Writing Historical Fiction and Fantasy – and finding your story.


Member Blog by David Thomas Kay

Many authors create their novels in a modern-day environment they are familiar with; others write Historical Fiction in a period of their choice.

I prefer writing progressive Historical Fiction and let good narrative and the passage of time move the stories forward.

Fiction! A fascinating subject. I enjoy reading Science Fiction, Fantasy, and modern-day Fiction. So, why did I choose to write ‘Historical’ Fiction?

Simply because I am a genealogist who loves researching past generations, the rulers of the day, the kings, and queens, culture and ever-changing religions, and I love Folklore and Mythology.

The stories are there to be found and developed, however, Fiction must be believable, and based on fact. Your story can only benefit by studying the environment that your characters inhabit.

DNA tracing suggested my ancestors came from Southern Norway and settled in the Lake District via the Isle of Mann. So, my first novel travelled beyond my research, into the realms of the Norse Vikings. I had to study Scandinavian history and Nordic mythology, and this became the foundation of my series ‘Circles of Time’.


The first story tellers were the cave dwellers, recounting their tribal wars, and their experiences of hunting and gathering.

As time moved on, they began to exaggerate their stories to entertain their listeners, and this is the first evidence of fiction based on fact. Their stories progressed into the Fantasy of Dreams and the creation of Gods. You could say this was Fiction based on Fantasy.


The stories of the Rainbow Serpent and the Three Sisters.

Aboriginal Dreamtime stories of how the world began.

Zeus of Greek mythology, Jupiter of ancient Rome, and Thor of Norse mythology. Zeus, Jupiter and Thor were Gods of the sky and of Thunder and Lightning. Three civilizations from different eras with the same beliefs, mythology, or stories passed down for centuries. They are an endless source of material for today’s writers and film producers.

Nordic kings hired Skalds, from their own ranks, to exaggerate and glorify their victorious battles. These Scandinavian poets created legends that were based on fact but verged on fantasy.


Then, we have the modern-day fantasy of Science Fiction.

The Day of the Triffids and Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Dune, and the most fascinating of all stories for young and old; the endless number of children’s Fantasy books. They stir the imagination of a child, and often grown-ups, as they enjoy the ‘suspension of belief’; the space between fantasy and reality. The adaptation to television and cinema extends our fantasy as we are persuaded to enter a new world of entertaining escapism.

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, and … The Never-Ending Story. These are only a small sample of the numerous children’s classics, enjoyed by all ages and recognised as expanding the development of a young mind.

There are talking animals, mythical creatures, dwarves and centaurs, child protagonists, and evil witches. There are adventures galore and, as always, the clash between good and evil. It’s not surprising how many of these protagonists fly like birds – Peter Pan and Harry Potter.

Fantasy is escapism and readers are willing to be transported to another world, to be entertained and escape reality for a short time.

However, the rules of writing don’t change because of the genre, or the location.

There are goodies and baddies everywhere and a story must have a hero-protagonist and a villain-antagonist to create friction and conflict.

They say that everyone has a story to tell, but once told, what then?

Stories are all around us if we are observant. Stories from the past have already been acted out, but the same story can be changed with the creation of new characters. Examples are the modern-day versions of Fairy Tales.

Stories are about people and their personalities are the catalyst that will bring your story to life. How well you develop your characters will determine your success. Place them in a stressful situation and your characters will develop. Friction between a villain and a hero leads to conflict and suspense, which in turn leads to emotion and stress, and a test of their character.

From this conflict, a new personality can emerge, weak or strong, and be accepted by the reader. A strong, well-developed personality can dictate the progress of a story and change the direction of the plot. The story will take on a new perspective, and the reader will follow on, unaware.

Authors welcome these situations and follow the emerging character with increasing interest. How many times have you heard an author relating how his main protagonist has taken over, and is leading him into uncharted territory?

It’s exciting for the writer and rejuvenating for the story.

In the world of today’s Fiction writing, we embellish with a game called ‘Poetic License’. This is necessary to the art of storytelling and is a game played by the reader and the writer. It is known as ‘suspension of belief’, or how far to go with Fantasy without losing your credibility with the reader.

When you are writing obsessively and forget to eat, it’s safe to say that you have found your elusive story. Happy writing!

