Raven Song by I. A. Ashcroft
Series: Inoki’s Game (Book 1)
Paperback: 290 pages
Published Date: March 14, 2016
Publisher: Lucid Dreams Publishing
A century ago, the world burned. Even now, though rebuilt and defiant, civilization is still choking on the ashes.
Jackson, a smuggler, lives in the shadows, once a boy with no memory, no name, and no future. Ravens followed him, long-extinct birds only he could see, and nightmares flew in their wake. Once, Jackson thought himself to be one of the lucky few touched by magic, a candidate for the Order of Mages. He is a man now, and that dream has died. But, the ravens still follow. The nightmares still whisper in his ear.
Anna’s life was under the sun, her future bright, her scientific work promising. She knew nothing of The Bombings, the poisoned world, or the occult. One day, she went to work, and the next, she awoke in a box over a hundred years in the future, screaming, fighting to breathe, and looking up into the eyes of a smuggler. Anna fears she’s gone crazy, unable to fill the massive hole in her memories, and terrified of the strange abilities she now possesses.
The Coalition government has turned its watchful eyes towards them. The secret factions of the city move to collect them first. And, old gods stir in the darkness, shifting their pawns on the playing field.
If Anna and Jackson wish to stay free, they must learn what they are and why they exist.
Unfortunately, even if they do, it may be too late.
Raven Song is the first of a four book adult-oriented dystopian fantasy series, a story of intrigue, love, violence, and the old spirits in the shadows who wait for us to notice them again. Readers of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Charlie Human will enjoy this dark magic-laced tale rooted on the bones of what our world could become.
‘Aware that this is just the first book in the series and I am hooked and will read on, however as a standalone book it would still make a fantastic read.’ ~ Mark on Goodreads
‘A good urban fantasy with well-developed characters and a grim and complex setting. I would recommend.’ ~ Dannica Zulestin on Goodreads
‘Ashcroft has a brilliant imagination coupled with an eloquent writing style that draws the reader in, makes us feel a wide array of emotions, and holds us captivated to the very end. I anxiously await the next volume in this series.’ ~ K. McCaslin on Amazon
‘I usually think endings are the worst part of most books, hard to wrap up into a logical and solid ending, this book did well at it I was satisfied but very much looking forward to the next book.’ ~ taruofatlantis on Amazon
‘The narration by Mikael Naramore was good. He was able to capture the voices of the characters well, especially the manic Tony. In general the characters were distinguishable and the voicing gave life to each of them. The production quality was good as well.’ ~ Poonam on AudioBook Reviewer.
I. A. Ashcroft has been writing fiction in many forms for almost twenty years. The author’s first book, written at age seven, featured the family cat hunting an evil sorceress alongside dragons and eagles. This preoccupation with the fantastical has not changed in the slightest.
Now, the author dwells in Phoenix, AZ alongside a wonderful tale-spinner and two increasingly deranged cats. Ashcroft writes almost exclusively in the realm of darker fantasy these days, loving to entertain adults with stories of magic, wonder, despair, violence, and hope, bringing a deep love of mythology into every tale penned. The author also loves diverse and intriguing casts of characters.
When not buried in a book, one might find Ashcroft learning languages, charting road trips, and playing tabletop RPGs with clever and fun people.
AUTHOR’S INTERVIEW :
1. When do you first realise that you wanted to be a writer?
Ans. I’d always written, and people told me I was good at it, but for some reason it never occurred to my thick head that “being a writer” for a living was something people could do. I was not encouraged to pursue the arts of any kind in school. We didn’t have creative writing courses. Looking back, at my shelf full of books in childhood, at how far lost I was in stories and how much I tried to make them without any directive, it makes me sad that it simply was never presented as an option. But, that need nested in my head for a long time while I pursued other things (aimlessly). And it finally sprouted when I was crafting short backstories for characters I’d made for a tabletop game a few years back. I kept coming back, night after night, writing more. It honestly got a little consuming. And I realized… I needed this. Like one needs air. So I kept writing, and finally harnessed the power of the internet to discover Being A Writer actually was a choice. I’ve been on that road ever since.
