Query help - Gothic - REVISED

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Joel Q
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Query help - Gothic - REVISED

Post by Joel Q » December 11th, 2009, 11:40 pm

REVISION ON Second Page of thread...

Here's my query. I'm looking for any suggestions you can provide.
Thanks
JQ

- -

Hell has come to Gothic.

On a job to secure his freedom, a self-condemning bounty hunter tracks a member of his former gang to Gothic, a Rocky Mountain coal-mining town. The bounty hunter traded his death sentence for a job with the railroad company to bring in—dead or alive—the members of his former gang. He has two weeks left to find the last man or face execution instead of a pardon.

The bounty hunter’s chase is hindered when he realizes Gothic has succumbed to an assault by fallen angels, masquerading as vampires.

The fallen angels, now demons, wreak destruction and fear while concealing their true identity. If they can cause doubt about their true existence as demons, then the world may doubt God exists, that Satan exists—leaving good and evil without merit.

The bounty hunter, who is a former pastor and convicted killer, must face his past—the murder of his family, his rebuke of God, his crimes and his first meeting with the leading demon—as he tries to rediscover his self worth.

In order to survive Gothic, the anti-hero must put his trust in a fallen angel, who shot him, and a college professor, who is a vampire folklore expert—while avoiding a vigilante mob of Hungarian miners bloodying the town as slayers.

Time is running out as the town’s people keep disappearing and his stay of execution is about to expire. The bounty hunter must decide whether to pursue the gang member or face the demons of his past, both physical and emotional.

The Color of Gothic is a 93,000-word dark fantasy with a hint of a western. The full manuscript is available on request.
Last edited by Joel Q on December 19th, 2009, 11:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Sandy Shin » December 12th, 2009, 12:03 am

The premise sounds interesting, but I have some troubles keeping the characters apart without given names, and the one-sentence-per-paragraph construction makes the query much too choppy. I would suggest combining them into 2 or 3 cohesive paragraphs for better flow. There also seem to be many conflicts presented here--I'd say to choose one main conflict and build your query around that to catch the reader's immediate interest (which is what you're trying to do with a query).

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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Tzalaran » December 12th, 2009, 12:51 am

The following are suggestions and impressions. Take what makes sense to you and ignore what doesn't. i'm an amateur as well...
Joel Q wrote: Hell has come to Gothic. So far, i like

On a job to secure his freedom, a self-condemning bounty hunter if the bounty hunter is the MC, name him here. tracks a member of his former gang to Gothic, a Rocky Mountain coal-mining town. The bounty hunter traded his death sentence for a job with the railroad company to bring in—dead or alive—the members of his former gang. He has two weeks left to find the last man or face execution instead of a pardon. cool premise

The bounty hunter’s chase is hindered when he realizes Gothic has succumbed to an assault by fallen angels, masquerading as vampires.

The fallen angels, now demons, wreak destruction and fear while concealing their true identity. If they can cause doubt about their true existence as demons, then the world may doubt God exists, that Satan exists—leaving good and evil without merit. pull these paragraphs together, and i'm not sure i agree with the logic in the last sentence. i think i understand what you are going for, but i think there must be better way of saying it.

The bounty hunter, who is a former pastor and convicted killer interesting twist, must face his past—the murder of his family, his rebuke of God, his crimes and his first meeting with the leading demon—as he tries to rediscover his self worth.

In order to survive Gothic, the anti-hero must put his trust in a fallen angel, who shot him, and a college professor, who is a vampire folklore expert—while avoiding a vigilante mob of Hungarian miners bloodying the town as slayers. Why would he have to trust these individuals? maybe give a reason?

Time is running out as the town’s people keep disappearing and his stay of execution is about to expire. The bounty hunter must decide whether to pursue the gang member or face the demons of his past, both physical and emotional. i like this ending, short and puts the stakes in play

The Color of Gothic is a 93,000-word dark fantasy with a hint of a western. [The full manuscript is available on request.] this section is unnecessary. 'Thank you for you time and consideration' is the most common suggestion for a close
The structure of your query turns me off because the paragraph style renders the read choppy. pull it together into 2-3 paragraphs with a connecting theme. e.g., paragraph 1 - the bounty hunter. paragraph 2 - the setting and paranormal elements. paragraph 3 - the bounty hunter's tie to the paranormal, and the decisions he must face.

