Wednesday, February 26, 2014

PRAIRIE GRACE - Marilyn Wentz - One Free Book

Bio: Marilyn Bay Wentz grew up on a family farm in Northern Colorado, near the land homesteaded by her great-great grandparents. With a degree in journalism, she has written
hundreds of news releases and feature stories for her clients and employers, which include Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Taiwan, the National Farmers Union and the National Bison
Association. In addition to operating Prairie Natural Lamb, she currently is editor of two agricultural publications: Bison World and Open Pastures. She and her family live on the
Eastern Plains of Colorado.

Welcome, Marilyn. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
My characters are an amalgamation of people I know and imagine. In Prairie Grace, Georgia’s tomboy, throw-caution-to-the-wind personality is more like my middle sister Shelly and my mother, but her use of herbal remedies is my thing. Her studying medicine is not me or them. I think it is easier to understand a character and write believably if the character’s experiences parallel my own.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I am quite normal and sane. It is my sisters who do quirky things. One of them had a rabbit heart collection when she was about six. The other sister extracted this sister’s tooth years before it was supposed to come out. The root was double the length of the tooth. I don’t know what was quirkier, the sister extracting the tooth with our father’s pliers or my other sister allowing her to do it.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I have imagined stories since I was a very small child. Some of these stories actually made it to the page. The skeleton story of Prairie Grace comes from a Thanksgiving story I wrote when I was about 12 years old about a gravely ill Indian boy who is dropped off at a settler family’s home. They nurse him back to health and teach him their ways. Several years later, he returns their kindness by bringing them food when they are in need.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I love well written fiction, whether modern day or historical, Christian or secular. My favorite authors include Lynn Austin, Sandra Dallas, Charles Martin, and even C.J. Box, because I love high action and unpredictable stories with good and bad well-defined. For me, good stories must end well, not perfect and not predictable, but justly. I also enjoy reading history texts and biographies, which I’m doing currently as research for my next Prairie Series novel. The best book and the one I read most every day is the Bible. God is the best dramatist ever!

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
One day I looked at my to-do list for that week, which included “haul dead llama to back fence line” and “vaccinate and castrate lambs,” and thought it was probably pretty different from the average 53-year-old American suburban woman’s to-do list. This is not to say I don’t have stress. I have a lot of writing deadlines and physically demanding farm work, but living 40 plus miles from the nearest shopping mall reduces the sense of frenzy in my life.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
Many of the characters in Prairie Grace are actual, historical people, but for the fictional ones, I chose given names that were used during that time period. In the case of Georgia, Georgianna was my grandmother’s middle name. Georgia’s surname McBaye was the surname of my Scot-Irish ancestors who immigrated to the United States in the 1800s, although, I believe it was spelled McBay or MacBay. They soon dropped the Mc, so my maiden name is Bay. For the fictional Native names—Gray Wolf, Meadow Lark, Soaring Falcon—I read how Cheyenne Indians chose names, and I used names with animals seen in Colorado.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Relationships are all that really matters. It is exciting to see my byline in a publication or on a book, but the goal of my writing is either to support myself and my family, or more importantly, to move readers toward a closer relationship with the Almighty.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I love horses, although I’m not sure I would want to be one. I own three horses, a mare that is coming 25 and is the great granddaughter of the first horse I owned as a ten-year-old, and her two daughters. The daughters, Tai and Comet, are the prototypes for the horses owned by Georgia and Gray Wolf in Prairie Grace. I’ve trained all three from the ground up. As a 4-H leader, judge, and level rater, I’ve helped a lot of young people learn to better handle and enjoy their horses. Working with horses has taught me humility and patience and to listen to the Lord.

What is your favorite food?
I love to garden, cook, and EAT. I have to say my favorite meat is probably bison—we raise it, along with lamb and chickens. Any dish with fresh herbs and veggies and homegrown meat is pretty delicious. I love Mexican and Thai.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
In addition to raising sheep, I write and edit magazines and newsletters for a living, so I thought writing a novel, might be too much writing. Not so. I loved researching and writing Prairie Grace. The problem was and continues to be finding the time. The other daunting part of the process, or so I supposed, was finding and working with a publisher. The Colorado Christian Writers Conference enabled me to find my publisher, and Koehler Books has been fantastic to work with.

