lot of time at home during long term sick leave, saying, ‘When I did venture out the house, the only people not at work were a handful of self-styled artistes who were permanently unemployed, by choice, and seemed determined to be misunderstood’.  She doesn’t stop there but goes on to say, ‘(I)…found myself writing affected pretentious prose in a voice that didn’t suit me…’ (Implying this was due to hanging around with these artistes and attending too many spoken-word events). A helpful friend then told her, ‘Your writing just isn’t accessible anymore.’ She doesn’t specify why she was on sick leave, but I found this a poor example of visualising what life would be like if she didn’t have a ‘day job’. Physical or mental illness would clearly drain your energy levels, so few would be able to write anything worthwhile during that time.  I've also hung out with some great, inspiring writers who treat their writing as a profession by day, and by night, and certainly don't act like misunderstood 'artistes'.

As you can probably tell this article provoked a strong reaction in me. This has made me even more acutely aware about how important it is for writers to focus on their own journeys and what works for them. As this writer is in a similar situation to me I thought she would be able to offer me some invaluable insight and advice into managing a busy life. Instead, it just made me realise how we are all very different in our approaches and that it can be wrong to categorise writers as those who have a supplementary ‘day job’, and those who don’t, as ‘work’ and responsibilities come in many different forms.

What is a good plan for you, won’t necessarily work (or be possible) for me, and that is ok. It’s still nice for writers to share advice and tips, (and I’ll certainly be picking brains on promotional aspects), but when any aspect of ‘advice’ starts to feel like pressure or judgement, I’m going to make a conscious effort to tune out. And that applies to the pressures I tend to put on myself too!
Tune out, and write on...

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Living Fearlessly

Last week myself and two friends went along to a meditation talk titled 'Living Fearlessly' which was led by a resident teacher, (Kadam Morten Clausen), of the New York Kadampa Meditation Centre. Kadam, like all of the Buddhists I've encountered (which isn't many), emanated a sense of calm and joy and led us through an insightful hour and a half's talk and guided meditation.

The talk centred around the Buddhist teachings of  Kelsang Gyatso - at the heart of which is the simple philosophy that true happiness occurs when we feel at peace within ourselves. A lot of the philosophy I had heard before at the few meditation classes I have attended at the Glasgow Kadampa Centre (which I've also made reference to on here before), but the more you hear the simplicity of the philosophy, the more you do realise how much we tend to let our negative (or panicked) thoughts get a bit too loud.  Even if you're a positive, upbeat person most of the time, we all have an abundance of moments which make us over-analyse, along the lines of: 'but what if that were to happen' 'why is this happening???' or the torment of, 'if only I had that/did that/achieved that/they noticed me,' I know I'd be truly happy.

I can't even begin to capture half of what this Buddhist teacher said on here because it always sounds too basic when I attempt to explain it. I think the thing which resonated the most with me was when he kept saying the words, 'We need to learn to let go'. As in, let go of everything you believe will make you happy - external goals, the reliance on others to achieve your happiness. And accept that everything which has a beginning, also has an end (scary, but that's ok).

He said Buddhists like to recognise the truth -that trying to control your external world, which is always going to be in a constant flux of change, is a bit of an impossibility and shouldn't really be your focus. If you let go of that idea of control, then you can free yourself from a lot of anxiety and fear. The focus, they believe, should be on striving to have a happy and calm mind - an inner peace (so that when bad things do happen you have the strength within to deal with it), which is why they practice meditation.
I'm rubbish at trying to meditate myself at home, but I really get into the guided meditation (sometimes too much, nearly dozing off. My friend nearly fell asleep at this one - Hi Rebecca!).

I'm not saying I agree with everything that was said, but it certainly made me think, and made me want to write this post as I know a lot of people who have had a bit of a rollercoaster of a 2015 (sometimes in a bad way, sometimes in an exciting way).

I also had the chance to talk to an ordained Buddhist Monk afterwards and he very kindly answered my nosy question, 'So what exactly does your day to day involve?' (This guy leads the Glasgow meditations and always looks so happy and has the most calming presence ever). His day looks like this: Get up early - meditate, study meditation, eat lunch, teach meditation, study some more, teach mediation, take a turn cooking dinner within a shared house of Buddhists, maybe socialise, then meditate before bed.

The simplicity of his life wouldn't be for everyone, (I know I'd love it for a few weeks, then probably get bored), but it did make me wonder: Do we all follow a more complicated path than we need to, just because society has brain washed us into thinking it's normal? I sometimes worry about that, that we've all lost our so called 'free will' somewhere along the way because we're constantly being fed messages of what we think we need and what we think we want.