Unless the MC is not named in the entire book, give his name so the reader gets to know who they will spend their time reading about. Having the name of the main character might help to ground the reader, and make the query flow better. Really good concept, and i think with some adjustments to make it flow more you will have a solid query.

Good luck!
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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Krista G. » December 12th, 2009, 12:47 pm

I think this query sounds really intriguing - I've often wondered what a western fantasy would look like, and this sounds just like what I would want it to be. That said, I agree with the other commenters who have pointed out the choppy paragraphs and lack of proper names; fixing both of those problems would go a long way.

Also, I liked the first half of the query a lot better than the second. Maybe you could clean up that sentence about God and Satan's existence, add another sentence to that paragraph highlighting your MC's internal conflict, and then finish it off by reminding us, as you do at the end of the query, that time is running out and the bounty hunter must decide (I'd keep it to just one sentence, though). I don't think we need to know about the fallen angel who shot him or the college professor at this point; they just muddy things up.

Good luck with this. I think you really have something here.
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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Joel Q » December 13th, 2009, 4:36 pm

Thanks for the suggestions. Time to revise.
JQ

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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Hillsy » December 14th, 2009, 7:43 am

Joel Q wrote:
Hell has come to Gothic. (Really like this. Some people might not, but I do!)

On a job to secure his freedom, a self-condemning bounty hunter tracks a member of his former gang to Gothic, a Rocky Mountain coal-mining town. The bounty hunter traded his death sentence for a job with the railroad company to bring in—dead or alive—the members of his former gang. He has two weeks left to find the last man or face execution instead of a pardon.

(Right...this para doesn't need much, if any tweaking...says everything you need to say - a minor addition of the characters name aside - says it clearly, and concisely. The stakes are there, the set-up is there, all we need now is what's going to complicate the catching of the crims and how the MC changes through the novel.)

The bounty hunter’s chase is hindered when he realizes Gothic has succumbed to an assault by fallen angels, masquerading as vampires. (Eh? Angels disguised as vampire? What's wrong with Fallen Angles? Why Vampires? Damn, I'm confused)

The fallen angels, now demons, (They are Demons now? What happened to the vampires?) wreak destruction and fear while concealing their true identity. If they can cause doubt about their true existence as demons, then the world may doubt God exists, that Satan exists—leaving good and evil without merit. (Right, thin explaination of motive and plot. Most people already doubt God, Satan, Demons, Angels et al exist. Why do they need to do anything further? At the moment everything is a knot of motives that need untangling.)

The bounty hunter, who is a former pastor and convicted killer, must face his past—the murder of his family, his rebuke of God, his crimes and his first meeting with the leading demon—as he tries to rediscover his self worth. (OK. He's got a past that's not great, that's ok. It links in with the current plight of the town, brill! But that good set-up is then ignored and instead we get a puddle of plot details. Focus on the theme's you've got going, one of religious doubt. Pastor, dead family, doubting god. Thread that through the para.)

In order to survive Gothic, the anti-hero must put his trust in a fallen angel, who shot him (of course....wha?), and a college professor, who is a vampire folklore expert (Eh?)—while avoiding a vigilante mob of Hungarian miners (yikes!) bloodying the town as slayers. (I feel like I'm on a fairground ride and I wanna get off - waaaaay too much in there. You don't even need to know about the prof and the fallen angel, let alone the hungarians (?)....and don't tell us he's an anti-hero, that sticks out like a sore thumb.)

Time is running out as the town’s people keep disappearing and his stay of execution is about to expire. The bounty hunter must decide whether to pursue the gang member or face the demons of his past, both physical and emotional.

