RULED BRITANNIA [A ‘What If’ Story Premise]

What if after World War Two, U.S. Forces didn’t return home… and the United States…


Note from Dennis Lowery: This is a ‘first draft’ story idea and premise for further refinement.

As World War Two ended, the balance of power in Europe was shattered when the Soviets revealed they had captured six undiscovered atomic bombs the Nazis could not deploy. Refusing to accept only their post-war gains, the Soviet Union’s ambitions expanded, leaving President Harry Truman with a dire choice: pull American troops back to Great Britain or risk a nuclear war in Europe.

Truman’s decision to cede Europe to the Soviets ignites a fierce debate within the U.S. government. Many senior military leaders and politicians view the Soviet Union as the next great enemy. When Truman died under suspicious circumstances, a coup led by senior military officials thrust America into a new era of authoritarian rule.

Amidst this turmoil, U.S. military intelligence collaborates with British anti-monarchists, hollowing out the British government from within. The new regime proposed a radical solution to prevent Soviet invasion: annex Great Britain as the 49th state of the United States.

But rebellion brews on both sides of the Atlantic. British patriots and disillusioned Americans unite in their quest for freedom, determined to reclaim their countries and their heritage from the grip of tyranny.

What if, as World War Two ends, the Soviets reveal they’ve captured six just completed, undiscovered atomic bombs the Nazis could not deploy, and it shifts the balance of power in Europe? The Soviet Union will no longer accept only their Allied apportioned post-war gains.

Not wanting to start a new conventional war and not willing to drop an atomic bomb in Europe and trigger a nuclear weapons-based one, President Harry Truman ordered all American troops pulled back to Great Britain, ceding Europe to the Soviets.

But a faction in the U.S. already believes that the Soviet Union is our next Great Enemy who must be confronted. General George Patton himself wants to move his 3rd Army against the Soviets. That faction gains power when Harry Truman dies (or, as some suspect, was assassinated).

Truman’s vice president, now president, is ineffective against the internal powers aligned against him. He is soon replaced via a senior military-led coup (something right out of SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, the 1962 novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, and the 1964 film by John Frankenheimer).

U.S. military intelligence officers recruit British anti-monarchists and anti-crown politicians and reward their collaboration. The British government is weakened and then hollowed out.

The new ‘President’ of the U.S., the leader of the coup—at least its public ‘face’—hardens what has become a U.S. military occupation of Great Britain into an annexation.

Some British men and women of influence now loyal to (owned by) the U.S. bring forward the idea that the only way to stop the Soviet Union from also swallowing the United Kingdom… is for it to become part of the United States, a 49th ‘state’ (before Alaska and Hawaii in 1959).

But rebellion is growing in Britain even though the Soviet Union is now only across the channel in Soviet-France. They want their country and their heritage back. So do many Americans who can’t abide by what’s become an authoritarian society. The American and British rebels join forces in a quest for freedom.

From a premise by Dennis Lowery. In our story development pipeline, RULED BRITANNIA is the first story in a thrilling alternate-history series where the fight for liberty knows no borders.

Leaving Taos [Flashfiction]

While looking through a collection of Depression Era public domain photos (one from Taos, New Mexico was used for the story cover), one sparked some thoughts: What were the two men on the left talking about? And what about the man by the depot window with hunched shoulders? What’s up with him? That picture became this story from Dennis Lowery. Here are some of the reader comments:

“Excellent. Loved the twist. You paint characters so well and with so few words, too.” –Vicki Tyley

“Really cool! Thanks for sharing!” –CN

“Awesomeness!” –Susan Gabriel

“Incredible…” –Lena Kindo-Kamara

“A great little read!” –Rebecca Harden-Heick

“They think,” Henry nodded in the cop’s direction at the sidewalk, “the killer’s headed to Santa Fe.”

“Nah, I bet he went north.” Joe drew hard on his cigarette, taking the smoke deep and letting it out in plumes. “Folks on the radio are warning people to watch out… whoever he is, he’s a dangerous man.”

Henry shook his head slightly. Joe was one of those men who sounded, with dead-solid certainty, like he was right. But he was always mostly wrong and sensationalized everything when he passed it on to others. “What makes you think it’s a man, Joe?” He wanted to wind him up a bit and see where he spun.

“Bud Carson’s my wife’s nephew… he works with Tom Flint’s cousin. Tom’s the deputy who found the man on Old Mill Road night before last, just as he rattled out his last breath. Tom told his cousin the killer caved the man’s ribs in—someone beat the shit out of him. And get this,” he took a last drag from the cigarette butt in his hand and flipped it to the ground, “the head had been twisted, so it was turned around backward.” He shook his head. “The poor bastard was belly down but looking up at Tom when he died. Musta happened not long before Tom rolled up.” He pinched a piece of tobacco off his tongue and spat. “Ain’t no woman strong enough to do that.”

“You haven’t been here but a year, Joe. And haven’t seen Bill Stoudemire’s wife, Maggie.” Henry shook his head and winced, remembering his single date with her when they were young. “She’d go 200 pounds… and none of it fat.” He shuddered again at the thought of when he told her he wouldn’t go out with her again. “And she’s a mean bitch. That’s probably why Bill ran off a couple of years ago.” He looked thoughtful. “Maggie, she doesn’t come to town much… stays on her place east of town.”

“Well, I don’t think no woman could do it.” Joe turned away. “See you later.”

Henry watched him walk toward Mabel’s Diner and thought, Old Mill Road runs east-west…. right by Maggie’s land. He let the idle thought slip away. It was time to pick up that load of lumber from Granger’s and get to work.

The hatless man near the bus depot window stood shoulders hunched and faced away from the others waiting for the bus. They never should have come to Taos, he thought. But they’d heard there might be work. There was. But he and Johnny never should have taken that laborer job. Poor Johnny. He had to flirt with that woman who hired them… and then tap it. He’d grinned and said, “In the dark, there’s more of her to grab. And man, she can squeeze her thing tight.”

But something about her had bothered him. The way she watched them. He had slept in the barn, but Johnny was in the farmhouse with her after the first night. The fourth day, yesterday, he had come to breakfast to find that Johnny was gone. She had smiled at him—a gap-toothed invitation—and came close enough to brush his shoulder with the biggest tits he’d ever seen. “Your friend took off… you can sleep in the house tonight.” She had put her hand on his shoulder and given it a crushing pinch. “Come supper time, I’ll pay you your wages,” she waved a five-spot in her other hand.

He had nodded and gone out to the stretch of fence he and Johnny had been mending the day before. They both needed money, and Johnny wouldn’t have run for no reason, but he hadn’t wanted the kind of trouble this woman seemed capable of dishing. He had decided to finish the job and get the Hell away from her, but with that fiver.

At sundown, she had called him to dinner, “Come and ‘get it’….” He couldn’t help but hear her emphasis on her call to eat… and to something else.

At the table, he had wiped his plate clean. She had studied him, an up-and-down run of her eyes. “You eat like a starved man…” She had gotten up from the chair and moved to sit beside him, touching his forearm. “I do love me a man who has a hunger,” she squeezed and let go to hand him the five-dollar bill. “I’m the hungry kind, too….” As she got up, she leaned forward to drag the tips of her chest across his arm and straightened, her eyes shifting toward the room where she’d taken Johnny the last time he’d seen him.