Tell us about the featured book.
As the eastern half of the United States is embroiled in the Civil War to end slavery, military and political leaders in 1864 Colorado Territory strive to enslave the Native American population they see as impeding settlement and stalling gold exploration. Prairie Grace chronicles the events leading up to the Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred Nov. 29, 1864. It is told through the eyes of Georgia MacBaye, a throw-caution-to-the-wind, adventure-seeking young frontierswoman, is the daughter of former plantation owners turned homesteaders, and Gray Wolf, a Cheyenne Indian brave who is gravely injured and is thrown into the white world when his uncle Chief Lean Bear, seeks help for him from Georgia’s mother, Loraine, a well-known healer. The MacBayes not only nurse Gray Wolf back to health, they also teach him their tongue, their ways, and their faith. Gray Wolf’s time in their home teaches the MacBayes to stop viewing Indians as sub-human menaces to be disposed of—an attitude common among settlers and politicians during this era—and to value them as fellow human beings.

Prairie Grace dramatizes the worst and the best of humanity. Extensive research has enabled me to write realistic dialog between fictional and actual historical figures. Historic events, including the Colorado gold rush, the Denver flood of 1864, the Hungate murders, the slaughter of innocent Indians in small villages, settlement on the Purgatory River in southeastern Colorado, and the treaties of Fort Laramie and Fort Wise are woven into the storyline. Historical figures Lean Bear, Bull Bear, Roman Nose, One-Eye, Beaver aka George Bent, Black Kettle, Tall Bull, Cheyenne captive Laura Roper, Issac Van Wormer, Indian Agent Samuel Colley, Edward Wynkoop, Silas Soule, Governor Evans, and Col. John Chivington all make appearances in Prairie Grace. The extent to which history is portrayed and daily routines—both Native and settler—described make Prairie Grace not just a good read but a history primer.

Lovers of history and Westerns, as well as those who yearn for the solace of the open plains will appreciate Prairie Grace.

Please give us the first page of the book.
MacBaye Ranch, Bijou Basin,
Colorado Territory, Spring 1862
Georgia MacBaye didn’t dislike gathering eggs or milking the family’s Jersey cow, Blue Bell. It’s just … well … there were so many more exciting things to do. She opened the milking stanchion and released the gentle cow. A basket of eggs in one hand and the bucket of milk in the other, Georgia left the barn for the house, its reddish-brown adobe blending in with the prairie. The second story appeared an extension of the imposing bluffs. Her father chose the site in the Bijou Basin because the big oak trees reminded him of South Carolina. He told Georgia he hoped it would make her mother feel less homesick. He also had practical reasons for building where he did. The bluffs to the west blocked the fierce winter blizzards, and the Bijou Creek, just out their backdoor, provided the MacBayes and their stock with water.

This morning, the rugged beauty was not what caught her eye. Snaking single file down the bluffs was a procession of Indian ponies. The pace of the horses and the absence of war paint told her the Indians meant no harm, but she couldn’t be certain.

Georgia ran toward the house like a startled hare, milk splashing over the sides of the pail, eggs cracking. “Indians … on the bluffs … come look!”

How can readers find you on the Internet? 
I have a website and a blog Prairie Ponderings. Be patient with me, as I am still figuring out the blogging and social media integration. I am also on Facebook and Linkedin.

Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing your novel with us. I love novels that are closely tied to actual history.

Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
Prairie Grace - Amazon
Prairie Grace - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link.


Anonymous said...

A huge thank you to Lena for featuring Prairie Grace on this blog. I will be checking back in from time to time, so if you want to ask me a question, please post it here. I am anxious to send a signed copy to the drawing winner, so please enter by leaving your comment.

Marilyn Bay Wentz, author of Prairie Grace, historical fiction set in 1864 Colorado Territory

Jackie McNutt said...

Lena And Marilyn,
I really enjoyed learning about Marilyn's book Prairie Grace.
I love books that are based on history and have great story lines.
I think what I would like most about this book is the fact that it has white settlers and Indian characters that closely interact with each other on a personal level and also deals with the horrible massacre of the Indians.
I love the cover and title.
I am looking forward to seeing how this story unfolds and adding Marilyn's books to my TBR list as her books look like great reads.
Thank you for featuring her, and best wishes on the success of your book.
Thank you

Marilyn Bay Wentz said...