2. What does literary success look like to you?
Ans. Success looks to me like having readers to talk to, when some excited soul posts an update to their Facebook that your book just came out, when people, and it doesn’t matter how many, are just plain delighted to see your writing. My goal is to find a thousand readers like that. That’s my vision of success.
3. The first book that made you cry?
Ans. Oh geez. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’d re-read Sorcerer’s Stone the night before and was in that fond mental place where the adventure was not near so dire and the characters so young and bright and full of hope. Then, Deathly Hallows turns up, and so many died that I truly loved. I didn’t cry so much as I went really quiet and just stared at a wall for a half hour. I sometimes get very emotionally attached to stories… and that was one that messed me up pretty good for a while that night, ha.
4. What would you say is your writing quirk?
Ans. I love metaphor. Too much. It’s my fondness for poetry exercising itself in an unhealthy way! It makes my work long-winded when I draft. I spend more time cutting my work down to be well-paced and with clear meaning than I do penning it in the first place.
5. What was one of the most surprising things you discovered while writing?
Ans. Who you think your character is and who they really are can change drastically over the course of a draft. I remember having a very specific idea of Anna in Raven Song—brilliant, kind of bubbly and sweet, maybe a little naïve, her heart always in a good place. And she does have those traits still to a degree. But when I was writing her, I began to realize that when I channeled her character, she was one of the bravest survivors I’d ever worked with. I’d known that was part of her, but not the strongest part, not the through-line that would determine all she would do and become. It was a wonderful surprise, to be honest. Let your characters be themselves, and they’ll be so much more full of life.
6. Have you ever gotten a reader’s block?
Ans. Yes. When I was in college, I went almost three years without reading anything for fun. This was almost sacrilege to me, because I’d always been an extremely active reader with a lot of series that I loved—but my energy was spent. When I picked up anything, it was usually on non-fiction subjects that other students wanted to talk about, or books I was told to read for class. I learned a lot, but the cost was high for my mental well-being. It was part of the reason why I decided not to go after any further formal education after I graduated! It took me almost a year after that to just pick up a book and derive true happiness from reading it again. Perhaps not surprisingly, my writing during that time wasn’t too great either!
7. What do you understand by ‘ don’t write but show’?
Ans. My understanding of ‘don’t write, but show’ is that it’s very easy to relate an event or a scene, but to truly get the reader to feel it, it can’t just be a simple line-item description of what happened and where. You have to immerse the words in detail and little flashes of insight that mimic what someone would feel and experience if they were truly present in that moment. All the perceptions you relate must be further colored by a character’s unique experiences and way of interpreting them—if that’s not apparent, it’s writing, but it’s not great writing.
There was a scene that was troubling me in a short story I was penning some weeks ago. Here’s an excerpt from the first draft:
“She saw the flames had consumed everything. Fear clutched her heart. She didn’t know what she would find in the rubble pile, what could possibly be left. But, she began to dig.”
It’s not bad. But it doesn’t really evoke anything particularly memorable, either. I later revised it to:
“Ash puffed under her shoes: the pages of books that she’d loved more than anyone she’d met in real life. Her hands shook, horror filling the void—and she remembered! Her mother’s locket! Her logic knew that the delicate thing had to have been destroyed. But logic wasn’t the same thing as hope. So, she began digging through the ash and rubble, smearing her hands and arms with her former life, desperate to find what remained.”
It’s a little flowery, I admit, and I’ll probably revise it further, but it tells us a lot more about who the character is, what she values, what she really feels and wants when she perceives that the fire took all of her possessions rather than just saying it’s all gone. That uniqueness of perception is what I think the difference is.
8. What was the hardest scene to write?
Ans. There are some moments in Raven Song where one of our heroes, Anna, is put in isolation, left to stew and think the worst of what’s going to happen to her. Writing a character engaging with others can be simple. Personalities sparkle off of each other, making the unexpected happen. Dialogue can introduce humor and drama. But a character in isolation can be very trying to read after only so long for many people, especially when the character is depressed and angry. I wrestled a lot with those scenes, making sure matters didn’t drag, and the funny thing that happened was that it helped shape Anna into a character that really could carry the rest of the story on the merits of her own personality. She’s been a favorite for many, so I’m glad I powered through it rather than changing the outline up to make matters easier for me as a writer!