David Thomas Kay – Contributor

Vale Karen Knight-Mudie

by former Gold Coast Writers’ Association president Gary Ivory

Karen joined Gold Coast Writers’ Association some 10 years back and quickly stepped up to take a role on the Committee, helping to steer the association forward during adventurous and challenging times. As a member of the committee and later Vice President of the Association, I got to know Karen well and had the privilege to work with her on a number of projects made all the easier by our shared background in education and the love of teaching and learning.

As our Membership Secretary, Karen worked tirelessly to streamline the process of membership, ensuring our books were kept up to date to meet audit requirements. As a general committee member, Karen worked quietly in the background, supporting each person in their respective roles. At the table, she often injected energy and excitement with her thought-provoking comments into forward planning and problem solving.

Karen stepped up to support “The Authors in Schools Program” expertly running workshops in various high schools as well as liaising with fellow authors. With a secondary teaching background in the Arts, Karen relished the opportunity to work with secondary students, encouraging them to appreciate literature and inspiring budding authors to write. Her understanding of schools ensured these sessions were well organised and expertly presented.

After completing her PhD (James Cook University) with considerable research into the concept of “Creativity” and “Extrinsic and Intrinsic Reward Systems”, Karen spent time lecturing at Southern Cross University. I had the privilege to partner with Karen to deliver workshops in this popular area of study and arts practice. Karen’s lectures always stretched the imagination and inspired writers to keep writing or pick up the pen.

While teaching at the College of the South West in Roma, Queensland, Karen researched in great detail the tale of the Kenniff Brothers, notorious cattle rustlers, tried and convicted in the outback courts of old Queensland. Her book, “Moonlighting in Moffat: tracking the Kenniff brothers” told a fascinating tale of a story almost forgotten.

Karen Knight-Mudie Watercolour 2019

Her considerable and creative painting talent, saw Karen produce visual images on giant, strong brown paper banners, helping to bring the story to life. After exhibiting in Roma in recent years, the paintings, of some historical note, are now the property of the Shire Council, with replicas gracing the walls of the Roma Airport.

Karen’s love of art and art history was put to good use as she regularly lectured at a number of Gold Coast Libraries. My wife and I, along with others from the GCWA, both young and old, who were interested in art history, enjoyed many sessions as Karen shared some wonderful insights into the life and works of the masters. Titled “Walks in Time”, Karen’s love of art always showed through. Her research was so thorough and always very well received.

Dr Knight-Mudie presented a series of art talks during 2021 at her local library in Nowra

Karen’s published work “Yarns from Yandilla” was indeed a challenge to us all to live by standards, with the hope of making the world a better place. A teacher called Mrs. M took up the challenge and, with multiple copies purchased, used Karen’s work to help guide the children towards gaining insight into everyday life and the many ups and downs it can present. In her creative, artistic style, she crossed over into the animal world and a unique fantasy land creating characters which captured the imagination helping us all “To tinker with the tools in our head”.

She continued using her creative imagination in “Boy from Bullamooluka”. Her introduction gives a clue to Karen’s unique command of the English Language.

“This is a story that explores the dilemmas of diversity and the conquering of conflict when fantasy, technology and every-day normality collide and envelop Watson in a personal web of dismay and discovery.”

Karen Knight-Mudie

Watson, a 15-year-old at Bullamooluka High School student with all the trials and tribulations he faces, is the centre of attention as Karen draws on her considerable experience as a high school teacher.

In her words:

“During my years at school, I found the amazing magic of the written word and the surprising complexity of visual language. As a consequence, I’m still having an on-going affair with words and images involving lots of effort and lots of ‘tinkering with the tools in my head’. In other words, the affair involves learning and that, as you know, is a life-long voyage of discovery so I’m still travelling.”

Karen Knight-Mudie

Karen certainly did a lot of tinkering in her head, designing and building her home in Tallebudgera Valley. Designed around a central living area, her home had plenty of space to show her favourite art works and special treasures as well as lots of natural light to create new ones. Her property also boasted a stable and a horse rink allowing her to indulge one of her favourite pastimes–dressage. My wife and I and others enjoyed many a sunset, looking across her green oasis.