He had stuffed the money in his pants pocket. “I left your tools out; gotta go put them away….” The look on her face had hardened into something he’d never seen on a woman’s face. He had met her glare, worked up a smile, and squinted at the darkened entry to her bedroom and back, “I’ll be quick… for some of that dessert.” The smile returned, and she showed the edges of her teeth behind the curl of her lips. “I’ll get it ready,” she had walked to the bedroom as he headed outside.

When he was near the fence line, he had shifted from a walk to a sprint. On the dirt road, he had slowed for the long run to town. He had spent the night hiding in a patch of woods, walked in at daylight, and waited. The morning bus for Santa Fe was late. He had heard from the newsboy working the corner with a stack of papers at his feet, ink so fresh the kid’s hands smeared with it; a body had been found the day before just off the road near town. And now a cop was checking people at the depot.

Maybe I should tell the police what happened, he thought. Maybe Johnny ran from her but was hurt and didn’t make it. But that arrest warrant for him in Los Angeles was waiting to land like a ton of brick. They’d send him away for a long time on that one. Where was that bus?

* * *

Years Later

By Jack Freeman, TTR

When Maggie Stoudemire died without kin in what appeared to be a tragic car accident, little did citizens of Taos know it would lead to the most shocking crime scene in the history of northern New Mexico. When the county took the Stoudemire land for taxes and sold it at auction, the farm’s new owners found twenty bodies. All male, some dating back more than twenty years. The most recent appears to have been dead for several months. They have identified only one body, Bill Stoudemire. Maggie’s husband, who had been reported missing in 1932. The Taos County Sheriff’s Department reports they have been working with federal and state authorities to review missing person reports to help identify the remaining bodies.

# # #

What The Wind Blew Away [Fiction]

For the past month, Samantha’s grandfather had sat on the front porch each day as the summer deepened into a scorched August, whose heat often lasted into the first weeks of September. His face had drawn tighter each day as the grass and weeds grew tall and wild around the tree, crowning the crest of the hill. Samantha knew about the tree and what it meant to him. She hated it.

That morning she had seen the—about to do something you’d rather not but must—expression on her grandfather’s face. She thought of the same one her mother used to get as the ‘time-to-clean-the-cat-litter-box’ look. When she’d grown older and her mom had passed the chore to her, Samantha had understood. Her grandpa had come inside, sighed deeply, crossed the room, and got his broad-brimmed hat from the peg by the kitchen door to the backyard. He set the cap on his head and stepped outside without a word. From the window over the sink, she saw him enter the barn. In a few minutes, she had heard its starting cough, and the chuff and chug of the Massey-Ferguson’s engine got louder as the tractor approached the house and less so as it moved toward the hill.

Samantha went out onto the front porch to watch him. She cursed the sun’s blistering brightness with a sideways scowl beneath her headscarf. She hated it most of all.

WHAT THE WIND BLEW AWAY - Short Fiction by Dennis Lowery

As the tractor huffed along—spitting through the vertical exhaust pipe her grandfather always warned her not to touch—it grew even louder as the sound echoed off the hillside. Grandpa headed up in a straight line and would work his way around the tree and outward in an expanding concentric circle. As he closed on the top of the hill, the sun focused all its rays. This side of the knoll where the clump of rocks created an overhang showed a sliver of shadow as the sun arced over to fall full force on Grandpa.


She turned as her grandmother came out onto the porch. Dangling by the plastic loop connecting them, in one hand, she held two bottles already sweating with condensation. “Run these up to your papaw and make sure he drinks them.”

Samantha peeked again from beneath the edge of the porch’s shade at a sky, so piercing blue her eyes ached.

Her grandmother studied her for a moment, measuring her reluctance. “Please, honey.”

Her grandma couldn’t climb the hill. “Okay, Mamaw,” she took the bottles of water, Grandpa’s favorite flavor Kiwi-Strawberry, and set them on the porch rail. The long sleeves of her white shirt now rolled down; she picked up the umbrella always with her outside during the day.

The gray-haired woman surveyed Samantha’s preparations, and a growing sadness tightened her face. Her granddaughter had lost more than her mother. She was losing—to bitterness and fear—the joy she could still find in the simple moments of growing up and the pleasure and beauty in the world.

Samantha scrutinized the hill, haloed by the haze of dry-summer dust settling in the still air. Younger, she had begged her mom to carry her up there when her little legs couldn’t make the climb. A little older, and she’d made it holding her hand. As she grew up, it became a mother-versus-daughter race to the top. There they’d have picnics under the sun and in the semi-shade of the tree. Her mom would pick thistles blowing on them to make their tiny stalks float and dance in the air. “Make a wish Samantha,” she would tell her. Sometimes the wind carried them out of sight. She always wanted to ask her mom what happened to those wishes—the ones that sailed away—but never remembered. Now it was too late. She’d never know her mother’s answer.

Samantha popped the umbrella open, picked up the water bottles by the loop, and stepped off the porch and under the sun. Entering the field through the gate, her dragging steps scuffed up puffs from the dried grass clippings left by grandfather’s bush hog. The mower attachment his tractor towed to cut field and pasture grass. Ten minutes later, already drenched in sweat, she reached the base of the hill. With the umbrella angled to cover her, she climbed for another ten minutes to the top. Papaw waved as she approached. He had cleared the area around the tree and gestured for her to follow him as he turned toward it. He lowered the brush hog at the edge of the tree’s shade and shut off the tractor. In the silence, there wasn’t a whisper of wind.

The summer had been hotter than any she could remember. She still smelled the creosote of the asphalt—a stench she forever associated with her mother’s death—in the hospital parking lot. The heat had leached upward through the bottoms of her shoes and climbed her legs like the mercury in the thermometer Grandpa had put on a post by the porch. Then would reverse once she stepped into the over-air-conditioned hospital to sit with her mother, growing colder as she lay dying.

She glared at the underside of the black umbrella through the sting of sweat in her eyes, the pull of the headscarf’s edges sticking to her brow. She held the sides of the bottles against a cheek, a temporary relief. Her grandfather wiped his face with a handkerchief when she reached the tractor. He took off his hat and mopped his bald head.

“Here you go, Papaw,” she handed him the water. He stripped one bottle from the loop, unscrewed the top, drank, and smacked his lips. He gave it back and stuck the second bottle into his pants unbuttoned right cargo pocket. She took a drink as he rolled his sleeves up. The hair on his arms—so thick she always wondered what happened to the hair on his head—was matted with sweat.

“Hot one today,” he grunted as he slid off the seat and straightened. Both hands pressed at the small of his back as he pushed himself erect. “I need a breather.” He smiled, patted her shoulder, and walked to the tree’s base. He thumped the thick trunk with the palm of his left hand. “I planted this when your Mamaw told me she was pregnant with your momma,” he stroked the rough bark. “This was our—mine and your mom’s—tree.”

