Monday, November 14, 2016

Patty Dickson Pieczka ~ guest post and her novel Finding the Raven

TITLE: Finding the Raven
RELEASE DATE: June 15, 2016
AUTHOR: Patty Dickson Pieczka
KEYWORDS: Raven, Finding the Raven, 1904, St. Louis World's Fair, Fiction, Historical Fiction
CATEGORIES: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-1530797974 & 1530797977
IMPRINT: White Stag

A story of murder, betrayal and redemption as two young women struggle for survival against a backdrop of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

When Julia Dulac's father is murdered onstage  and her inheritance is swindled away, she must work through her grief and fear of poverty to find both the killer and a means of survival with help from the Raven, a black crystal that reveals images of past and future truths. While having the crystal appraised, Julia finds love and her life takes unexpected turns through mystery and betrayal against the backdrop of the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.

Through the boarding house window, Julia overhears an argument between Rose and her wealthy father over Rose's illegitimate pregnancy. He drops Rose off, saying he will return in one year, that she must be either single and childless or respectably married. Though from completely different backgrounds, Julia and Rose become fast friends, facing lessons of survival and redemption as their fates become irrevocably entwined.


Have you ever dreamed of spending time in a different era? This was one of the motivations that prompted me to write the novel, Finding the Raven. Maybe some of you have experienced the same problem I had: by the time you were old enough to ask intelligent questions of the older generation, they had passed on. This book was my way of connecting with them again, of hearing their voices and their stories. I imagined what they would think or say about the research and the things I discovered about their times. It seemed the more I learned, the more I wanted to ask them.

My grandfather's brother, Uncle Charlie, was a hobo who wrote a book about his travels and experiences around the turn of the last century. He had a fascination with Native Americans, and moved out West for several years to visit a different culture, live a more primitive life. While reading his book, I became fascinated with the times. These were the days when a young man could strike out on his own to seek his fortune with only a few things in a satchel, but women were trapped by social conventions and limitations. They wouldn't be allowed to vote for another two decades.

After traveling to Michigan to pick and sell blueberries and play on a Native American baseball team, Charlie's next stop was the St. Louis World's Fair. Did you know iced tea, hot dogs, and the ice cream cone made their first appearances there? Someone forgot to bring the cups, so they made a cone out of a freshly cooked waffle. Charlie gave only sketchy details in his account about his time spent at the fair, but he stirred my imagination. This book was my way of filling in the blanks. I began to wonder what kinds of people he might have met, who they really were and what sorts of lives they lead. What must their joys and hardships have really been like?

I began to wonder what it might have been like for a young woman alone without resources in 1904 St. Louis. Where would she stay? What sort of job opportunities could she find? I went to the library and, on microfilm, found some old issues of the St. Louis Post Dispatch from April of that year. Julia, one of my main characters, answered actual ads from those papers to begin making her way after her father died.

Research became an important part of this writing process. I visited the St. Louis World's Fair Museum, several historic homes and sites in St. Louis, the Scott Joplin house, and I read everything I could get my hands on about and from 1904. I watched The 1900 House and The Roosevelts on PBS. After a time, I felt transported, as though I were actually living in that era.

As I progressed with the story I realized that, though the customs and the clothing were different, people themselves are very much the same as they've ever been. They had the same reactions to disappointment or grief and wanted what we want: love, security, entertainment, adventure, and fun.

Patty Dickson Pieczka's second book, Painting the Egret's Echo,, won the Library of Poetry Book Award from Bitter Oleander Press. Other books are Lacing through Time, and Word Paintings. Winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Contest, the I SPS contest, and the Maria W.  Faust Sonnet Contest, she's contributed to over fifty journals and graduated from Southern Illinois University's creative writing program.


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