23 December 2016

Raven Song (Inoki's Game #1) by I.A. Ashcroft

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. 


Thanks for inviting me to speak with you on your blog! And thank you for sharing this time with me as well, readers.

When did you decide to become a writer?
Subconsciously, I knew what I was the moment I was old enough to tell a story. I was always the kid embellishing tales and turning them into fantastical adventures. My first “book”, so to speak, was about my house cat running off to fight dragons. It was silly and pretty imaginative, for that age, but when I hit middle and high school, my outlets for creativity kind of dried up. Being a writer wasn’t something sensible people did. It wasn’t in the career options my guidance counselor offered. I still had the notion I wanted to tell stories, and doodled and drew a lot, but when I mentioned I wanted to be an artist for video games, visually tell stories, I was met with a lot of… well… that face people might make if you told them you’d like to smash some eggs on your head and go dancing naked down Main Street.

So I went off to college to study language, and fell into film and animation halfway through, longing to tell stories still. I didn’t get a job in a visual art field, and started getting used to the sensible day job I did get.

Then, I found tabletop gaming, a bit like Dungeons and Dragons, and at night, I started writing about my characters. The feeling was like I’d found a friend who had been patiently waiting for me to come home for over a decade. “I’m a writer,” I said, wondering how on earth it took me this long to figure it out, and that was that. It’s what I dedicate myself to now. I can’t stop, because it’d be like not breathing anymore.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?
My first priority is to finish the Inoki’s Game series. I’m in love with this world, these characters, and so far—and I almost didn’t expect this—but my readers almost seem to be as passionate about this story as I am. So, here’s a shoutout to all of you who took a chance on my debut work! In addition to that, I’ve been submitting some short stories to a few outlets, and intend to eventually submit a manuscript for traditional publishing, but mostly I intend to have a book published every year until I die. It’s going to be great.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Raven Song is shared between two characters: the first, Jackson, an orphaned smuggler with magic he can barely control, and the second, Anna, a scientist who was torn out of her own time, developing strange magic of her own, and trying to come to grips with a much darker world than the one she knew.

Jackson is a man desperately trying to find his place. He’s doing his best to run his father’s company, but it’s fallen on tough times, and his prophetic nightmares and hallucinations of extinct ravens aren’t helping with his stability. He doesn’t know where he came from before he was adopted, and everyone who might have given him answers—such as New York’s Mage Order—has elected to shun him without much explanation. I would say what really makes Jackson special in all of this is that, although fate has been pushing him around, he has a keen mind which is going to seize on the thread of these riddles, and it’s going to keep unraveling them until he finds the truth. He’s not the sort of man who is going to let his existence pass by unremarked. And when he finds what he’s made of… watch out.

Anna, on the other hand, is probably the most courageous and steadfast woman I’ve ever worked with on the page. She’s been through hell—I won’t go into spoilers, but her last day in her own time was something no one would want to live through. Though she is kind, unassuming, and occasionally given to nerves, that day, she found a deep-seated ability to survive and a need to save people. She’s going to keep doing that, regardless of her newfound powers, abilities her logical mind doesn’t really want to accept at first.

I’m getting so excited talking about their stories! I hope you join their adventure in Raven Song. There’s so much more to tell.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I get my best ideas and have the most creative energy in the morning—which is odd, because I am the antithesis of a morning person. But my brain chemistry clearly likes this paradox, so I try to always get some writing done shortly after I wake up. Sometimes, that means I have to forcefully wake myself up in the wee hours so I can create a little before heading off to my day job or other obligations. During the writing of Raven Song, I had a little ritual where I would put together a special tea blend, a bit like a certain character in the book. The smell and the warm feel of the cup would get my mind in gear. I always also try to cordon off time in the evenings too, just so I can get as much done as I can, but I have a pretty full life, so sometimes I have to fight for that time tooth and nail.

Where do the ideas come from?
I don’t know, honestly. Sometimes I open up the dark hole in my imagination and some wild things start creeping out. Examining that too closely doesn’t seem wise.

I will say that I do have a storytelling buddy too, though, and his mind is just as strange. We often develop ideas together, let them collide and evolve. I recommend storytelling buddies for every writer.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
A little bit of both! I confess, I literally can’t focus without at least a vague hint of where I want to go. So, I always make an initial outline with a few broadly-conceived story beats, some themes I want to explore as the plot gets going. Then, I start writing, and the whole thing promptly goes to hell. So, I’ll go back to the outline and make a better one with the new ideas and things I’ve learned about the characters, then go back to writing towards this new goal. And… it goes to hell again. An endless loop! The final outline probably happens when I’m about to write the final chapter and revise the rest of the book. But without that small guidance the outline provides… I’m a ship lost at sea.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Absolutely! I like to tell myself writer’s block isn’t real. It’s just that my brain needs to bake an idea for a little longer. So, I give myself other things to chew on while the idea is developing, shifting to other scenes and concepts that are less difficult. Usually, a few weeks down the road, I’ll wake up in the middle of night, the timer in my brain going, “DING DING! I’ve got something for you!” The trick is, though, I can’t stop writing to go pursue other things for very long while the nascent idea is marinating. If I do, my brain forgets what it’s supposed to be stewing on in the back, and the idea will fizzle out.

What can we expect from you down the line?
I can’t wait to share the sequel to Raven Song with you this winter (likely February). It’s shaping up to be a very mystical, action-packed continuation to the story—it’s titled Eclipse of the Sun, and it’s going to drop quite a few secrets that Raven Song was hinting at, things readers keep asking me about! If you go to ia-ashcroft.com and sign up for my mailing list, you’ll get the full scoop—also, you’ll get some free short stories out of the bargain, so I hope to see you there. Further down the line, in addition to the final two books of the Inoki’s Game series, I also have a standalone Heaven/Hell comedy planned, something a little bit like Neil Gaiman’s and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens meets the show Lucifer. That’s shaping up to be exciting as well; I can’t wait to share it with you, too!

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.