She didn’t want to listen to the story again. “Papaw,” she touched his arm. It wasn’t just sweat on her cheeks.

“Okay, honey.” He lowered to the ground with his back against the tree he had seen grow up with his daughter and wiped his eyes, rubbing at the corners with his thumbs. Samantha sat next to him. After a minute, her head was on his shoulder. He turned and rested his chin on her. “But your mother loved this tree… this hill.”

“I hate this place.”

He knew she didn’t. What she hated was the hurt of being here without her mom, at becoming a teenage girl—facing life—without her mother. He hated that, too; his remaining years spent without his daughter, Annie. Nothing could fill the void; he’d never recover from losing her. But he had to say something, had to help his granddaughter grasp something positive—something meaningful—from their loss.

He studied the frayed ends and tight knots of the rope around the thickest limb overhead. He had pruned away the smaller, lower limbs so the tire swing would have clearance. The tree hadn’t been big enough for Annie—she grew up as it did—but by the time Samantha was born, it was sturdy enough. She had swung, kicking chubby, baby-fat legs, and laughed. “Push me higher!” Samantha had told Annie as he and Helen had videoed them. One of those moments when still new grandparents are about to burst with love for their child and grandchild.

Last summer, he had taken the tire down to replace the ropes. Then Annie got sick, and he and Helen went to her and Sammy in the city to tend to things. He never got around to it. That summer began the last of many things for his daughter… with his daughter. He tilted his head to one side and squinted at his granddaughter. Samantha clutched the rolled-up umbrella to her chest. Her legs were pulled in tight under the shade of the tree as if the sun’s touch was poison. He and Helen had talked to her about the melanoma that had killed her mother. Then the sadness of her mother’s death hardened into a layer of hate against the cause.

A hint of a breeze teased them. The smaller branches above swayed. “Feels good, right?” Samantha turned her face up to him and nodded. The dust the tractor had kicked up had settled on her hot cheeks, and the fresh tears had created tracks. She lowered her head and stretched her right leg to half kick at a clump of thistles too close to the tree to mow with the bush hog. Dislodged, the stems caught the wind and twirled away.

“Papaw, what about the ones floating off? You don’t see them coming down….”

“What do you mean, Sammy?”

“Mom always told me to pick one, make a wish, and blow. And you had to hold the wish in your thoughts until the thistle landed.” She sat up and spun on her rump to face him as she drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. “What happens to those wishes? The ones that blow away?”

He rubbed his nose and shifted his legs. He had told that folktale to Sammy’s mother when she was a child, but Annie had never asked that question. “Well, those wishes land somewhere. Wherever the wind takes them, and they carry seeds that can take root, and there, in that spot, they can grow more.” He brushed her chin with his fingertips. “So little girls and boys can find them to wish upon.”

“So, they’re not gone, not lost?”

He twisted the top off the second bottle, took a drink, and passed it to Samantha. “Have some.” She preferred the black-cherry flavor but drank and swallowed, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. She handed the water back, and he spun on the cap. “No, they’re not gone. Things in life move on, but the important part of them stays with you. That doesn’t change… if you decide to hold them tight. In a way, that’s called faith.”

“Are memories like that? I mean… we can only see them in our minds. But we still feel them.” She paused. The wind had picked up, and he almost didn’t catch what she added. “Like mom.”

“Yes, honey, memories are like that. But we should only keep and cherish the good ones like of your mother.” He paused; the damned sweat was in his eyes. Kerchief out again, he tilted his head back to wipe them and his brow, then folded the sodden cloth to stick back in his pocket. “Your mom’s still with us. She touched so many people’s hearts, and the memories of her are what we hold close.” He looked into his granddaughter’s eyes, so much like Annie’s. “The wind doesn’t always blow things away from us, Sammy. And what does isn’t what’s important. What remains is.”

“God damn melanoma. Goddamned cancer,” she spat.

He agreed. “Shhhh, sweetie, don’t curse. Your Mamaw will kick my butt if she hears you.” His knees told him he had sat too long as he used one hand to push up and steadied himself with the other on the tree trunk. He had brought up a handful of grass and earth in his fist and sifted through his hands. “Too dry,” he brushed a piece of bark from the tree, and it crumbled into powder. “Worst in decades,” he muttered as he rubbed a drooping leaf between thumb and forefinger. Brittle. He worried he’d lose the tree too and considered what to do to run an irrigation line up the hill.

“Papaw?” she waited a moment and tugged his pants leg. “Grandpa.”

He felt the pull as he put his hat on, squaring to sit above his eyes, and glanced down at her. “Yes, Sammy?”

“Why today?”

Thumbs in two belt loops, he hitched up his pants. “What, honey?” He reached down and held out a still strong, sinewy hand to help her stand.

“We don’t come up here anymore,” she pointed up at the tree. “Why today? When it’s so hot.”

He studied her face, framed by the scarf, the red hair, and a dusting of freckles. Her eyes when she stood were not far below his. He realized Samantha would be a tall woman like her mother, his Annie. “We lose things. Sometimes small stuff. Little things that aren’t too valuable we don’t miss. But sometimes,” he paused and thumbed the corners of his eyes again. Damned sweat, he thought. “Bad shit happens—don’t say that word, remember Mamaw—to something or someone important to us. It gets damaged, or they get hurt. They break down or get sick. Sometimes we can’t fix things or them. One day they’re gone, and some we can never replace.” He rubbed the tree’s trunk again and glanced up through the leaves. “Because they were the only ones you….” He blinked, coughed, and thumb-spun the lid off the bottle. Offering to her, she shook her head, and he drank the last. He crumpled and placed it with the cap in the cargo pocket of his pants. “They were the only one of them you’ll ever have.” He put his hands on her shoulders, “We honor what we’ve lost by taking care of what we still have,” he patted the tree again. “I see this tree, and I think of your mother.”

Samantha turned her head. “It makes me sad.”

He stood still, waited for her to look at him, and then continued. “This morning, I remembered what makes me happy and not what makes me unhappy.” He scanned around them and turned back to her. “Your mother loved this hill, this tree, and I have to care for it no matter how miserable I am. And now I’m here again, remembering the echoes of her laughter and the beauty of her smile.” He closed his eyes and sang, “In this place, full of empty space. Her soft and tender love will always shine for me.” The song trailed off as he gazed at the tree’s canopy above them, its leaves moving with the wind. He squeezed his granddaughter’s shoulders and walked toward the tractor.

Samantha thought Grandma will be happy when I tell her he’s singing again. He hadn’t done that since he sang to her mom in the hospital. She bent and plucked something from the grass, held it to her lips, and blew. The wind caught the stalks before they drifted to the ground.  And bounced them up to form a line like connected train cars pulling away from them on a current of air. Before they were out of sight, she whispered, “I love you, Mom. I’ll never forget you.”

She turned to follow her grandfather. Now in the tractor’s seat, left-handed, he twisted the key and pressed the starter button. He reached down right-handed to lift the lever to raise the bush hog. As she climbed on the fender next to him, a gust of wind caught her scarf, lifting its loose twining to whirl into the sky. The umbrella unfurled and pulled from her grip,  billowing open to sail high, tumbling and spinning over the hill, dancing along with her headscarf away from them in the same direction as the thistles. They watched until they, too, were gone. She squinted up at the glaring sun. He took his hat off and plunked on her head. “Here you go, kid.”