Karen, to the end, was feisty and determined. Her considerable talent and creative energy led her to enter the Archibald Prize, indeed a testament to her enduring character. Her last days were spent at her new home in Nowra NSW recording on memory sticks to be left for each of her family members.

Karen cared greatly about Animal Welfare, Arts and Culture, Children, Education, Environment, and Human Rights.  She will be missed greatly by her family and friends.

Getting your work out there!

Group of writers

Guest Blog by Judy Wollin

If you are writing anything other than a private diary, you will need readers to give you feedback.

Getting your work in front of selected readers before it is in the public arena will help it be the strongest you can write. Such input and advice can improve the quality of your writing, which can increase the likelihood of publication and sales, whether you are traditional or self-published. By reaching out, you can also build a network and get to know the publishing world. Building a network allows even unknown writers to get known.

Joining writers’ groups is a way of getting your work out there.


General groups are valuable based on the variety of work you will hear about, read, and share. Gold Coast Writers’ Association is one such group. Specialised writers’ groups focus on a single genre usually. Children’s authors and illustrators, crime writers, and romance writers are examples. They provide up-to-date industry news relating to the genre and discuss the nuances of getting published in that genre.

Critique groups bring together writers seeking and providing feedback for each other in a structured way. Alpha and beta readers have a similar function, but these are usually one-on-one.

Sensitivity Readers

Sensitivity readers have the key role of reviewing your work to identify and help you avoid biases, inappropriate language, stereotyping, racism, and other critical errors. Employing an editor is another avenue to improve your work and increase the likelihood of success.


Mentors and courses can provide education and feedback to help you become the strongest writer you can. Mentors work one-on-one whereas courses usually involve group learning. Both are useful ways of getting your work reviewed.

Manuscript Assessment and Pitches

Manuscript assessment and pitches are another avenue for getting feedback. A manuscript assessment can be offered on an entire manuscript or a set number of words. The feedback may be written or verbal. Pitching your novel is a brief, usually three-minute, opportunity to promote your story and yourself to an agent or publisher. Given the short duration of a pitch, it is best to seek expert advice in preparing for it. The Australian Society of Authors, Queensland Writers’ Centre, and the Australian Writers’ Centre provide suitable courses.


Competitions are a good idea for strengthening your writing. Writing to a specific criterion may stretch you in directions you would not try otherwise.


Submitting to anthologies is also a good way to get published. These are often published by writer’s groups. The Gold Coast Writers’ Association has published anthologies in the past. Editing and feedback for group anthologies is usually a collaborative affair, with writers swapping work among themselves.


Finally, a digital presence, Social Media platforms and your author website, for example, are important too. Publishers often look for an author’s digital presence for establishing an author’s willingness to market themselves and their work.

In summary, getting your work out there will improve your writing and increase the likelihood of your success in publishing. There is an option to suit every writer. Whether you prefer one-on-one or a group setting, broad writing groups or genre-specific groups, or a paid professional, course, or mentor. The choice is yours.

ASA Pitch Perfect course

As part of my journey to have my middle grade novels published, I completed the ‘Pitch Perfect’ online Zoom course run by the Australian Society of Authors (ASA). This course was very helpful.

In the first session, participants examined the foundations of developing a pitch. They were asked to identify what they wanted to achieve with publication and examined different publishing options, multinationals, independent and self-publishing.

The second session discussed whether authors need an agent, and the type of content that must be included in a pitch. Participants examined their genre, readership, and the importance of knowing comparative titles.

The third session covered writing a 300-word synopsis which formed the core of your pitch.

The fourth session addressed the format of pitching to an agent or publisher, preparing a pitch, and the need to practice.

The course was very informative and the resources very helpful. Course participants were given prior access to book their pitch sessions in the ASA Literary “Speed Dating” event. I would recommend this course to authors wanting the opportunity to present their work and themselves to agents or publishers.

Judy Wollin

Judy Wollin – Contributor


Alliance of Young Authors https://www.facebook.com/groups/YAauthoralliance/

Alpha and Beta readers. https://www.ingramspark.com/blog/alpha-and-beta-readers-what-are-they-and-why-bother You can find talented readers on fiverr.com, or somewhere like Writerful Books.