I'm going to finish this post with an image I came across a while ago, which I really like, and which I think is fitting for this post. Night all!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Keeping it (un)real

About time I did another update on here! There has been some progress on the book front since I last posted. You can now see a 'Coming Soon' blurb for Follow Me on my publisher's website: This makes it all feel very real!!

I'm writing under my full name, Victoria, as I don't want there to be any mix ups with the erotic writer Nikki Gemmell. Plus, people always spell Vikki wrong. And it's also kind of nice using my full name for a change.

As the publication date draws ever nearer, there has been a mix of putting on my 'edits' and sensible 'business' hats- thinking about promotional things, filling out applications to become part of an author database (which I'll post about when my profile goes live).
And then the fun parts, where I get to immerse myself in more creativity - putting together  my author website, Pinterest board and Instagram page. (If you click on those titles it will take you to my pages).

I'm a very visual writer and I've had fun searching for photos on Pinterest, (and also taking my own photos and putting together collages), to pin to my board and Instagram pages. This gives you a glimpse into how I visualise parts of 'the Barn' to look (the underground hangout place in my book) and other aspects of my story.

The challenge at the moment is switching between my day-job brain, up-and-coming publication excitement, and maintaining a focus on newer pieces of writing. I was thinking the other weekend that it's important to leave some time aside to just daydream- let your mind go on a wander whilst you listen to some music, draw something, read something, have some inspiring conversation, visit new places...

Sometimes if I have a quiet moment at the weekend I like to visit a café and a friend mentioned spotting a place called Mad Hatter's. When you look at the title of my blog it isn't hard to guess that this might be a café I'd want to visit... It was a great little place to take some time out and drink hot chocolate (which was VERY good!). I loved their Alice In Wonderland tea pots. The next time I'm in I'll have to get some photos. This is their facebook page here

Happy daydreaming!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Dreaming that Dream

Once again it's been a while since I've blogged but I think I've got a pretty good excuse this time for my absence. The past couple of months have been a bit of a whirlwind thanks to an exciting chat with a publisher one evening, then an exciting email, and then an even more exciting meeting where I heard the words, "So I loved your book, and I'd like to publish it."

It's hard to describe how that felt, hearing those words. Knowing that my book will be gracing the shelves of book shops (and libraries) and that I can sit it on my own shelf, alongside some of my favourite authors, all feels a bit surreal just now. I found the photo (above) and thought I should use it for this post. You might be able to see my reflection - I thought as I was taking the photo this was kind of cool, like it made me look as if I was a part of the library, inside the books. Books have always been such as big part of my life- it seemed appropriate.

Becoming a published author has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, and there have been many times over the past few months in particular I've wondered how many more 'nearly theres' can I take. But for writers who are reading this and are still waiting for their big break my words to you today are, 'Don't give up! Keep going.' It might sound like a cliche, but you really don't know what is around the corner.

And also trust your instincts. I'm delighted my Young Adult novel Follow Me is going to be published by Strident Publishing, a Scottish publisher. When I first finished my book a few years ago I thought this publisher would be a good match for my work, but circumstances didn't make this possible until recently. This was also a lesson in seizing an opportunity and having the guts to pitch my work face to face. If you suddenly find yourself in a room with the publisher you want to be with, then make sure you talk to them!!

Working with an independent publisher has been fantastic so far - the personal touch and approachable nature has made everything feel very much like a team approach. I can't wait for my book to come out in October.

I'm sitting listening to a random music mix on my computer as I type this post and appropriately one of the songs I class as the 'soundtrack' to this book has just clicked on. (Which is Dots and Dashes by the Silversun Pickups if you want to know!). Any time I listen to songs like this, it takes me back to the nights I was immersed in getting the story down.

From the word go I loved writing this book, and that's what I'm always going to remember. Nothing beats the excitement of creating a story which demands to be told!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Your mountain is waiting

I've been quiet on the blogging front of late due to life taking over a bit. Many a weekend has been spent getting stuck into a long overdue clear out and I have also been contemplating a long overdue change. I find big changes quite stressful, though usually I get to the stage where I recognise they’re necessary and then start to see the positives and potential excitement. 