They bounced downhill, the tractor jarring on patches of uneven ground. Still thinking about what Grandpa had said, Samantha glanced over her shoulder at the tree as it got higher and smaller. She took the hat from her head and leaned over to shout so he could hear over the engine noise, “Papaw…” She put the cap on his head, careful not to pull too low over his eyes. “You need this more than me!” She leaned in again to kiss him on the cheek, and he held her with one arm, the other gripping the steering wheel. The clean wind steadied and took away the sting and ache.

He pointed up at the line of clouds bunching ahead and above. They were dense, dark, and charging on the wind toward them. “Breathe, Sammy,” he smiled, “and see what the wind’s bringing us.”

She saw the wrinkled furrows on his forehead smooth as the scudding clouds blocked the sun and cooled the sky. The wind swirled, casting the first drops. Something pirouetted before her nose, and she caught it in cupped hands and peeked inside. An intact thistle. Thinking more about what her papaw had just told her, she grinned into the wind. “Thanks, Mom!”

As a writer, you believe what you’re creating will touch someone in some way. But you send your creation out into an often silent world. Maybe it’s just not found so it can be read. After all, we live in a world where we’re inundated with information, social media shares, and posts. Pictures of cute dogs… cute cats… cute girls… and bacon. In all of that, sometimes your writing gets missed. BUT then there are times when you get a message from a reader like this. And it confirms that what you’re doing does reach some people and that it’s touched their hearts. I received this message–screen-grab below–from a reader of the excerpt from this story that I posted.

So, I posted the full story.

Here are some of the reader comments:

“Great story–and very timely. I lost one of my Marine buddies this week.” –Jim Zumwalt

“Loved it. I felt like I was there…I could smell the mown grass and feel the sting of the glaring sun. I could relate to Sammy’s anger and sadness and when I read those familiar lyrics that her grandpa sang…I was hooked. It was very touching Dennis. Thank you for the thoughtful take on how we keep memories of our loved ones near and dear. The title is beautiful.” -Bobbie T.

“Superbly written.” –Gwendolyn M.

“Wow, what a bittersweet yet beautiful story of love and loss and healing… Thank you for such a poignant and touching story!” -Lisa Wolfington

“Loved your story. It made me think of loved ones that are no longer here. They will always be with me. Thank you.” -Marsha Mooneyhan

“Beautifully written, Dennis.” -Michael Koontz

“A beautiful story of loss and healing; so touching and lovely.” -Nina Anthonijsz

“Talk about tugging at the heartstrings.” -Vicki Tyley

“I love your story; it’s a touching and poignant piece.” -RC de Winter

“Left me speechless and filled with precious memories from when Mom was around. Thank you for this beautiful story.” -L. Moncivaiz

“Thank you, so much. It’s a beautiful story; a sweet and touching read. I need to explore that connection [in the story] I am glad you wrote this as it’s nudging me to explore what it is.” –AD

The Benefits of Being a PLOTTER

Here’s a straightforward explanation of the benefits of being a Plotter (versus Pantster) and how planning and outlining a story can boost productivity and improve story quality.

Why Plotting Works:

  1. Clear Roadmap
    • Efficiency: With a detailed plan, you always know what happens next. This saves you from wasting time figuring out where your story is going.
    • Focus: An outline keeps you on track, helping you avoid unnecessary detours and distractions.
  2. Consistent Progress
    • Daily Goals: A clear outline allows you to set specific, achievable writing targets. You can measure your progress and maintain steady momentum.
    • Avoid Writer’s Block: Knowing your story’s direction helps you keep writing, even on tough days.
  3. Better Time Management
    • Prioritization: You can allocate your time more effectively, balancing writing, research, and character development.
    • Meeting Deadlines: With a plan, you can estimate how long each part of your story will take to write, making it easier to meet deadlines.

Enhancing Story Quality

  1. Solid Structure
    • Coherent Plot: An outline ensures your story makes sense and stays consistent.
    • Balanced Pacing: You can control your story’s flow, ensuring it’s neither rushed nor slow.
  2. Rich Character Development
    • Detailed Profiles: Planning lets you develop in-depth character backgrounds and arcs, making them more believable.
    • Consistency: Your characters remain true to themselves, avoiding contradictions.
  3. Thematic Depth
    • Cohesive Themes: With planning, you can weave themes and symbolism throughout your story, adding depth and meaning.
    • Effective Foreshadowing: You can plant hints and clues that pay off later, creating a more satisfying reading experience.
  4. Well-Defined Conflict and Resolution
    • Clear Conflicts: Planning helps create meaningful conflicts that drive the story forward.
    • Satisfying Endings: An outline allows you to craft resolutions that tie up loose ends and fulfill your story’s promise.

Practical Benefits

  1. Flexibility
    • Adaptability: Even with a plan, you can still be creative and make changes as new ideas come up.
    • Easier Revisions: A solid outline simplifies spotting and fixing problems in your story.
  2. Collaboration
    • Feedback: You can get better feedback on your story structure and direction before writing the entire manuscript.
    • Team Projects: If you’re co-writing, an outline ensures everyone is on the same page.
  3. Publishing and Marketing
    • Effective Querying: A clear outline makes your query letters to agents or publishers more compelling.
    • Targeted Marketing: Knowing your story’s key points helps you craft a stronger pitch for readers.

Being a Plotter means you’re prepared and organized, boosting your productivity and enhancing your story’s quality. It’s about having a clear path to follow, making your writing process smoother and more effective.

Do you need help with story planning and plotting? We can help.

Cry For Jerusalem [Historical Fiction]


An epic tale, Book One, Two, Three, and Four are available now. Published by Stadia Books:

“…vividly and intelligently depicted… the plot is as gripping as it is historically edifying, remarkably authentic, and rigorously researched. An impressive blend of historical portrayal and dramatic fiction.”

–Kirkus Reviews

One of our historical fiction projects working with the author, Dr. Ward Sanford: A series of four novels covering the seven years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. —Dennis Lowery

Client LinkedIn Comment about Historical Fiction Project

Published by Stadia Books:

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“A thorough look at the chaotic era leading up to the fall of Jerusalem. Well-researched and described as if the author had personal experience in the time and places. He paints the settings in great detail, making it easy to picture the action. This detail does slow the story, but this is not a quick light read, but rather a look at the powers and influences at play while told in the context of a fiction story. In the genre of historical fiction, it leans heavier on the historical than the fiction. Character development was spot on. I appreciated the growth that was discernable in several of the main players. I’m looking forward to the second book.” –Lanita R., Canada

“I really did not know what to expect with this book. But it is a period in history that I find interesting, so I gave it a shot. When I started I thought it might be a dry history book, but it is fascinating. The characters come to life and the setting is vivid. Such a pleasant surprise. A really good read. I’m a little bummed I can’t find anything else by Sanford. Hopefully this won’t be the last thing he writes.” –Amazon Customer