Australian Crime Writers Association https://www.austcrimewriters.com/ dedicated to promoting greater recognition for crime, thriller, and mystery writing in Australia.

Australia Society of Authors https://www.asauthors.org/ the professional organisation, community and voice of Australia’s writers and illustrators. Provides training, mentorships, advocacy, support, advice and literary speed dating.

Australian Writers’ Centre is one source of excellent courses https://www.writerscentre.com.au/

Book Links Promote authors, illustrators and storytellers for children and young people. https://booklinks.org.au/category/queensland-authors-and-illustrators/

Editors https://writingtipsoasis.com/book-editors-in-australia/

Queensland Writers Centre https://queenslandwriters.org.au/ a not-for-profit membership organisation that supports, celebrates and showcases Queensland writers. It offers training, mentorships, critique groups, resources and meeting rooms. It is based in State library Brisbane.

Romance Writers of Australia https://romanceaustralia.com/ promote excellence in romantic fiction, to help aspiring writers become published and published authors to maintain and establish their career.

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators https://www.scbwi.org/ specifically for individuals who write, illustrate, and translate for children and young adults.

Vision Writers home for speculative fiction, science fiction, horror and fantasy writers in Queenslandhttps://visionwriters.net/

Editing: How important is it, really? (Part 2)

Cover Pictures


You’ve sparked the interest of your readers with a great start.

No typos, the grammar is something Jane Austen would be proud of, and the story engages with a great plot, stimulating flow, and characters that would inspire a generation of wannabees. So, what else do you need?

Following on from Part 1 of this blog that described the absolutes you MUST do with your writing and editing, here are the other things you NEED to do, SHOULD do, and what would be NICE to do.

If you missed part 1, and it pains you to miss out, we recommend that you follow this link and start there.


These elements are essential to your writing, but can be in a lesser form than those that MUST be done; a bit like you MUST have oxygen, water and food to survive, but a four bedroom home with an ensuite is a NICE to have. Let’s face it, to survive, a shelter comprising a dry cave will do.

You can’t judge a book by its cover

The old saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is probably true, but it really helps your book to have a great cover to attract an audience. Similarly, a catchy title will do the same. But, no matter how brilliant the cover or title are, the writing that lies within the front and back covers still has to live up to the hype and engage its readers.

“But what has this to do with editing?” I hear you ask. At the cover design stage, not much, but just wait until you get the proof back from the graphic design artist (please use one who has a reputation and not just your niece who has a ‘flare’ for it). Look at it carefully with a proofing eye. Check every little detail, such as the spelling in the title, the words on the spine, and the blurb at the back. It’s too late to say, ‘Whoopsie’ after the print run has gone through and the typo is there for all to see in graphic detail (pun intended) on all 500+ copies.


Depending on how you are publishing your writing – as a book, a short story or poem, in an anthology with many other works, or in an online or digital format – you should read through the finished product from top to bottom. Yes, I know, you’ve already done it in the MUST dos, but it’s a SHOULD do after you receive your proof copy. It’s amazing how many times something is missed.


You’ve now reached the point where there aren’t too many more things to do, so you can take a proverbial breather and look at your product. First question to ask is, “Do you like it?” Be honest. This is the last chance you get to change things.

Do you like the layout, font, size of font, formatting? Do you like the feel of the paper? Is it too thin or thick? Are the margins too small? Is there enough ‘white space’ on the page so the reader can rest their eyes while reading and not feel like they’re trapped in a cage? Do you want a paperback as well as a hard back, an eBook or an audiobook? (Be aware that an audiobook is a whole different kettle of fish! Maybe another blog…)

If you’ve had professional help with the layout, or you’re running with a group that chooses the style for your type of book, then you don’t have many options, but if you have self-published, then you can choose what you like. Research how other similar publications are done. Visualise your work in the same product setting. Does this look better? If you’re not sure, ask a friend or colleague who you trust implicitly to give their opinion. Then be prepared to listen without getting offended or hurt. If you listen with an open mind, you might hear something that you can learn from and gain a benefit. Change doesn’t have to be bad.

On the other hand, if you like what you see, then all is well and good. Success awaits!