The Color of Gothic is a 93,000-word dark fantasy with a hint of a western. The full manuscript is available on request.
Great start then it's almost as if you tried to fit everything that happened into 200 words. You don't need to include everything. You've got a character with conflict and stakes, his fall from grace ties in with the events in the town, the town itself is going to the dogs, and he's on a limited timeframe to sort it. That's all you need to focus on.

I mean this kinda plot/setting is right up my alley, and as a concept it sounds great. You just need to focus on getting the crux of the story across.

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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 15th, 2009, 8:33 pm

Also agree with others that this feels a little choppy. I would try smoothing it out. The first sentence also sounds like a tagline more than it does the beginning of a query to me. But that's just my own personal preference.

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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by djf881 » December 17th, 2009, 4:34 pm

I think you might want to find a couple of careful beta readers to look your MS over before you start querying agents, because you may have a few story problems. You've got a whole lot of stuff going on here, and the query letter doesn't really create an impression that you've synthesized it into a cohesive narrative.

Starting here:
On a job to secure his freedom, a self-condemning bounty hunter tracks a member of his former gang to Gothic, a Rocky Mountain coal-mining town. The bounty hunter traded his death sentence for a job with the railroad company to bring in—dead or alive—the members of his former gang. He has two weeks left to find the last man or face execution instead of a pardon.
This setup doesn't make a lot of sense. They've let a convicted murderer go free to hunt down this gang. Even in fantasy, American courts don't turn murderers loose to capture other criminals. That's why we have cops and federal agents. If this story is set in a historical period when law in the West was less organized and the railroad company held a lot of sway, it still doesn't really make sense that anybody would want to turn this murderer loose.

And if this is a period story, why doesn't he just run for it? It's a lot easier for a fugitive to get away from the law in a 19th-century setting. He can just jump on a horse and ride for Mexico, which seems more rational than hanging around waiting to be executed, or dealing with a town full of vampire demons to catch this dude. If the setting is contemporary, it makes no sense that a railroad company could spring a convicted killer from death row.

What if, instead of dealing with the railroad company, he's dealing with the Devil? That at least has some sort of internal logic. If he doesn't collect these bounties for the devil, maybe he'll go to Hell in their place or something.

Also, do you actually know coal mining in Colorado? Have you done this research? If you have, you should find a way to concisely make it clear to the person reading your query that you know what you are talking about. If you do not have the background, a revision to the manuscript may be in order. I spent about two minutes looking up Colorado coal mining in Wikipedia and I learned that mines in the Rockies were especially dangerous, and that there were a lot of clashes between mine ownership and labor unions surrounding the conditions in the mines there in the early part of the 20th century. You'd have a much stronger hook if you built that history into your setup. Maybe your protagonist is an ex-con who is sent to this town as a strike breaker in the 1920's, and discovers something more sinister. Now you've got an original spin instead of what seems to be fairly generic angel/demon/vampires.
The bounty hunter’s chase is hindered when he realizes Gothic has succumbed to an assault by fallen angels, masquerading as vampires.
Vampires are hot. Angels are hot. Why not vampire angels? But I hear agents are getting flooded with queries in this genre. My understanding is that you need to bring an original spin and stellar execution to the table to break through. Also, the hot angels and vampires are sexy. Your story doesn't seem to have a romantic subplot. You should note that the sweet spot for vampires/angels/shapeshifters seems to be crossover YA stories where a young female protagonist becomes involved in a romance with the supernatural creature. Men are not buying books about fallen angels, and this book doesn't even seem to have any women in it.
The fallen angels, now demons, wreak destruction and fear while concealing their true identity. If they can cause doubt about their true existence as demons, then the world may doubt God exists, that Satan exists—leaving good and evil without merit.
Once you bring God into the mix, you may be turning your book into religious-themed fantasy, rather than general-interest fantasy. I honestly don't know if there is a niche in the religious market for demon hunters. If this is a key element you may need to limit your search to agents who specialize in the Christian market. Writing religious fiction is, once again, an area where you need to have specific knowledge. If you have a sophisticated background in theology you need to find a way to get that across in a query. If you do not, and you haven't thoroughly researched the subject matter before integrating it into your MS, you may want to consider an extensive revision. At the very least, you need a beta read from somebody familiar with the Christian market.
The bounty hunter, who is a former pastor and convicted killer, must face his past—the murder of his family, his rebuke of God, his crimes and his first meeting with the leading demon—as he tries to rediscover his self worth.
If your MC is a pastor, you really need to have done your homework. Also, a crisis of faith is essentially resolved once you confront the character with proof of God's existence. And if this guy murdered his own family, it's going to be hard to generate sympathy for him. It kind of sounds like you're trying to mix "The Shack" with "Buffy" and these are not necessarily flavors that are going to be good together.
In order to survive Gothic, the anti-hero must put his trust in a fallen angel, who shot him, and a college professor, who is a vampire folklore expert—while avoiding a vigilante mob of Hungarian miners bloodying the town as slayers.
Now here you've got this professor who is going to be a major character. First, it this character will dump off a lot of exposition, which is not a good thing, and, second, can you think and speak in a voice that's appropriate for this character? You're introducing another element that requires research.