“Yosef ben Matthias, a Jewish scholar, is tasked with traveling from Jerusalem to Rome as a representative of the Sanhedrin. He plans to petition the Roman authorities to release Jewish prisoners awaiting trial. Yosef is apprehensive about the dangerous journey but also excited to see Rome, long impressed by the discipline and sophisticated organization of those who rule it. He travels by sea, but the ship that conveys him is waylaid by a powerful storm, and he ends up floating precariously in shark-infested waters on a wooden plank. He manages to survive and, with the help of two passengers he befriends—Nicanor, a veteran Roman soldier, and Sayid, a Syrian boy—saves the life of Lady Cleopatra, a noblewoman promised in marriage to Gessius Florus, a prominent quaestor and tax collector. The three rescuers are rewarded for their parts in saving Cleopatra, whose best friend, Poppaea Augusta Sabina, is married to Emperor Nero. In this first installment of a series, Yosef comes to realize what a tinderbox the political situation has become. As Roman leaders become increasingly authoritarian and hungry for tax proceeds, Jewish militancy increases, setting the stage for a brutal confrontation, a historical predicament vividly and intelligently depicted by Sanford. And Nero, looking for an excuse to rebuild Rome, raise taxes, and consolidate his power, takes Florus’ advice to burn the city to the ground, starting the “most extensive and destructive fire that Rome had ever experienced.” The plot is as gripping as it is historically edifying, remarkably authentic, and rigorously researched. At its conclusion, readers will be left impatient for the book’s sequel. An impressive blend of historical portrayal and dramatic fiction.” —Kirkus Reviews, about Book One

“Fascinating fact-filled historical account. Excellently written action packed with characters that participate in the events leading to Jerusalem’s destruction in the year 70. You will not be able to put it down.” –Elmer Landis

“Great read! Really enjoyed the characters and the historical time line. Can’t wait for the next one!” –Stephanie Maye

“This is an excellent read. Ward Sanford’s story, “Cry for Jerusalem…Resisting Tyranny” is a very well-researched, highly evocative, and a richly imagined portrait of the period. It is a fascinating read, and one that will long be remembered in the imagination of the reader.” –Michael Kamandulis

“A wonderful read! Keeps you riveted from beginning to end. I can’t wait until the next book comes out.” –Dennis Karp

“In this historical novel set in the first century, the lives of four unlikely friends are threatened by the gathering war between Emperor Nero’s Roman Empire and the Jewish population in Jerusalem. Nero has nearly bankrupted Rome as a consequence of relentless prodigality, diminishing the empire’s power and sending many of its provinces into mutinous discontent. His devious plan is to manufacture a war with the restive Jewish population—especially in Jerusalem—in order to plunder its treasury, and he’s prepared to deceive his own generals in order to accomplish this. In this second installment of a four-volume series, Sanford deftly depicts the historical conflict by chronicling four intersecting lives. All of these characters meet by sheer happenstance but form a potent bond: Cleopatra; Nicanor, a Roman centurion; Sayid, a Roman solider in Nicanor’s legion; and Yosef, the military commander in charge of Galilee. Nicanor participates in a major loss against the rebels at Beth Horon under the leadership of Cestius Gallus, who entrusts the centurion with a packet of documents substantiating his suspicions that his campaign was purposely sabotaged by his own advisers. Meanwhile, Yosef tries to unite Galilee to oppose the inevitable Roman invasion but is despondent that his own people visit so much violence upon themselves, an inner conflict subtly portrayed by the author: “Yosef did not know who he hated more for what had happened—the Romans that had pushed the situation in Judea to this point or his own people who, for selfish reasons, had killed the innocent or let them be killed. They were driving them all toward inevitable death and destruction.” Sanford’s historical rigor is impressive and his account of the age’s troubles, nimbly nuanced, unburdened by any calcified moral strictures. One caveat: For readers unfamiliar with the series opener, this will be a difficult (though not impossible) novel to follow. But the sequel is a captivating treat for those who enjoyed the book’s predecessor. A thrilling blend of powerful emotional drama and meticulous historical scholarship.”

Kirkus Reviews, about Book Two

Was it fate, destiny, or some divine plan that brought four very different travelers together in their struggle to survive what should have been a routine trip to Rome?

These new friends and their family members played pivotal roles at a focal point in the history of Western Civilization.

Winds from the west were carrying the embers born out of the great fire in Rome, threatening to reignite in Judea and create a conflict that would forever change the world for Jews and Christians.

In this first novel of the series, the Jewish rebellion begins in a backdrop of secret tunnels and assassins—the dreaded Sicarii could strike faster than lightning and blend back into the crowd just as quickly. Even hardened Roman mercenaries were no match for them.

In between the known historical events, there’s the story of the people involved. You get to meet them in Cry for Jerusalem.

Here’s what other readers say about Book One:

I was so excited to get a chance to review this new story before publication. As a Christian who has studied the Bible a great deal, I have often been compelled to search out extra-biblical references to this pivotal period of ancient history. My personal preference as an avid read is novels, so the idea of an historical novel connecting my passion for this period in our past with my love of a compelling story was exciting.

“Ward weaves an amazing tale from the perspective of a first-century observer. He connects history, geography and characters from our past into a story of adventure, danger, intrigue and deception. He takes us on a journey throughout the Middle East from the dangers on the high seas, to the secret meetings of Roman officials and Jewish leaders, to the average person living through these tumultuous times.

“I highly recommend this book and I personally look forward to his next installment!”

Paul Patti

“From the beginning, this book had me. The storyline has everything you might want in a good read. It has intrigue, great plot, perceptive character development, romance, epic themes of good and evil, all woven into a backdrop of history that is brought to life through the characters in this book.

“After a recent visit to Israel, this story had me reliving the experience of walking these lands with new eyes to see and feel what this great drama in history may have been like.

“I am eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.”


Great history lesson with intriguing character development. I loved it and believe it’s definitely worth a read. The story grows on you as the characters develop living in this high drama time period.

Volner S. Robertson

I was delighted to have the opportunity to read this book ahead of its delivery to Amazon. I’m an avid reader but have not typically been a fan of historical fiction, but this book absolutely captivated me from the first chapter. I couldn’t put it down. The characters are interesting and complex, the scene is fascinating (right before the fall of the temple and Jerusalem), the story is engaging, the situations very real… so good!


I really enjoyed reading this book! The author successfully immerses you not only in the historical details of the time period he writes about, he also draws you into the day-to-day lives of the people involved. As I read about Yosef, his brother Matthew, and his sister Miriam, I began to feel as if I, too, was experiencing what they were experiencing in the tense circumstances they were living – rooting for the “good” guys and hoping for the defeat of the “bad”. I eagerly await Book 2 in this series to see how the battle for Jerusalem continues to make heroes out of ordinary men and women who are passionate to protect their beloved city.

Susan Wood

“Very compelling story. It’s a very interesting story. I loved all the characters. It is hard sometimes to realize how it really WAS back then. We are so removed from that time, and yet as Christians, we know that we have our roots in Israel, and this is really what it was like. Ward has great characters, fictional though they be, there were people then just like Yosef, Cleo, and the others. I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to know more about Israel and about the Christian faith.”