Kerri Yarsley – Contributor

Kerri’s love of books really took off from her Year 12 readers: Pride and Prejudice, The Go-Between, The Once and Future King, and The Lord of the Rings (which she read in full six times that year, taught herself Elvish and translated the Elvish script on the book’s cover). This opened up a vast world of fantasy and imagination which has stayed with Kerri ever since.

A decade or two later, Kerri forged a career in the training and instructional design space, creating materials and courses for computer systems and applications. This world had videos, audios and magic! Creativity could burst forth.

So, Kerri decided to write a book – The Instruction Manual for Kids – Parent’s Edition. She had the experience of a couple of decades in both areas – kids and instruction manuals – so what could go wrong?

You can find out more about Kerri here…

How important is Editing? (Part One)


Editing: How important is it, really? (Part 1)

If you want your readers to move past your first sentence, then editing is crucial.

When I read an article or book, if I can’t find my way past the first few sentences, then it becomes a real struggle to keep forging ahead. Out of respect for the author of the piece, I usually continue through to the end, but the editor in me is subconsciously picking up any little discrepancies of spelling, grammar, tense and flow. These are the elements of writing – and I mean any writing – that MUST be right.

There are other elements that you NEED to do, SHOULD do, and would be NICE to do, but these are secondary to the absolutes that MUST be in your writing and will be discussed in Part 2.


These MUST DOS of editing don’t necessarily come in the order as shown below, but this is how my brain sorts them when my Editor’s Hat is on. Suffice to say, they are ALL crucial in any writing you do.

Correct spelling

This can be a bit tricky when there are conflicts between UK and US spelling, such as Colour (UK) or Color (US), and Organise (UK) or Organize (US). US spelling likes to shrink down the traditional spelling of a word, hence the removal of “U”. US spelling also likes to spell things more phonetically, so the way a word sounds when spoken. Thus, “-ize” instead of “-ise”. That’s why they pronounce “Aussie” like “Os-See”, instead of “Oz-Zee” as authentic Australians do. Which ever spelling you decide, make sure you stick with it, so it’s consistent. Otherwise, if your work has bits of both, then that will drive any editor crazy, and also your readers.

Correct grammar

I don’t expect you to be a wizard at the English language and its oh-so many exceptions to the rule, but if you are a native-born Aussie, or from a country where English is the national spoken language, then you should be able to READ ALOUD your piece and pick up quite a few errors along the way. Read it slowly so you don’t automatically assume words are there, like “a”, “and”, “an”, etc. Our brains are adept at glossing over inoperative words that don’t change the intent of what you are trying to read. (That’s why speed reading works so well for some.) But losing the grammatical flow can confuse the meaning and therefore impact the understanding of your readers.

Accurate punctuation

Most people know that a sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a full-stop (period (.)), question mark (?) or exclamation (!). These are very basic, but critical, elements of writing construction. But, did you know that putting a comma in exactly the right place can make a huge difference on the impact of your work?

Oscar Wilde famously stated that he spent one entire morning taking out a comma.

He then spent the afternoon putting it back again. 

Commas have been used to indicate a pause, like a breath, in writing. They can be used singly or in pairs, like a set of brackets. When used like the latter, you must be able to read the sentence as if the middle bit between the commas is taken out and it still makes sense.

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Goldilocks who wandered into a quaint little house with red shutters and door with potted plants on window sills to see if she could find a bed.

This needs some serious comma work!

Once upon a time, there was a little girl called Goldilocks, who wandered into a quaint little house with red shutters and door, with potted plants on window sills, to see if she could find a bed.

Then there is the Oxford (Serial) comma, which comes before an “and” or “or” in a list of three or more elements. Sometimes they are overused and unnecessary, such as in a list of ingredients to bake a cake, so it’s obvious that all the elements are connected. However, they are correctly used if someone is explaining a smaller group of connected elements within a larger group.
For example:

Janice is inspired by cooking her family and her fluffy dog.

This needs a comma and a serial comma to make better sense and not sound like something out of a psycho crime thriller:

Janice is inspired by cooking, her family, and her fluffy dog.

