Matt Gemmell

TOLL is available now!

An action-thriller novel — book 2 in the KESTREL series.

★★★★★ — Amazon

The Second Book

writing, books & kestrel 12 min read

Everyone seems to agree that the second one is more difficult. The second album, or the second film. Or the second book.

The thing is, you can only write one second book — because the next one after that is the third book. It’s dubious to talk about lessons learned from something I’ve done only once, and can do only once, but I’m going to try. By reading this, you’re just encouraging me.

My first book was CHANGER, and my second book is TOLL. They’re in the same series, which both simplifies and complicates matters. I can say now that both have been well-received, judging by every metric available to me. I’d had plenty of time to get used to CHANGER being out there, but TOLL is still relatively new to the public eye, being only two months old.

I’m delighted that it seems to live up to the expectations of the people who read its predecessor, and I’m also vaguely surprised — not because I ever thought it was a bad book, but because when you’re the one who wrote it, you can’t see it clearly. Releasing it into the world feels like a leap of faith.

I’d often heard about the nebulous difficulty of writing a second novel, and I put it to the back of my mind when I began working on mine. Maybe it wouldn’t apply to me, I thought. Maybe it was just another of those things like writer’s block, where it’s a slightly different problem for each person, and probably over-diagnosed. Maybe it’s just a lack of preparation.

I told myself all of these things, and I think they each have elements of truth — but there is a unique difficulty to doing something creative for the second time. It’s difficult to generalise, but I can at least talk about the challenges I faced, and some lessons that might be applicable to others too.

TOLL reviews are in

writing, kestrel & books 8 min read

It’s been a little over a month since the second book in my KESTREL action-thriller series, entitled TOLL, was released. Lots of emotions are involved when a new book comes out: primarily relief that it’s done, but also some fear. Will people like it? Is it as good as the first one? Does it hold up as a story on its own, and not lean too heavily on the previous book?

I’m glad to say that the reviews are in, and TOLL has been very positively received so far. To those who left ratings or reviews, thank you. I’ve learned some interesting things from those comments, which I’ll mention below.

Mechanical Keyboards

writing, tech & ipad-only 6 min read

A month or two ago, I took delivery of something I’ve periodically had my eye on for several years now: a big, chunky mechanical keyboard. It’s the more modern and practical equivalent of a typewriter, and is absolutely an object of desire for writers (or programmers) of a certain vintage — so I had to have it.

TOLL is out now!

books & kestrel 1 min read

I’m thrilled to announce that TOLL, the second book in the KESTREL action-technothriller series, is out now!

TOLL book cover

Elite EU special forces team KESTREL is back, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance once again. With fast-paced action, beautiful locations across Europe and beyond, and the series’ trademark blend of adventure, conspiracy, and fringe science, TOLL has already been gaining rave reviews:

“A masterclass in storytelling” — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Vivid, harrowing and relentlessly taut” — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Fast-paced action keeps you glued to the book” — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Riveting and thrilling” — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

You can buy it right here, in the format/platform of your choice:

And plenty of other places too:

Here’s the description from the back cover:


The Norwegian Sea: a group of eco-activists disappear from their vessel. Only their dental fillings remain.

Owl Mountains, Poland: a wealthy environmentalist resurrects a secret experiment forgotten since the close of the Second World War, determined to heal our ravaged planet.

When a dossier finds its way to the desk of Dr. Neil Aldridge, the elite EU special forces team codenamed KESTREL is drawn into a dangerous pursuit across Europe and beyond, to prevent a cull of Earth’s greatest threat: humanity.

As the final countdown begins, Captain Jessica Greenwood faces the ultimate choice: fight to prevent the dark future ahead, or help make it happen…

To find out more, read a preview, or buy it (yay), go here immediately!

Autographed ebooks

tech, ipad-only & books 2 min read

This article is part of a series on going iPad-only.

The second book in my KESTREL action-thriller series, TOLL, will be released on 5th December. I think it’s a worthy sequel to CHANGER, and I very much hope you’ll read and enjoy it.

I’ve always offered autographed paperback copies of CHANGER, and you can now also pre-order autographed paperbacks of TOLL too, but lots of people prefer the convenience of ebooks these days — and we certainly love our Kindles here.

Since I self-publish my novels, and I work full-time on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, I’m excited to announce that I can now offer the best of both worlds for those who want a personalised keepsake in digital format: autographed ebooks!

The Big iPad

tech & ipad-only 10 min read

This article is part of a series on going iPad-only.

Last week, I upgraded to the new Face ID-equipped iPad Pro, choosing the larger 12.9” screen this time around. Here are a few thoughts on the device.

This isn’t a review, and it’s entirely about me. If you discover that we’re similar, then this’ll be useful to you. Otherwise, it’ll be more of a curiosity. That’s fine. Any review is ultimately like that; I’m just not going to pretend otherwise.

iPad Pro 10.5" for sale

development, tech & ipad-only 2 min read

I’ve upgraded to a 12.9” iPad Pro, so I’m selling my 10.5” model (256 GB, wifi, gold). It’s only seven months old, and in absolutely mint condition. It includes an Apple Pencil (also mint condition), and a Magic Keyboard in perfect working order. All three items are boxed, and include everything they originally came with. The iPad has a UK-style plug, and the Magic Keyboard is the UK ISO layout.

Additionally, I’m including a Studio Neat Canopy stand, three different cases/covers, an Apple Pencil stand, and a case for the Pencil (both accessories can charge the Pencil).

All the details are below.

Points of View in Ulysses

writing 1 min read

Version 13 of Ulysses was released today, and alongside other enhancements, it includes a feature I’ve wanted since I switched to the app for all my writing: coloured keywords.

Ulysses lets you assign keywords to each “sheet” (document, whether it’s a scene, chapter, or anything else), and you can also choose to display those keywords in the sheet list panel. Now that each keyword can have a colour assigned to it, there are lots of useful things you can do to get an overview of various aspects of your story. My favourite is tracking points of view: the character whose perspective a scene is written from.