There are pieces in place here for a good book, but based on this letter I'm not sure you've written one. Consider revising along these lines.
Even in good times, the remote coal-mining town of Gothic, Colorado is a kind of Hell on Earth, and these are not good times. It's 1923, and the miners here are fed up with working in dangerous conditions for slave wages. Union organizers have begun agitating among the rabble. The brass at the mining company is handling the situation the same way they always do; they've hired out-of-town muscle to break some heads.

None of them realize something even nastier is at work in Gothic; demons have secretly infiltrated both factions, and they're working to make sure the labor dispute turns into an all-out war. As the situation moves inexorably toward catastrophic violence, a mysterious bounty hunter arrives on a midnight stagecoach. He's an ex-preacher, wrongfully convicted of murdering his family. He saved himself from the noose by cutting a deal with the Devil, but working for Hell has turned out to be a fate worse than death. In Gothic, he'll have to make a choice: either he delivers the souls of the townspeople to the Devil, or he'll pay with his own.
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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Dakota388 » December 17th, 2009, 4:54 pm

Joel Q wrote:Here's my query. I'm looking for any suggestions you can provide.
Thanks
JQ

- -

Hell has come to Gothic.

On a job to secure his freedom, a self-condemning bounty hunter tracks a member of his former gang to Gothic, a Rocky Mountain coal-mining town. The bounty hunter traded his death sentence for a job with the railroad company to bring in—dead or alive—the members of his former gang. He has two weeks left to find the last man or face execution instead of a pardon. I love your premise. I agree with the others about naming him. If your novel uses "the bounty hunter" kinda like Roland is hunting the man in black in the Dark Tower, then I get it. The problem seems to me that in a short query, it is hard to like a character that we are too distant from to know his name.

The bounty hunter’s chase is hindered when he realizes Gothic has succumbed to an assault by fallen angels, masquerading as vampires.Awesome.

The fallen angels, now demons, wreak destruction maybe a quick example to show us how they wreak destruction instead of just telling us that they do. and fear while concealing their true identity. If they can cause doubt about their true existence as demons, then the world may doubt God exists, that Satan exists—leaving good and evil without merit.

The bounty hunter, who is a former pastor and convicted killer, must face his past—the murder of his family, his rebuke of God, his crimes and his first meeting with the leading demon—as he tries to rediscover his self worth.

In order to survive Gothic, the anti-hero must put his trust in a fallen angel, who shot him, and a college professor, who is a vampire folklore expert—while avoiding a vigilante mob of Hungarian miners bloodying the town as slayers.

Time is running out as the town’s people keep disappearing and his stay of execution is about to expire. The bounty hunter must decide whether to pursue the gang member or face the demons of his past, both physical and emotional.

