It's not like anyone has submitted anything fresh and new lately (hint, hint) so . . . Dear E.E. and Minions,
I’m back for a sixth go at this.
You all offer very good questions regarding the query. I answer the questions in the story but can’t figure out how to include all this information in a one-page (250-word) query. I’m supposed to hook the agent and make them (you) want to read more. Apparently, the only thing I’m succeeding at is pointing out what isn’t in the query instead of getting you interested in reading the whole story. This is my problem.
I decided to write a synopsis with most of the plot points so you know the whole outline of the story. I’ve included it after the query. As usual, I welcome your comments and criticisms – How else am I going to get a clue? So…Here’s the new version of the query:
Dear E.E. and Minions,
When Shelly Cartwright hires drifter Dustin Leahry to work her West-Texas ranch he has no idea he'll be facing down four gunmen twenty-four hours later. The year is 1885, and Shelly is the county's last holdout against August Benson's land-grabbing scheme. Benson's gunslingers are there to intimidate Shelly into selling . . . or to drive her out by force.
Seeing the determined looks on the gunmen’s faces Dustin realizes things have turned deadly and puts his lightning-fast gun hand to good use disarming them. He’s seen range wars before and knows he should move on but he likes Shelly’s defiant nature.
Shelly partners with a rancher from Pecos to sell a herd of horses in Abilene planning to use her share of the money to buy supplies and hire more men. Shelly takes Dustin and half her crew on the drive, leaving the other half to turn her home into a fortress. During the drive, Dustin and Shelly fall in love.
Meanwhile August Benson moves to San Angelo and takes over, ousting the leaders and appointing his men as the law. Having no one to stop him, he sends his hired hands to wipe out everyone on the Cartwright Ranch. Dustin and Shelly return in time for the fight. The gunmen have the tables turned on them by traps built by the Cartwright crew.
Dustin takes the fight to San Angelo knowing he’s facing a town run by his loved one’s enemy. If he fails, Shelly and her men are dead. If he succeeds, the deaths he causes might make him a wanted man.
Drifter: San Angelo Showdown is approximately 118,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Dustin Leahry is a drifter. He’s wondered the west seeking to live the life of his heroes for several years. He’s experienced a lot of adventures.
He ends up outside of San Angelo, Texas working for Shelly Cartwright. Shelly is doing her damnedest to keep her ranch going out of respect to her dead dad.
August Benson has been trying to get possession of the ranch for as long as Shelly can remember. Since her dad’s death, Benson’s increased the pressure on her.
Benson has plans for the San Angelo Valley and all of Texas. He believes he is the only person who can lead Texas to the greatness it’s capable of. He’s angry that Shelly can’t see how a woman is incapable of being a rancher and thinks she should sell the land to him.
Benson has been nice to the girl so far but has reached his limits. He wants to take over all of Tom Greene County and sees Shelly as his last obstacle. Once he controls the County, he plans to start taking over the State of Texas.
Ed Johnas is a gunman and bully. He’s lived around San Angelo for most of his life. He works as Benson’s enforcer.
Shelly can’t believe her dad’s former friend would resort to murdering her and her men despite the fact she thinks he’s evil. She’s had run-ins with Johnas in the past with him making passes at her during town dances. She sees Johnas as a bully but not her killer.
Twenty-four hours after Dustin goes to work for her, Shelly is forced to understand that Benson will kill her and the men left on her ranch. Four hired guns confront Dustin and the other men when they’re fixing fence ruined by Benson’s hands. If not for Dustin, the men she considers family would be dead.
She trusts her “uncles” with her life and knows they will do whatever they can to keep the ranch going. She develops a plan but is afraid of it falling through so she steals away to Abilene hoping to form an alliance with a rancher in Pecos. She has to go to Abilene to send a telegraph because Benson has eyes and ears throughout San Angelo and would learn of her plan to get help.
Dustin along with Lobo, Shelly’s closest “uncle” tracks her to Abilene. In Abilene, Dustin and Shelly become closer. The rancher in Pecos accepts her offer only if she and her men will do the work of driving a herd of horses to Abilene.
Shelly, Dustin, and Lobo return to the ranch where they take half the men to Pecos for the horse drive. Before they leave, Lobo instructs the men staying behind to dig a trench then fill it with cacti and cover it with Yucca fronds as a protective measure against attack.
August Benson determines to take over San Angelo before worrying about Shelly’s ranch. While Shelly and Dustin drive the horses to Abilene, Benson solidifies his hold on the city by confining the City Fathers. Johnas kills the sheriff and Benson appoints his men as the law. During the drive, Shelly and Dustin fall in love.
August Benson elects himself mayor of San Angelo and orders a new mayor’s mansion built. Once the mansion is built, he will finish his business with Shelly by killing her men and forcing her into prostitution.
Benson’s methods of controlling the city create a spilt in his men. Several of them plan to leave when the mansion is finished. Benson discovers the betrayal through his house girl whom he rapes in a fit of anger.
The horse drive is a success and Shelly buys enough supplies to keep the ranch running. Shelly, Dustin and the men return to the ranch as the Mayor’s Mansion is finished in San Angelo.
Since he isn’t well known, Dustin rides into San Angelo so send half the money from the drive to Shelly’s partner in Pecos. Dustin is recognized and captured by men working for Johnas.
Benson sends his men to kill of the Cartwright crew and bring Shelly back to him. The majority of the raiders fall into the trench, making the odds mostly even. Lobo becomes aware the gunmen are trying to capture Shelly and they use that to their advantage to set a final trap for them. Several of Shelly’s men are killed during the fight but they win out.
In San Angelo, Dustin manages to escape from Johnas’ men after being beaten. He returns to the ranch where he’s missed out of the gunfight. He decides he has to take care of Benson. He tells Shelly to leave if he doesn’t return.
The City Fathers are brought together and stage a revolt against their captors. Benson learns of the failure at the Cartwright Ranch which killed most of his men and sees the mob led by the City Fathers heading toward his mansion. He manages to escape the city.
Dustin arrives and confronts Johnas. Johnas is killed and Dustin is injured.
August Benson goes to his ranch to get money he has hidden so he can bribe his way out of any legal troubles from his failed coup of San Angelo. The house girl is there and she and her lover kill Benson.
Dustin rides back to the ranch, knowing his drifting days are over and he is going home.