9.What is most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
Ans. That is a great question. Honestly, I would say the most unethical things I’ve seen in the writer’s life haven’t come within the publishing industry itself, but within distribution of self-published works and copyright law. There was a writer who had several of her works yanked from Amazon one week—her main source of income. Someone had filed a DMCA takedown notice against her. The prior work proof that this troll filed for the claim was the writer’s own website where she’d shared some of her book’s chapters. You’d think a writer might be able to just point to the proper copyright registries for the writing and her website ownership and get reinstated, but it didn’t shake out that way. Amazon’s point of contact was abysmal—I mean, they service millions of people, and customer service might let a thing or two get through the cracks —and it pretty much boiled down to the fact that she needed to convince the false filer to drop the DMCA claim. This person, though, actually wanted to extort her! She dug up a trail of proof and thankfully he dropped the claim of his own accord, and her work was reinstated, but she had to do it all herself with no help or redress. I have nightmares that this could happen to me someday.
10. Do you Google yourself?
Ans. On occasion! Once your name is out there and public, it’s hard not to resist the temptation, ha.
By the way, if you’d like to chat writing or check out my dark fantasy world in Raven Song, please, feel free to come visit me at ia-ashcroft.com. There will be some free short stories given to those on my email list, and there’s some exciting upcoming news as well regarding the second book in the series, Eclipse of the Sun. And I always love to chat with fellow readers and writers! Thanks for spending some time with me here—have a lovely winter, cozied up in imaginary worlds of your own!
A boy lay on the broken sidewalk, eyes closed. He was pale and thin, looking not a day over ten years old. His half-clothed body shuddered against the chilly night air. His bony frame scraped against the grime of the street as he curled into himself, trying to keep back the cold. Overhead, the stars hung bright and lonely.
In the alley, almost invisible against the midnight darkness, a man stood tall over the boy. His well-pressed suit was as black as the shadows, as his skin, and as the raven on his shoulder. The way he hovered over the child, he seemed a strange guardian. But his eyes were turned upwards to the sky, away from the boy’s plight, as if it was no real matter. In those black eyes the stars were mirrored, impossible and brilliant. Those eyes stared back into the past, when the celestial lights were loved and revered, when each constellation had a story.
Once upon a time… this was when the world had sung to him, the dream-walker, the song-weaver, the star-stringer.
Once, before humans had forgotten his name.
Now, the starry sky was almost hidden by the glowing blue haze of the Barrier, a shield cast over what was left of the city: proud New York, ruined, rebuilt, defiant.
The stranger kept staring upwards into oblivion, even as the boy let out an unhappy whimper, chills wracking his weak frame. The raven flew from the stranger’s shoulder then, alighting onto the sidewalk, picking past the weeds and rubble. It rejoined its fellows who had settled amicably around the child, oblivious to the fact that ravens were all supposed to be dead. One hundred years ago, poison had leeched into the earth, into the grass, into the grazers, and into the corpses left behind. The blight spared little, its kind no exception. Regardless, this impossible creature affectionately brushed at the boy’s dark hair with its beak.
At the touch, the boy awoke with a start. His wide, uncomprehending eyes took in the world as he struggled to sit up, his head swinging around wildly; past awnings and high rises he had never seen, past scrawled words and graffiti he could not understand. He teetered to his feet, then fell back down again as his knees gave out, sending the birds around him into flight.
He saw no starry eyes in the darkness, no stranger standing nearby. He was halfnaked, shivering, hungry, and alone, his head aching down to his teeth. The nameless boy shook off the dreams he couldn’t remember and wondered where he was.
If there had been any passersby on that cold autumn night, they would have sworn that this boy hadn’t been there a minute ago, and no stranger or ravens had been there at all.