The Color of Gothic is a 93,000-word dark fantasy with a hint of a western. The full manuscript is available on request.
I would like to add that I respectfully disagree with the above poster that your story may be flawed. It may be, for all I know, but I don't think that can be told from just a query. Maybe the query just doesn't explain everything well enough to tell us all we want to know. Good luck. I like your premise a lot. My early queries, though making perfect sense in my head, left more questions than answers to other people.
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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Joel Q » December 17th, 2009, 5:15 pm

[quote="Dakota388
I would like to add that I respectfully disagree with the above poster that your story may be flawed. [/quote]
I agree with you. :-)

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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by djf881 » December 19th, 2009, 9:05 am

Dakota388 wrote:
I would like to add that I respectfully disagree with the above poster that your story may be flawed. It may be, for all I know, but I don't think that can be told from just a query. Maybe the query just doesn't explain everything well enough to tell us all we want to know. Good luck. I like your premise a lot. My early queries, though making perfect sense in my head, left more questions than answers to other people.
Well, agents will use the query to make assumptions about the manuscript and about the writer. This query describes a lot of disparate elements that don't seem to fit together, and it seems unlikely that the writer here is describing a logical, cohesive book-length narrative.

I wouldn't even bother to comment, normally. But there's the nub of a cool idea here. The process of extracting coal from the Rocky mountains is extraordinarily dangerous, Colorado mining towns are isolated, and there's a fascinating history of union violence surrounding this industry. Setting a horror story about demons against that backdrop would be interesting and unusual, and, if it was well-executed, I think a lot of agents would want to take a look.
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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Dakota388 » December 19th, 2009, 9:59 am

djf881 wrote:
Dakota388 wrote:
I would like to add that I respectfully disagree with the above poster that your story may be flawed. It may be, for all I know, but I don't think that can be told from just a query. Maybe the query just doesn't explain everything well enough to tell us all we want to know. Good luck. I like your premise a lot. My early queries, though making perfect sense in my head, left more questions than answers to other people.
Well, agents will use the query to make assumptions about the manuscript and about the writer.I agree. That is why he is here. This query describes a lot of disparate elements that don't seem to fit together, and it seems unlikely that the writer here is describing a logical, cohesive book-length narrative.

I wouldn't even bother to comment, normally. But there's the nub of a cool idea here. The process of extracting coal from the Rocky mountains is extraordinarily dangerous, Colorado mining towns are isolated, and there's a fascinating history of union violence surrounding this industry. Setting a horror story about demons against that backdrop would be interesting and unusual, and, if it was well-executed, I think a lot of agents would want to take a look.
The original poster presented his query here for review and help as, I don't believe, this is the query he plans to send out, only an early draft of it. I thought it was a tad insulting to call out his entire book over what you felt was a poor query. I wasn't trying to attack you, only give my opinion that I don't think his manuscript is necessarily bad based on a query letter that he is here trying to tighten up. I think it is perfectly acceptable to point out where you have questions concerning how pieces go together (which you have done and done well), but, I feel it is a far stretch to say his book doesn't make sense based on this.

I could write a query for The Lord of the Rings and make it look like an incomprehensible mess (which my query would probably do). That doesn't make it a terrible story. That is all I was trying to point out. I hope you weren't offended.
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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Joel Q » December 19th, 2009, 10:58 am

Dakota388, thanks for you support.

DJF881, You are correct that agents must make assumptions based on the query. Nathan could probably expand on that.

But I, and every writer, must believe that an agent will make the assumption that the writers have done the research (as I have done on both the coal mining industry in Colorado and the theology behind my plot points). The agents most also assume that the manuscript has been proof read, critiqued and rewritten to make it a logical story line with believable events. A query letter cannot contain the details behind every plot point that may or may not make complete sense in one sentence or phrase. The synopsis is the next step to reveal the plot and motives in the manuscript.

Almost every story has at least one twist or element that would not work in reality. That's one of privileges of being a writer, making something different work in a creative way to bring the reader into the world in your mind.

Let's face it, given the short amount of words/space that writers have with a query letter, a lot of assumptions must take place. And hopefully the agents will make the positive assumptions, unlike yourself.

Also, if you would like to rewrite my story and a query to match, please do so in another thread.

