Name: Lydia Massiah
Twitter Handle: Idea Macabre
YA or MG: YA
Genre: Ghost story/historical
Twitter Pitch (140 characters max): When 17yo Owen opens a cave
Celtic spirits possess those he loves &a stalactite girl is freed to resurrect her Roman lover in him #PeerPitch
1st 250 words of opening: Opening
The tracks had been laid. We were meant to find the cave, I realise now.
Its entrance was a dark gash in the cliff-side. Ropes of ivy bound the crags but did not conceal the opening completely. As I watched my comrades file down into the narrow ravine, I noticed marks on a rain-smoothed bank, and beneath, a run in the scree, as if someone had recently climbed up there.
“Sir.” I called quietly to my commander, acutely aware of how the gully channelled the sound of our every footfall.
Vectios halted ahead.
“Over there.” I pointed. The whole troop paused, heads tilted up. Had I discovered our prisoner’s hideout, here in this secret fold of enemy territory?
Vectios’ eyes darted to where I’d indicated. In the stillness, the crowding woods seemed to crane slender trunks at the cliff edge. Barely perceptibly, Vectios nodded. “Martialis – follow me,” he muttered.
I hurried forward at his command, swallowing down the dryness in my mouth. If Teutorigos was inside, we had him trapped like a fox in his hole. Edging past my fellow soldiers to get to the front of the line, I caught Segonix’s eye.
“Good work,” he mouthed. His nose still trickled blood from where our prisoner’s fist had struck.
“The rest of you, guard the approach,” Vectios instructed as he set off, scrambling up a path no wider than a goat track. He paused at the tell-tale marks, while I caught up.
“You’re right,” he said in an undertone.
Synopsis (200 word max): Told in two parallel narratives, during the Roman invasion of Celtic Britain, and now…
Deep within an uncharted cave, anxiety-ridden 17 y/o Owen, along with his friend and brother, discover an eerie stalactite girl. Unwittingly Owen frees her, but his action unleashes the vengeance of those who imprisoned the girl 2000 years before. Mysterious forces attempt to trap them underground, and pursue them home. As Owen tries to work out the girl, Derwen’s past, and unearth her tragic Celtic history, he wonders what crime she committed. The boys suspect her of causing them harm – unless something else has escaped from the cave.
Derwen’s relationship with Roman spy, Martialis, is key to understanding events, their history of deceit and betrayal, which culminated in an horrific underground flood.
After spirits possess Owen’s brother and best friend, and threaten his life, Owen realises Derwen’s Celtic brothers will do anything to prevent her being reunited with her Roman lover, but wonders what links him to Martialis.
As lovers’ vows made underground to free each other take hold, Owen must summon his courage, or history will repeat, and the cave will claim them all. But to stop the violence, he must become Martialis forever.
Feedback tips (any areas where you specifically want people to focus?): In the synopsis, trying to capture a dual narrative in 200 words is hard, so I’ve focused on one character. I hope this isn’t totally confusing, since the book begins with the cave, and Martialis, in the past, yet my synopsis has Owen as the focus.
Similarly, in a Twitter pitch, I have to focus on one story, so basically any ideas on how to capture a flavour of both strands concisely would be much appreciated!