Consistent tenses

Traditional novels were written in past tense, where the narrator described things that happened already. Many modern novels are written in present tense, with the narrator describing what is happening right now. The first time I read a novel written in present tense, it took me some time to get used to it, but eventually it clicked. What has disturbed me since then is reading some that are not consistent, so there is a mixture of past and present tenses throughout the work. This has really driven me nuts because I don’t know where I am, or where the protagonist is in the book’s timeline. If you choose to write in present tense, make sure you stay there!


Read and re-read your story, slowly and out loud, so that you can see, feel and hear where the storyline is going, and whether the main chunks have lined up in the correct sequence. If you miss this crucial step, then your readers will lose their place in the story and drift away.

The secondary elements – NEED to do, SHOULD do and NICE to do – will be addressed in Part 2.

Kerri Yarsley – Contributor

Kerri’s love of books really took off from her Year 12 readers: Pride and Prejudice, The Go-Between, The Once and Future King, and The Lord of the Rings (which she read in full six times that year, taught herself Elvish and translated the Elvish script on the book’s cover). This opened up a vast world of fantasy and imagination which has stayed with Kerri ever since.

A decade or two later, Kerri forged a career in the training and instructional design space, creating materials and courses for computer systems and applications. This world had videos, audios and magic! Creativity could burst forth.

So, Kerri decided to write a book – The Instruction Manual for Kids – Parent’s Edition. She had the experience of a couple of decades in both areas – kids and instruction manuals – so what could go wrong?

You can find out more about Kerri here…

The book you write will change the world

Writing A Book Isn’t Easy

As the saying goes, “If it was easy, everyone would do it,” and when we start making friends with other writers it feels like everyone is doing it.

Just finding the time to sit with our thoughts long enough to commit something to paper (or screen) is a challenge in this busy world.

But, we’ve got a story.

We have this idea that won’t let go. So we sit and write.

“Of any activity you do, ask yourself: If I was the last person on earth, would I still do it?” Steven Pressfield

Flash forward a few months or years. We’ve invested the time, spent hundreds, sometimes thousands, of hours hunched over a notebook or a keyboard. Typed “The End.” (A few people have suggested that we don’t type “The End”. Okay, so it’s implied.)

We print it out, ask a friend or trusted family member to read it. Or not. Must be careful with it. It’s our baby.

We secretly suspect this is the best book ever written…

Your book will make a difference, we say. If I can just get an agent. The right agent. And the publishing deal. A great publishing deal. With an enormous advance. If we can get this life-changing book into the hands of readers, everything will change.

It’s true. The book you write will change the world.

Your world.

Creative pursuits have a way of changing you.

When your manuscript is finished, you will be a completely different person to the one who started writing.

Creative pursuits have a way of changing you. You start out as a person with an idea and a passion. As you write, ten minutes a day, twenty minutes a day, you become the kind of person who makes time every day to sit down and write. The people around you might think it’s odd at first. Maybe there will be some gentle jokes at your expense. “The next JK Rowling, eh?” Maybe. They’ll get used to it.

By sitting every day, or most days, to write, you develop a practice. Passion brings you to the page but only devotion keeps you there day after day. You could pay a ghost-writer, but if you really want to change the world, your world, writing the book will do it.

Think process, not product.

So, get writing. Stephen King says our first million words are rubbish anyway, so you might as well get it over with.

Read. Do classes. Get your ten thousand hours under your belt. Then keep writing.

Find your audience.

Start a blog, a podcast, make Facebook Live or TikTok videos of you reading from your work.

Have fun with it. If you don’t, who will?

On that note, I offer one more suggestion to you, my fellow writer.


Those who talk about the 10,000 hours seem to forget that Gladwell also recommends we rack up about double that in time away from our passion to let the lessons marinate. Be passionate, be devoted, but please enjoy the writing journey.

As overused as that word is, ‘journey’ is the right word to use because this writing life is a voyage into the unknown and, like any great voyage, the experience will change you.

Christine Betts – Contributor

Christine Betts is an Australian writer who left her heart in Paris years ago. She can usually be found at the beach or sitting at a cafe, pen in hand. Her long-time internet handle, WriterPainter, is also the name of her blog on creativity, writing, art, meditation, and spirituality. She believes everyone is creative, and it is through our act of creating that we find our purpose and meaning in life.


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