I was delivering some training at work last week which drew me into interesting conversations and discoveries (ones which tie in quite well with my blog post from December, 'Thinking Things Over', where I referred to a meditation class I went to). The training explored some coaching methods and techniques, and my training partner shared her experience of a recent Neuro Linguistic Programming course she had been on.

I find the idea of NLP interesting – it focuses on how we can learn to control our thoughts, and in doing so can free ourselves from negative thinking. A great book she recommended is,‘How to take charge of your life: The Users Guide to NLP’ by Richard Bandler,(the co-creator of NLP), Alessio Roberti and Owen Fitzpatrick. Some of the quotes from this really got me thinking. 

In my job I work with clients who sometimes hold themselves back with limiting beliefs, and really I think we’re all guilty of that to some extent. I know how many opportunities I’ve missed out on due to self-doubt and it’s something I still struggle with in some aspects of my life. 
A couple of my favourite quotes from the book were: 

Believe that you can achieve what you want, and you will set yourself free to achieve it


Our biggest limit is not in what we want and cannot do; it is in what we have never considered that we can do 

On my way home on the train on Monday I looked up at one of the stops and noticed a poster on the railings, (which I think was part of an art project). I didn’t have time to absorb the full picture but what I caught was an image of the word ‘Worry’ on the left hand side, changing into the words ‘Things got Better’ and underneath it said something along the lines of, ‘Take control of your thoughts and change your world.’ It was strange noticing this the day after I just finished the NLP book but there’s a theory that our brains also seek out what we want to find. So maybe these are all messages I need to hear just now, and at the end of the NLP book the authors encourage anyone who reads it to share their messages, which I guess is partly why I’m posting about this, because maybe these are things you need to hear too. 

The title of my post is inspired by a Dr Seuss book, ‘Oh, the places you’ll go.’ Twice in the past week I’ve seen a reference to this book and it’s one I personally love. A work colleague once gave it to me as a parting gift many years ago and I think it’s very uplifting and inspiring. 

I’ll leave you with Dr S’s parting words: ‘Your mountain is waiting, So…get on your way!'

Monday, 19 January 2015


Seeing as this is my first post of 2015 I'll start by wishing you all a Happy New Year! I hope you've set yourself lots of attainable goals, and abandoned the not so attainable ones, with much enthusiasm...

As part of my Christmas my Mum got me a 'Writing Map', (from the Write Around Town series - see ).
The theme of mine is 'My Writing Life'. This is one type of map that won't bring me out in a cold sweat - I'm pretty hopeless at reading regular maps and also have a terrible sense of direction. A lot of my wandering is aided by instinct (and google streetview), and I guess when it comes to my writing 'instinct' is what often sets me off in the right direction a lot of the time too...

Within this map are lots of questions and tasks. One of the questions is 'What does writing mean to you?'. And I've been pondering this for a while now. What does writing mean to me? For me, writing feels part of who I am. From a very young age it's what I spent a lot of time doing - writing stories, drawing silly pictures to go along with them, writing ridiculous angst ridden journals from about the age of eleven right through to my late teens, and sometimes throughout my twenties and even now into my thirties...( I like to think I've dropped the angst and have now moved into depths of philosophising about life). My observation journal from last year actually provided a lot of new story ideas.
Writing is what keeps me sane, and connected to a deeper part of my brain that even I don't understand.
I was having a conversation with a friend once, describing moments in life where I've gone for weeks, (or longer), without writing anything and how it feels kind of horrible, like 'I'm missing a feeling'.  So for me, writing is keeping that 'feeling' alive and having fun creating characters and worlds where I get to choose the ending. (But actually, if the writing is going well, more often than not your characters choose that for you.)

Another question within this map is 'What Inspires You?'  I've touched upon this topic in many a blog post, but I was thinking about this question on my walk home today and when I looked up at a clock tower I regularly pass by I noticed that the hands on one of the clock faces were missing. (I'm guessing the high winds probably blew them away, or damaged them badly enough for them to be taken off).
Without the hands, the clock face looks so different - blank and eerily naked. It made me think how fragile time is - how it can be easily altered or stopped by uncontrollable events and how that change can transform the face of everything. And that train of thought reminded me again how little observations like this have the potential to inspire lots of ideas.
News stories and interesting articles also spark off ideas for me. Life is stranger than fiction when you read what some people get up to...
Reading about life, and living life - these are key inspirations.
And great storytellers - they're the most important inspiration for me. Closing the last page of a great book always ignites that fire inside of me; the desire to be able to write a story half as good as the one I just read keeps me writing, and keeps me learning!

How about you?