Thanks for your response, Jackie. I wrote Prairie Grace with a skeleton plot and the historical timeline, so that I could incorporate as many actual people, places and events into the story line as possible. Here is what one of my reviewers said about Prairie Grace:

Prairie Grace is wonderful! Honestly, I have never been a fan of historical fiction because accurate historical facts are not usually there. BUT in your work....... I love your writing because it includes ACCURATE facts and places. I love that about every chapter. The storyline and the development and believability of the characters are outstanding! Thanks for allowing me to read your book----again I think it is wonderful!"

--Cliff Smith, 5th Grade (History) Teacher at Strasburg Elementary School and Curator of the Comanche Crossing Museum

Melanie Backus said...

Great interview, Great author, Great book!

Melanie Backus, TX

Mary Preston said...

I wouldn't let my sisters come at me with pliers - quirky indeed.

I love the sound of your work.

Mary P


Rhonda's Doings said...

love historical fiction and this one surely sounds good. Thanks for chance to win. Rhonda Gayle from Virginia

Vera Godley said...

I don't know much about the settlement of this part of the US except in generalities. It would be nice to read a novel that incorporates true facts and people.

I'm in NC

Mary / Touch of Heaven said...

This book sounds really great! I would love to win a copy. I'm from Western New York State. Thanks for offering this.

A Cooking Bookworm said...

Sounds like an exciting book! I love prairie western fiction!

Binghamton, NY

mybabyblessings AT gmail DOT com

Melody said...

Oh, Oh, Oh,...I love the storyline. And going from plantation owner to homesteader to bringing an Indian into their world.... My Okie ma-in-law said when she married her Indian (wonderful man) that in her pa-in-laws days, and Indian was lower than a Negro. How anyone every thought someone was better than someone else, so sad.

Melody from Donna, TX

Marilyn Bay Wentz said...

Responding to Melody's comment, I must confess that this part of the story is somewhat biographical. My great-great grandparents on my Mom's side left the Virginia plantation they lost in the Civil War and homesteaded in Colorado. I wrote about Loraine's uppity attitudes from my grandmother, although she was a good woman and had little materially. My grandpa on my Dad's side was part Sioux but reluctant in the 1960-70s to talk about it. And, an African American (Frederick Douglass), or rather his influence, even makes it onto the pages of Prairie Grace. Although there are many things about the Good Ole Days that were good, racial attitudes were not one of them!

Mama Cat said...

Thank you for a wonderful interview! The book sounds so very interesting - the time period as well as the historical events - as I enjoy historical fiction that gives a history lesson while showing God's love and grace. I live in Phoenix, AZ

Sarah Rebekah Richmond said...

This looks and sounds interesting!!! Thanks for the awesome giveaway and God Bless!!!
Sarah Richmond

Cindi A said...

Great and interesting interview.
I'd love to win a copy of Prairie Grace.

Cindi Altman from PA

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great book!
Thanks for the Giveaway!!!

Sydney Harries, GA

Jean said...

Thank you for this opportunity!

Jean K
West Palm Beach, FL

sam said...

Interesting topic in your book about how the earlier settlers of the West massacred Native American Indians when they were in the way of their 'progress'. I would love to win and read your book. You are anew author to me. sharon, CA wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

PriviesAndPrims said...

I love that she incorporated her family names into the characters!

Doreen Brannan
priviesandprims at [yahoo]dot[com]

Marilyn Bay Wentz said...

Let me be clear. Prairie Grace is not about all the bad things the settlers did to the Indians, nor is it the reverse. There would nasty people and events on both sides. There were also honorable--though not perfect--people on both sides, as well. In the interest of historical authenticity, I felt it really important to portray all angles.

Your comments and encouragement are REALLY appreciated by this debut author. Many libraries in Colorado and, hopefully, beyond are carrying Prairie Grace. If you do not win it, I hope you will buy or borrow it and let me know what you think.

Library Lady said...

Our library readers love historical fiction and I know they will love Marilyn's book too.
Thanks for the giveaway.
Janet E.

Tonja Saylor said...

Love historical fiction - especially civil war era!
Tonja (Virginia)