Elin Serennos’ father disappeared when she was seven years old. Then, soon after, her mother was murdered; the killer NEVER caught and punished.
Taken in by a distant grandmother who NEVER approved of her black daughter-in-law and biracial granddaughter, Elin grew up NEVER knowing her father’s and mother’s… her family’s… secret.
NEVER knowing until her grandmother’s deathbed confession that she had shown signs not seen in over two centuries—and her family’s bloodline traced much farther back than that—of long-dormant, believed extinguished powers. Shaken by her grandmother’s last words: “They still hunt us… you must NEVER reveal you’re a witch.” Elin becomes intent on solving the mystery of her father’s disappearance and her mother’s murder. She will NEVER stop until she discovers the truth… about her parents and who and what she is.

More on this story and series to come…

UNION STATION [Short Fiction]

This story—in our EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY Series—resulted from discovering the public domain photo used in the cover and including it in one of our ‘Pick a Picture Get a Story Written’ contests.

READ IT HERE (takes you to Dennis Lowery’s new writer site)

Beth lived two lives… one in the light, one in the dark. They started and ended at Union Station.

It was 1943… dark times with a world at war…

It was the kind of murder the police don’t put more than a token effort into investigating.

When a friend is killed, and Beth finds she’s next on the killer’s list, she has to take things into her own hands. Despite the risk of her secret life being revealed… she must avenge her friend and defend herself.


“Thanks, this is really interesting. Beautiful descriptive prose.” –Doug [commenting via Facebook message] Douglas Preston is the New York Times best-selling author of 26 novels and several nonfiction books on history, science, exploration, and true crime.

“Vivid and sensuous storytelling, Dennis.” –Vicki Tyley

“You are pushed forward on a ‘fated’ path… all those intricate details… Is this a movie?! You try, but you cannot untangle yourself… amazed at the turn of events… and a deeper layer shows.. which is painful… and I love it! Thank you, Michael [a reader that shared the story with her], for introducing this great writer … expanding our lives!” 🙂 –N. Azadi

“As usual, it was extremely well written. I, as I am sure was true for most readers, felt your detailed descriptions enabled me to picture a scene in my mind as if I was actually watching a movie! You very effectively kept the reader on seat’s edge in the final pages of the story, wondering how everything would play out. And the ending with – DELETED SPOILER PART OF THE COMMENT- was an absolutely brilliant touch on how to bring the whole story to closure.” –Jim Zumwalt. James G. Zumwalt is the internationally bestselling author of Bare Feet ~ Iron Will – Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields, The Juche Lie | North Korea’s Kim Dynasty, and Doomsday Iran: The Clock is Ticking.

“Just finished reading Union Station, Dennis. For a short story, it packs quite a punch. The characters are well developed and believable.” –Hazel Payne

“You did an excellent job with this one, Dennis. You really carved a complete story…” –Michael Koontz

“I love this. Thank you for sharing.” –Dawn Hart Jackson

“Awesome!!! –Susan Gabriel

“Love it!” -Kim O’Brien

IN STONE For Memorial Day

Many confuse Memorial Day with honoring our living veterans and currently serving servicemen and women. That’s Veterans Day. Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring those who served our country that have passed on, especially those who died while serving on active duty.

I’m a veteran who, as a professional writer and publisher, has dealt in the memories and stories of other veterans. Making sure they do not fade with time and become lost and forgotten. I’ve spoken, worked, and spent time with many of our most decorated veterans from World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Cold War, and the 21st-century War on Terror. They want to get down the WhatWhere, and When of life-shaping events in their lives… and often the Why. And every day—not just on Memorial Day—they want to honor those they served with who have died. Their stories achieved their purpose and deepened my appreciation for the holiday.

My friend, Jim Zumwalt, shared a perhaps apocryphal story in his book Bare Feet Iron Will | Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields. In late 1968, a memorial chapel was destroyed during a Viet Cong mortar attack against Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, Vietnam. As a chaplain passed by its ruins a few days later, his eye caught the edge of an object among the rubble. He pulled it out to find a board upon which was inscribed writing of unknown origin:

Not for fame or reward,

Not for place or rank,

Not lured by ambition

or goaded by necessity,

But in simple obedience,

as they understood it.

These men suffered all,

dared all and died.

Lest we forget… lest we forget…

So, in the rubble was found something that admonishes us. Destruction and death—especially witnessed firsthand—sober and alter us. Perhaps that gives the words greater import. It makes us pause and reflect on our mortality and appreciate what we still have that others have lost. We have few ruins in the United States that evoke similar thoughts. But there are many buildings and monuments that should make us grateful for those the structure honors and value their sacrifice. The best and most lasting are those erected on firm ground, resolutely attached to a bedrock foundation beneath, stable, and able to bear great loads, withstanding wind or storm. Societies and nations are built the same way. But not with bricks and mortar. A country is made of the character of its people, manifested in its history, traditions, and the principles it espouses. Some individuals contribute more to that history—often becoming the sum and substance of a nation’s foundation—so that the ‘center does hold.’ Like mortar and stone, their blood and bone—their grit and determination—connect us.

Over two-plus centuries, our land has become dotted with remembrances in stone. Of the men and women who wore our nation’s military uniform, swearing an oath to protect and defend all we hold dear. The cloth they wore is the fabric of hopes and dreams of the past, present, and future. And many died so young… so very, very young.

“We have shared the incommunicable experience of war. We have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top… In our youth, our hearts were touched with fire.”—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (who served as a young Union soldier in our Civil War)

At Valley Forge (not a battle but a turning point in our country’s history), the Continental Army was bloodied and beaten, ready to quit… but didn’t. At Gettysburg, the Meuse-Argonne, Guadalcanal, the Battle off Samar, Leyte Gulf, Bastogne, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Getlin’s Corner, Khe Sanh, in the USS STARK and USS COLE, Baghdad, Fallujah, Kandahar and many other places—domestic and foreign—known and regrettably unknown, they served and died.

Their gravestones, monuments, memorials, the markers of their death, and the placards above their resting place forever call for us to remember them. Above all, these men and women should be honored this Memorial Day. No matter where they rest, they are forever rooted deeply in our nation’s bedrock—in its stone.

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.”

—Laurence Binyon, ‘For the Fallen’ (1914)
just before the slaughter on the Western Front in WWI.

General Richard ‘Butch’ Neal, USMC (Ret.), used the following as a dedication epigraph in his memoir What Now, Lieutenant? Leadership Forged from Events in Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Beyond:

“From this day to the ending of the world,

We in it shall be remembered,

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother….”

