WITCH, NUN, SHAMAN’S DRUM by Cameron Lawton – fantasy romance, self-published.
I know Cameron via Twitter and she's very serious about getting her work (various genres) published and learning as she goes, so she will welcome your constructive advice. But be gentle - writers bleed!
A Pagan re-telling of the Romeo and Juliet story. In a future world where the monotheistic religions have been banned and the old beliefs are now the norm; two young people from the opposite sides of magic-practice have fallen in love. Riga is a woman assassin and Iamo is a Priest of the Great Mother. The rules forbid them to be together and they have to accept a quest in order to be allowed to marry. After thwarting renegade priestesses, fighting a Demon Prince and freeing hostages with the help of Hedge-witches, Druids and an under-cover Christian Granny, they succeed. The climax of the book is a Black Shaman Drum ceremony and a Hand-fasting. Iamo, however, has negotiated the one thing he knows his lover really wants: a child.
On the positive side, there are lots of emotional tugs here, and several elements that suggest a rip-roaring story with lots of variety to interest readers of fantasy and romance, genres which go well together.
However, there is room for improvement, I feel. For example, there are some confusing phrases and words which we need to understand, otherwise they are wasted: magic-practice; woman assassin (do you mean female assassin or an assassin of women?); hand-fasting. The second half of the pitch (from After thwarting) needs work. First, pretty much the whole story is given in one sentence consisting of a list of events, suggesting no shape or suspense. Second, the sentence which tells us the climax doesn’t sound very climactic. And third, the final sentence doesn’t sound very final at all! Those three sentences that make up the second half of the pitch feel disjointed. I’m also a little discombobulated by the mismatch between the dramatic action and the sudden whimsy introduced by the “undercover Christian Granny”, which feels as though it has a different tone, one of humour. And I’m not convinced that this is a re-telling of the Romeo and Juliet story: it sounds slightly inspired by it at the beginning but I don’t really see it justifying the tag of “re-telling”. And finally, I’m not sure that Riga’s desire for a child quite sounds right in that context: you’ve got a feisty, warrior-like, assassinesque (I think) woman, determined to fight for and alongside her man, and her desire for a child sounds like an appendage. Of course, built into the story, I’m sure it fits beautifully – it just doesn’t quite feel right for the pitch.
This is going to be hard to rewrite as there’s too much I don’t know, but I’ll try.
“It’s a future world; monotheistic religions are forbidden and the old Pagan beliefs hold sway, with druids, hedge-witches and shaman[istic?] ceremonies. Riga and Iamo, two young people from opposing [warring??] sides of magic [?], have broken the laws and fallen in love. There is only one way for them to marry: they must succeed in a terrifying quest. Many obstacles face them, including villainous priestesses and a cruel Demon Prince holding the hostages whom Riga and Iamo must rescue. But the two lovers will conquer all their enemies and face any danger or ritual in order to be together. [I can’t find a way to include the needing a child bit… But I would like a sentence that indicates that they perhaps changed the views of the warring factions, or something bigger than the two of them?]”
Comments, please, lovely readers. Cameron awaits! And if you'd like to read a sample of her book, and even buy it, here's the link. Her blog is here.