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.
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.
1. What inspired you to write the book?
Originally, the framework of these characters and some of their drives were laid out in a tabletop role playing game I play with friends and family. And, every night, after the game ended, I’d lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, going over them all in my mind. These creations wouldn’t let me sleep. They wouldn’t let me work without intruding on my day. To cope with the imagination itch, I started writing again, something I hadn’t done for years. I think it was about a month in that I realized an incredible story was here that wanted to be shared with the world. A year and eight months later, plus a lot of hard work and uncertainty, and the first instalment was done.
2. When did you realise that you want to write a book?
Probably when I was in fourth grade. My teacher took me out of writing class and plopped me down in front of a computer, letting me write whatever I wanted. She said perhaps I could write a book. She said she believed I was good enough to do it. That effort never saw an audience—it was about my pet cat fighting dragons and evil sorceresses!—but I think the experience changed me, and when the characters of Raven Song took nest in my head, I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do but write and give them a home. Thanks for believing in me, Mrs. MacDonald. I wrote a book after all.
3. Who helped you in writing the book and please say about their contributions?
I can’t talk about putting this book together without talking about Steven, my “imagination buddy for life”, as we call it, the man whose brain was critical in incubating so many of these characters that I took and evolved to fit in a novel. He’s an oracular storyteller and ran the tabletop role playing game that gave rise to the basic ideas of Raven Song, me and another player creating the characters, several of which made it to the book in some form. Steven, however, first conceived Anna, her steadfastness, her persistent hope and bravery in the face of things she couldn’t explain. And no spoilers, but he also first developed two of the series’ primary villains, who I always found both insidious and strikingly unique. As I chopped it all up and rearranged it all into a new imagining, if I had an idea, I bounced it off Steven, and we built the fundamentals together. In the end, he was very surprised at the direction the book took and the new developments I introduced, but it was high praise indeed to find he still thought me true to the core of these people we’d grown to love.
4. How is your book going to inspire the readers?
I want the readers to find themselves in these characters. I want them to feel their hopes and fears on a primal level, to experience finding light in the darkness and the resolve to continue on when all else seems against them. I want people to see the humanity in all they encounter, even in the most lost and sinister of us. Most of all, I want people to look at the world in a different way when the series ends… perhaps I may be overly ambitious for a little fantasy series, especially as a debut author! But I will try.
5. If you are given the chance to change one thing in your book what would it be?
Hmmm. I wish I’d done more to make the diversity of the cast more apparent from square one; you really are just getting the tip of the iceberg, and I think many readers won’t quite realize its extent just yet. One thing about Raven Song is that, like New York City itself, it’s filled with people from all walks of life, many different mental wirings and heritages and inclinations. And, though the beginnings have been set to present these backgrounds, there’s so much more there. It does drive the characters, and does drive the history of why New York is as it is in 2147. I hope readers will forgive me for waiting until the second or third books to dig into it.
6. How do you find time to write and which part of the day is best for writing for you?
This is a hard one… I think I gave up on finding time a long while ago. I work a full-time job, one that sometimes bleeds into overtime. I take care of an apartment, cats, errands, etc. Life, like water, will expand to fill whatever container you give it; in this case, it will expand to take up all of your time, full stop. I have to aggressively beat back my commitments with a stick and carve out defiant little writing blocks if I hope to get anything done at all—the incentive being that if I don’t, I’ll just be disappointed and restless. Sometimes making time means being awake in the wee hours of the morning because my best ideas seem to happen before work. Ahh, that sleepy adrenaline that comes at 4 AM because your brain has finished processing That One Scene That’s Giving You Crap. Sometimes, though, other tasks and chores don’t get done because I need to write. Sometimes I drift out of contact with people for weeks while I’m on a really good writing kick. But one must honour the writing itch if you have it, and steal time where you must.
7. Which books have inspired you the most, in the journey of writing this book?
I could talk forever about books I’ve found inspiring and influential to me as a writer, but during the actual writing of the book itself, I actually found myself most driven by a book called The Bonerunners by Karen Turkal. It’s a fantasy, a little more YA-driven than what I do, but it’s dark and strange, which is akin to my style indeed. Karen and I have very dissimilar approaches in some ways, but I had the pleasure of being one of the writers to see her manuscript in a very raw form and offer feedback. Seeing her take that and polish, polish, polish, seeing someone else slowly getting their work to that place she wanted it to be—it helped me carry on sometimes when I didn’t get what was missing in my work that would make it compare to the authors I loved. The final form you see many books in, the things that inspire you… they had so many hours of perfecting poured into them, heart and soul, and being reminded of that can be all one needs when you’re discouraged with where a draft is in the here and now. Karen’s work pushed me to finish mine, and that’s about as inspiring as one can get.
8. What is the best advice, you would give for writers who are trying to write a book?
Like I mentioned when discussing “how do you find time?”: MAKE TIME. Do it. Beat life back with a stick where you can. Show up even when you don’t feel like it. When I don’t feel inspired, I feel like everything I write is laborious and hard-won, and on top of that, isn’t good at all. But after I come back to it after a little while, that’s not only 1000 or so words I didn’t have before, but with a little TLC, there’s actually some hidden gems in it. I suspect there’s no such thing as finishing a book you’ve only penned when you feel inspired, unless you feel like you have a few decades on your hands to do it all. 90% of Raven Song wasn’t written when I was feeling the muse at first. And your book will probably be the same! But if you show up every day and try regardless, I believe you will get it done. I believe in you.
9. What is the source of your positivity and ‘tips for life’?
Positivity is different for everyone, but what works for me is making sure I keep no-pressure hobbies that I can use to scratch the creative itch in lieu of writing if I need to. Writing is fun and awesome, but when you commit to a book, and then a next one, and then deadlines… it can be really hard to move from “just for fun” to “work”. No-pressure hobbies have no deadlines, no commitments, nothing to make you anxious. I do tabletop gaming, creating more characters and worlds and experimenting with them. I also play video games. When I hit a rough patch in writing, it helps me recharge in a relaxed setting, because goodness knows, if I only had my day job to fill that void, I’d never be recharged again. Also, I’ve had to learn not to be so hard on myself, which… is not easy. It’s a fine line, but if you can: hold your work to a high standard, but don’t let that turn into negativity against yourself as a creator.
10. What can we expect from you in the future?
So much! I’ve got the sequel to Raven Song in the late stages of the drafting cycle. I’ve got the third book in the early stages, and a fourth in outlining. I also have a standalone novel in the planning stages, a sort of wry heaven/hell comedy. And short stories! Free short stories are going to be sent out to those that sign up for my mailing list at ia-ashcroft.com. Check it out!
‘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.
Contact the Author:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/I.-A.-Ashcroft/e/B01CTY42S0/