William Shakespeare

Brothers. I want to tell you about one, my friend Jim Zumwalt’s. Because not all our heroes… not all of those we should honor… die on the battlefield. Some survive and die after a full measure of life. Others come home wounded and injured and are ill-destined to fall too soon and far from where fate has placed a finger upon them. Upon commissioning in 1968, Jim’s brother, Elmo R. Zumwalt III, attended the Navy Communications Course in Newport, Rhode Island, and later reported to USS Claude B. Ricketts (DDG-5) in Norfolk as the Electronics Officer. In 1969, he volunteered to serve as a swift boat commander, one of the most dangerous assignments in Vietnam. Lieutenant JG Zumwalt took command of Swift Boat PCF-35 and, during his tour, was awarded two Bronze Stars for heroic conduct. He and his crew also received the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for their heroism in Cambodia. Jim’s brother did—for a while—survive the war. Elmo died in August 1988 from cancer believed caused by exposure to Agent Orange. The U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam used the defoliant and sprayed continually along the rivers he and his crew patrolled. The very thing meant to help him and his men ultimately led to his death.

The often mortal—or life-shattering—wounds of war… of service to our country are not always seen, but they are there, and we must recognize and honor those who suffered them.

I’ll share a brief vignette from Butch Neal that’s a fitting close to this perspective on Memorial Day. He told me about a chance meeting at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as we were finishing work on his book. I knew we had to add to his story when I heard it. The Marine mentioned in it—*John Bobo, a 24-year-old posthumous Medal of Honor recipient—died providing defensive fire for his men after his leg was blown off in a battle that pitted a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) battalion of 700+ men against the approximately 150 men of Company I, Third Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division. Only three of the seven officers in the field at the beginning of that battle walked out. Butch was one of them and afterward was awarded his first Silver Star. Here’s what he told me (that became the PostScript to end his book):

Recently, as was my custom, I stopped at the Vietnam Wall to see the names and think for a few minutes about my Brothers. As I stood in front of Panel 17E, looking at the fifteen names all clustered around row 70, a little elderly lady (a grandmother type, my age) moved almost in front of me. I was about to step back to give her more room when I realized she was one of the volunteers who helped people at the Wall find names, learn the history, etc. She was polite and said she was looking for row 70. I pointed it out to her and asked. “What name are you looking for?”

“John Bobo.” Her eyes hadn’t stopped scanning the names.

I almost fell over. I pointed to his name.

“Thank you. I’m doing a pencil etching of his name. Someone requested it on our website,” she said.

Talk about a coincidence, it’s a small world, whatever, but it was an amazing happenstance. “John was a Medal of Honor recipient,” I told her. She immediately checked her list, nodding her head when she saw that was so. “Thank you for what you’re doing,” I told her, then turned away to continue my walk, happy although it was cold, raining, and the cherry blossoms had not yet exploded. There were those—other than me—who would not let my Brothers be forgotten.

Butch Neal

IN STONE For Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, please take a moment to pay respect to—and remember—all who served like John Bobo and Elmo R. Zumwalt III and have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.

*Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Weapons Platoon Commander, Company I, Third BattalionNinth MarinesThird Marine Division, in Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 30 March 1967. Company I was establishing night ambush sites when the command group was attacked by a reinforced North Vietnamese company supported by heavy automatic weapons and mortar fire. Lieutenant Bobo immediately organized a hasty defense and moved from position to position encouraging the outnumbered Marines despite the murderous enemy fire. Recovering a rocket launcher from among the friendly casualties, he organized a new launcher team and directed its fire into the enemy machine gun position. When an exploding enemy mortar round severed Lieutenant Bobo’s right leg below the knee, he refused to be evacuated and insisted upon being placed in a firing position to cover the movement of the command group to a better location. With a web belt around his leg serving as tourniquet and with his leg jammed into the dirt to curtail the bleeding, he remained in this position and delivered devastating fire into the ranks of the enemy attempting to overrun the Marines. Lieutenant Bobo was mortally wounded while firing his weapon into the main point of the enemy attack but his valiant spirit inspired his men to heroic efforts, and his tenacious stand enabled the command group to gain a protective position where it repulsed the enemy onslaught. Lieutenant Bobo’s superb leadership, dauntless courage, and bold initiative reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

How to Target the Right Size for Your Book and Why You Should

Perhaps you want to write a book or have one written for you. And when it comes to size, you think about the number of pages. Non-professional writers often do. But you should not focus on the page count. Instead, target the right size for your book.

I’ll explain.

Writing clients often tell me they want their book to be ‘XXX’ hundred pages… 200, 400, etc. Usually a round number. Sometimes they’ll give an example. Something like this: “My story’s a bit like ‘Outlander,’ time travel and romance. Fictional but based on actual events in a different country and setting. From the present to two centuries ago and back to the present. So, maybe my book should be about the same size.”

It takes experience to judge the right length for a story, and professional writers use the market to gauge the parameters. But the number of pages is not what you should use as your guide to honing the plan for a book. Instead, use a word count target. I’ll get into that further, but first, here is some context.

One of my past projects, a Historical Fiction series, averaged over 176,000 words per book. In a 6-inch by 9-inch format: Book One is 151,550 words at 422 pages. Book Two is 155,096 words at 436 pages. Book Three is 166,685 words at 478 pages. Book 4 (ending the epic saga), is over 233,000 words and 706 pages.

Book One in the fiction series Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is 850 pages, 255,781 words (format: 6.11-inch width x 1.42 spine x 9.23 length). To give you a nonfiction example: ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ by Spencer Johnson is 25,504 words, 96 pages in 5 x 6.75 format. And ‘If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood’ by Gregg Olsen is 115,391 words, 431 pages in 5.5 x 8.25 paperback format.

As with any published book, the page count includes all parts (not just the narrative) of the book. Front matter comprises the Title Page, Copyright Notice, Table of Contents, and often an opening statement by the author or an epigraph (to set the story’s tone to come). It can also contain other information the author—and story—might require to help the reader. The series project I mentioned above includes 6-8 maps per book, a historical setting preface, a recap of events in the preceding books, a Dramatis Personae (a guide to the cast of characters), and a book-specific opening epigraph. In the back (the back matter), the last page is the author/client’s bio. With some variation, all published books have front and back material that adds to the page count of the actual narrative.

So—and this is not uncommon—I often walk clients through how the page count of a print book is affected by its format. A 50,000-word book in a 5×8 Trade Paperback format will have more pages than the same number of words in a 6×9 book. The publisher or the self-publisher will determine what book size/format they want to produce the book.

When discussing writing, co-writing, and ghostwriting projects, I focus on word—not page—count. I can then set precise writing goals using a target word count and establish the work’s time frame. When working with a client, those goals become a contractual milestone schedule of deliverables for their project. It includes the Planning & Development stage (the story outline, initial scene/chapter list, and writing plan), the Writing stage (number of words delivered each month), the Internal Edit stage (writer/client collaborative), and if included in the contract, a Post-Draft Edit period of writer collaboration with the client’s third-party editor.

If you want to write a book, I recommend you set a word count target and use it to plan for story development and the actual writing (your word count goals per month). Below are average word count or word count ranges for works of fiction and nonfiction. These are important because a book intended to be sold commercially is a product, and there are market expectations. A professional writer or ghostwriter will know that market if you plan to have your book written for you. Still, you need to know it too.

Suppose the book you want to write (or have written) is complex, with multiple characters, story arcs, settings, and locations. [See what I mentioned above about the word count size of Outlander and the series I worked on for a client.] In that case, it will probably require planning for a higher word count than the following averages.