JQ

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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Joel Q » December 19th, 2009, 11:45 am

Here is a revision.

Questions:
1. Does it sound like he killed his own family? (He didn't)
2. Should I take out the sentence "In order to survive...?"

--
Hell has come to Gothic. (Nathan, I'll take this out if I send it to you :-)

On a job to secure his freedom, Jonathan Blair, a self-condemning bounty hunter, tracks a member of his former gang to Gothic, a Rocky Mountain coal-mining town. The bounty hunter traded his death sentence for a job with the railroad company to bring in—dead or alive—the members of his former gang. Blair has two weeks left to find the last man or face execution instead of a pardon.

The bounty hunter’s chase is hindered when he discovers Gothic is under assault by fallen angels, masquerading as vampires. The vampires slaugher the miners and wreak destruction while concealing their true identity as angels. If they can cause doubt about their true existence, then the world may doubt God exists, that Satan exists—dissolving the lines between what is good and evil.

The bounty hunter, who is a former pastor and convicted killer, must face his past—the murder of his family, his rebuke of God, his crimes and his first meeting with the leading fallen angel—as he tries to rediscover his self worth. In order to survive Gothic, Blair must put his trust in a repentant fallen angel and avoid a vigilante mob of Hungarian miners bloodying the town as slayers.

Time is running out as miners keep disappearing and Blair’s stay of execution is about to expire. The bounty hunter must decide whether to pursue the gang member or face the demons of his past, both physical and emotional.

The Color of Gothic is a 93,000-word dark fantasy with a hint of a western.
Closing paragraph...

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Re: Query help - Gothic

Post by Tzalaran » December 19th, 2009, 4:21 pm

Joel Q wrote:Here is a revision.

Questions:
1. Does it sound like he killed his own family? (He didn't)
2. Should I take out the sentence "In order to survive...?"

--
Hell has come to Gothic. (Nathan, I'll take this out if I send it to you :-)

On a job to secure his freedom, Jonathan Blair, a self-condemning bounty hunter, tracks a member of his former gang to Gothic, a Rocky Mountain coal-mining town. The bounty hunter traded his death sentence for a job with the railroad company to bring in—dead or alive—the members of his former gang. Blair has two weeks left to find the last man or face execution instead of a pardon.

The bounty hunter’s chase is hindered when he discovers Gothic is under assault by fallen angels, masquerading as vampires. The vampires slaugher the miners and wreak destruction while concealing their true identity as angels. If they can cause doubt about their true existence, then the world may doubt God exists, that Satan exists—dissolving the lines between what is good and evil. This sentence is flawed logically. Good and evil are independent of God and Satan, as belief systems that do not recognize the Christian mythology still have the concepts good and evil. another stickling point is that angels are servants of God, and any angel not following his implicit instructions is a fallen angel known after Lucifer's fall as a demon/devil. i think you are going for the concept that Satan's agents are attempting to throw doubt on the existence of God, thereby diminishing his power and increasing the influence of Lucifer... this concept needs reworked for clarity/realism.

The bounty hunter, who is a former pastor and convicted killer, must face his past—the murder of his family, his rebuke of God, his crimes and his first meeting with the leading fallen angel—as he tries to rediscover his self worth. In order to survive Gothic, Blair must put his trust in a repentant fallen angel and avoid a vigilante mob of Hungarian miners bloodying the town as slayers. i don't take that Blair kills his family from this, I don't care for the last sentence, but that is just me. Why he has to trust a fallen angel isn't clear. I'd suggest dropping the last sentence and moving this first sentence of this paragraph in with the opening paragraph, that would get all of the information about Blair out in the front of the query.

Time is running out as miners keep disappearing and Blair’s stay of execution is about to expire. The bounty hunter must decide whether to pursue the gang member or face the demons of his past, both physical and emotional.

The Color of Gothic is a 93,000-word dark fantasy with a hint of a western.
Closing paragraph...
overall a very clear query and with a few tweaks i'd see no reason to pass on it.
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