Matt Gemmell

TOLL is available now!

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

★★★★★ — Amazon

Custom Prompts for Drafts

development & tech 2 min read

Drafts 21 is out today, and it brings a major new feature for Actions developers: the ability to create custom user interfaces using the HTMLPreview window, which can now execute JavaScript and pass data back out to the calling context or action.

Accordingly, I’ve released MGCheckListPrompt, a custom selection/picker dialog which lets you choose from a list of options — which can be either drafts, or arbitrary choices. There are lots of configurable options and conveniences, including: full keyboard navigation/control (no pointing devices/fingers required); support for Mac, iPad, and iPhone; automatic light/dark theme support; customisable appearance via CSS; optional type-to-select mode; and more. Both multiple-selection (checkboxes) and single-selection (radio-buttons) modes are supported.

Keyboard-Driven Cross-Linking in Drafts

development & tech 5 min read

I use Drafts as my text-processing tool of choice. I do all my actual writing in Ulysses, but when it’s time to prepare articles for my blog, my weekly site-members’ newsletter and so on, it’s Drafts I turn to. I think of it as the BBEdit for my iPad.

With the recent version 20.0, Drafts introduced cross-linking. You can use wiki-style links to open other documents (also called drafts, by the way) within the app; for example, a link like this: [[Some Other File]] can be tapped or clicked to open the draft entitled “Some Other File” (creating it if necessary). Needless to say, this is very useful for creating a repository of knowledge, a body of research, a plain-text household database, and so on.

Drafts is also very scriptable and customisable, so I decided to extend this functionality to fit how I work. First and foremost, I don’t like to take my hands off the keyboard, so I needed a way to navigate cross-links without needing to use a pointing device. I created an action for Drafts to do that, to which you can assign whatever keyboard shortcut you prefer. It works on a link that’s either part of the text selection in the frontmost draft, or is immediately adjacent to the selection or the insertion point. There are various other options you can tweak for yourself, as detailed below.

Pointer Control

tech & ipad-only 4 min read

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


I’d like to share a few thoughts about pointer control on the iPad. My perspective is narrow and specific: I’ve been using an iPad as my full-time computer for three and a half years, and my job is writing books. The iPad does everything I need it to, and I’ve written a lot already about why it’s the right device for me.

In particular, I wrote a piece about the weird disconnect of pointer-driven interfaces, which only really becomes apparent when you move away from the familiarity of pointing devices. Switching entirely to the iPad meant committing to many new ways of doing things, to the extent that I now find traditional computers a bit awkward to use. They feel like machines with interfaces designed to let you use the pointer, rather than with a pointer designed to let you use the interface. And of course that’s exactly what they are, because it’s logical to make the software capitalise on the nature of the hardware.

In Theory

personal 5 min read

Can I be honest with you?

I hope so. In my writing, here and otherwise, it’s all I try to do. Truth in fiction is about verisimilitude, and clarity, and refinement of ideas. Truth in real life, though, is a bit different.

Once Upon A Time Volume 2

writing & books 1 min read

The second volume of my anthology of ultra-short sci-fi / horror / etc stories is out now! You can find on Amazon/Kindle, Apple Books, and as a ePub ebook file (either as-is, or a special autographed-cover edition!). Once Upon A Time is a collection of flash fiction: standalone tales of 1,000–3,000 words, in genres including science fiction, horror, and the supernatural! The anthology also includes author’s notes on each tale, describing inspiration and background.

Once Upon A Time Volume 1

writing & books 1 min read

It’s a strange time for the world right now. Dystopian fiction has become reality, and the future has suddenly become a lot more hazy. The very best coping mechanism I’ve ever found is to distract myself with a story. It works for TV, movies, video games, and books; they’re all absolutely valid narrative forms. We need our imaginations to get us through difficult times, and I think that bite-sized chunks of make-believe can sometimes be even more effective than entire novels. They’re like breathing exercises for the mind.

Accordingly, I’m delighted to announce the release of Once Upon A Time, an anthology of flash fiction: standalone tales of 1,000–3,000 words, in genres including science fiction, horror, and the supernatural! You might call them scenes, vignettes, fragments, flash fiction… there are lots of terms to choose from. The important thing is that there are more than fifteen ultra-brief stories to spark the imagination, and provide respite from the world when you need it. The anthology also includes author’s notes on each tale, describing inspiration and background.

KESTREL is going Kindle-exclusive for ebooks

writing, kestrel & books 2 min read

Starting about a week from now, and continuing for the next few months at least, the two existing books in my KESTREL technothrillers series will be Kindle-exclusive for ebooks. Paperbacks will continue to be available, of course, but in ebook format the books will solely be available on Kindle. This is an experiment, and I’m trying it for a few reasons. This does not affect any future/new book releases, which will continue to be launched on all the usual platforms.

One Silver Shilling

writing & fiction 8 min read

This brief tale was written for members of this site. Membership includes a weekly newsletter with exclusive essays, stories, updates on my writing projects, and more. You can also take a look at my books!


Wednesday, 11th April, 1821

My dear friend William,

I hope this letter finds you in both good spirits and rude health, and I must convey my most sincere apologies for the unavoidable delay in sending it.

I find myself at last back on the mainland, and have dispatched this letter from a small town but scant miles from the port where I spent last night. Our ordeal in reaching it was considerable, and it is on that topic that I wished immediately to write to you, lest with the passing of further days it might begin to fade from my own memory. Committed to ink and paper, and thus shared with you, perhaps I can begin to find peace with the experience I have had. But you must wonder at my hesitant words. Let me start at the beginning, save to say this:

Those islands to the north are a haunted place.