Based on an analysis of the top 15 sellers in the respective categories at Amazon:

  • Fantasy: 109,000
  • Historical: 102,000
  • Horror: 102,000
  • Literary: 98,000
  • Science Fiction: 98,000
  • Action/Adventure: 96,000
  • Contemporary: 96,000
  • Women’s Lit: 94,000
  • Mystery/Thriller/Suspense: 91,000
  • Romance: 91,000
  • Crime: 89,000
  • Religious: 75,000
  • Erotica: 58,000


  • How-to / Self-Help, Career, and Education: 40,000–50,000 words
  • Standard Nonfiction: 70,000 to 80,000 words
  • Creative Nonfiction: 80,000 to 100,000 words
  • Memoir / Biography: 60,000 to 120,000+ words

Stories can and should find their natural length. Achieving that comes from professionally proofreading/developmentally editing drafts that follow the first. [The first draft should be used to work out the basic story, arcs, theme, and content.] Then refining all elements further, assessing, sometimes addressing, the flow and pace, and marking up for another round of editing/rewriting.

You can make the above process more efficient. Use the average word count for your book type as a guide. Make the optimal size of your book an early consideration in the planning process. It matters to your story development.

As of this writing, Dennis Lowery has ghostwritten 37 books (14 novels, 12 nonfiction, 9 memoirs, and 2 creative nonfiction) for clients. He has also worked on dozens of titles to help improve, develop, edit, and provide publishing assistance.

The Child Inside

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.” — Pablo Picasso

Here’s why—for me—this is the truth (and I know, sometimes the truth is in the beholder’s eye or ear; it’s how you see or hear it from your own perspective):

I spent over three decades burying the child-artist in me from the time I was 18 years old. Pushing something I had shown a talent for (writing) deep under a uniform (Navy) or businessman’s suit (as manager and executive working for others and then as owner of my own businesses). It was who I thought I must be to provide for my family. My brain told me so.

I had successes… and failures (adding seasoning to life) along the way. Enough success and reward for rationalizing that what I did was what I should do. And to continue doing it even though it was sucking the life out of me. But all I have lived and learned has made me who I am today. [Undoubtedly, a better writer than I would be otherwise and one who can draw upon deep and varied experience.]

I would not erase the past. But back in 2008, what was ahead concerned me. At the time, the present pressed hard because I felt my future, the vision I had for it, was fading. I was so dissatisfied, so mad at the business and professional life controlling me instead of me governing it. I changed from what I thought I had to do to what I wanted. And that was tough because I wasn’t wealthy. My wife and I’ve done well, but I also had to work and earn a living, just like most people. But if you want something enough, you can tough it out. You can take what is meaningful and fit it into your life or make it the purpose that drives you.

This, too, became a truth I can attest to. But I had to plan and execute a transition.

The backstory for you:

I could read at five and have been an avid reader all my life. I enjoyed writing but didn’t labor for years, scribbling away with unsold manuscripts or the next great American novel in a drawer or sitting on a dusty shelf. But over the years, in my correspondence, in observations on life, and even mundane business letters, staff reports, etc., many had commented on how well I wrote. [My 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Goodwin, bless her soul, was the only teacher I had who saw something in me I wouldn’t discover in myself until 30 years after her class.] So, I enjoyed writing and the praise, but that did not trigger me to commit to writing as a pursuit or passion.

In the summer of 1978, right after my first-year orientation at the University of Arkansas, I made a life-changing decision. I joined the US Navy instead of continuing college. And for four years, I had many great (and some not-so-pleasant) experiences and traveled far. [I’ve written on some of those adventures.]

Then, for fourteen years, I was an employee/junior manager, then a manager/corporate-executive type.

Then a full-time owner and manager of challenging, capital-intensive, often stressful businesses.

From 18 to 48, I was all the above (read a bit more about my business background here). Until I had had enough of doing what I had done for so many years, enduring crushing pressure, and little genuine joy in what I did day-in-day-out. And replaced what I was doing with what I wanted to do.

I came late to the game; to the realization that writing was my vocation. When I had my epiphany, I took advice from Kipling (excerpt follows from his poem If, which I have carried in my wallet since 1992):

If you can make one heap of all your winnings,

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch.

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

I decided writing was where my heart and soul were. And who can enjoy life separate from the two? I couldn’t, so I became who I am. A writer.

It was difficult. It took more than a year to come together. I filled all those unforgiving minutes with effort and wrote and published my first book when I was 48.

Since 2008, I’ve ghostwritten 37 nonfiction and fiction books for clients, written dozens of novellas, short stories, and vignettes, and hundreds of essays, posts, and articles. Since 2009 (through my company Adducent), I’ve helped publish 80+authors and 100 titles (as of this writing). It’s been hard work because I had to figure things out and learn along the way. In all I’ve done, I’m self-taught like Steve Jobs. And I’m still learning and getting better as a writer and a publisher. That will never stop. My business life still has its stress. If you’re self-employed, as I have been for 28+ years, you can’t avoid or eliminate that. But I control and care about my work and what I create (or help clients create).

So, here’s the thing. The above is about me, but now, what follows is for you.

Believe in your heart of hearts and work at what you want to, even if it’s while everyone else is sleeping or playing.

Stand resolute before those who doubt you (whether they say it to your face or if you know they are thinking it).

Deal with self-doubts by doing the work, whatever it may be. Action can and will handle self-doubts. Make it happen.

Deal with criticism because it will come. When it happens, take anything you can learn to improve or get better and discard the rest. Let it, the valueless husk, pass.

If you aren’t willing to do the work, to put in the time and deal with the grind, then don’t whine, worry, or complain about your life and future. Just surrender and take the easy way out, ceding control to others… to circumstances.

But if you want to control your destiny…

Do the work. Hone your craft. Learn what you need to take your life in the direction you want. If it’s important enough to you… you’ll find a way.

You can find that child in you, the one you thought was long gone. They’re there. Inside. Just sleeping… waiting for you to wake them. So, they can paint, draw, sing, write, invent, build, capture beauty with a camera… or just dance.

The child inside you can’t, and won’t, come out unless you are brave enough to let it.

I hope you are. I hope you do.

I’ll leave you with this thought from a writer and author much more famous than I…

“For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some of the reader comments:

“I am so motivated after reading this because I know in the next couple of years; I am going to be a counselor. Right now, I am an Accounts Payable Analyst; I get up at 5 am, go to the corporation from 8 am – 5 pm, then I go home and study until 12 – 2 am; then back up at 5 am and it starts all over again. All the while maintaining an A average in college. Just like you said, ‘Do the work.’ My dream, my goal, and my desire is to help hurting, broken people, to counsel people who are having a hard time adapting to change. Well, I need to get back to my studies. It always gives me great pleasure to read your work. Thank you. –Bernice J.

“Thanks for writing my story. Well, it would be with a few minor changes. ‘I would not erase the past.’ I so agree. The past is part of us.” –Vicki Tyley

“This is so good!” –Cilla C.

“This was awesome. Thank you Dennis Lowery for the solid valuable post!”–Ryan Best

“Wonderful!” –José Galisi Filho