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GUEST POST – I. A. Ashcroft, author of Raven Song

| 25 October 2016 | Reply

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.

 

 

It takes a passionate reader to become a good writer. What books and/or authors helped to influence you and turn you into the writer you are today?

 

That… is a loaded question! I only hang onto books that resonate with me and change me in some way, and I still have them in piles around my home. But if I had to narrow down these writers… and I feel I betray some great ones by culling them… there are three.

Firstly, Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s fantasy work often wrestles with questions of what exists just beyond the veil of our accepted reality, and for me, finding him was the first time I’d found modern, humanity-driven fantasy so close to the world we know. And my favorite of his? Anansi Boys. Many writers craft their deities to be solemn, all-knowing, and often times, deeply powerful. These beings are almost always very good or utterly evil (or at least very selfish.) But Anansi! This is a god that’s funny, that’s just sort of kicking around and having a lark. Many say the Greco-Roman gods have human tendencies, but Anansi strikes me as more human than all of them because he’s just so lazy and so, so clever about it. Besides, what writer wouldn’t love a god that holds storytelling dear? This kind of story had no small part in pushing me to write my own.

Secondly, Stephen King. He transformed how I looked at the craft of writing itself, and that was very important for me. Years ago, I had a copy of The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three thrust upon me, even though I “wasn’t really into horror” then. Of course, I was wrong: if you haven’t read his Dark Tower series, it’s more of a strange and epic fantasy meets a Clint Eastwood western. I haven’t seen anything like it before, and I haven’t since. But it was incredible, teaching me both that genre mashups were a great idea and that you should never judge a writer’s breadth of imagination by their most well-known genre endeavors. Also, between these two books, you can literally watch King the amateur blossom into King the master storyteller, since they were penned years apart. That visible evolution of the craft finally led me to King’s memoir On Writing, a book I recommend to anyone who wants to be serious about the state of storytelling today (though you should never take anyone’s advice as the word of law, not even Stephen King’s! For goodness sakes, adverbs are not 100% evil! Just do them right!)

Lastly, but not least of all… Maya Angelou. I was exposed to almost no advanced poetry growing up, which I hope feels like a sad thing to you, dear reader. I went through a ridiculous number of years thinking poetry’s relevance to me was the little rhyming songs and the like that I was forced to make in school. But while thumbing through a library, I stumbled on Angelou’s name, and something about her words made my mind cease chattering and my soul pay attention. These were words that were meant to be loved, to be swum with and cherished for their sounds and for their feelings, and if at all possible meant to be understood bit by bit, because there were little rhythmic secrets in their making if you listened. There was so much sorrow, anger, joy, and resolution in so few words. In good writing, I discovered, you always find a natural poetry, a sway to an invisible rhythm, and less is often more. Bad writing can be grammatical and correct, but have no rhythm at all, a kludgy mass of words that speak but do not feel. I encourage all aspiring writers to spend some meditation time with poets that harmonize with their brain rhythms. You will be the better for it, and you will find tools that will let you break and reassemble language into all the things you need it to be.

Thank you for inviting me here today to spend time with you and chat about some of my favorites! This is my invitation to share your favorites with me as well! Visit me at ia-ashcroft.com. I love to hear from readers and writers from all walks of life. I have some free short stories that will be made available there in addition to an excerpt of my debut fantasy/sci-fi novel Raven Song, the first in a series about old gods, a destroyed world, and people with magic trying to find their place. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Contact the Author:
Website: http://www.ia-ashcroft.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/i.a.ashcroft
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ia_ashcroft
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15077746.I_A_Ashcroft
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/I.-A.-Ashcroft/e/B01CTY42S0/

 


 

raven-song

 

Raven Song by I.A. Ashcroft
Lucid Dreams Publishing
Paperback, 290 pages
March 2016

ISBN-10: 1944674004
ISBN-13: 978-1944674007

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2…
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Raven-Song-Dys…
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/raven…
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebo…

 

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.

Reviews:

‘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.

 


 

PROLOGUE

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Stephanie O’Connell

Category: Interviews

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