The Book Whisperer Examines an Oklahoma Author

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Mary Coley began writing nonfiction; in addition, she has been a journalist, a park planner, an environmental educator, and a public relations officer. Coley grew up in Enid, OK, but now makes Tulsa her home.  Cobwebs became Coley’s first full-length novel. She worked on it off and on for ten years until she was satisfied with it and ready to publish.

Coley followed Cobwebs with Ant Dens, Beehives, The Ravine, and Blood on the Cimarron. You might say she has got the hang of writing full-length novels now.

Mary Coley recounts her love of the written word by explaining that she learned to read in kindergarten. Even as a second grader, her love of the environment became evident as she read National Geographic along with a wide variety of other subjects. Luckily for Coley, her father had an extensive library, so she made good use of it.

Coley advises would-be writers to get busy and write their stories. She suggests they join a writers’ group and attend writing conferences. Take a creative writing class. Also, joining a book club helps writers through the diverse readings and discussions. Coley does remind her readers that “writing takes a lot of work and a lot of tenacity.” As a composition teacher in a community college, I liked to remind my students of a quote by Pete Hamill: “Writing is the hardest work in the world not involving heavy lifting.”

Coley became interested in writing Cobwebs after learning about the history of the Osage and their becoming some of the wealthiest people in the world by receiving oil and gas royalties. In the 1920s, the Osage suffered mysterious deaths and outright murders because homicidal and thieving whites wanted to strip the Osage of their money. The US government aided in the massacre of the Osage because it decreed that the Osage must have a white guardian, thus legalizing theft.

Jamie Aldrich who lives in New Mexico where she teaches biology has returned to Pawhuska, OK, after a thirty-year absence. As a child, Jamie and her sister had spent summers in Pawhuska visiting their great-aunt Elizabeth. Now, Elizabeth, ninety and bedridden, has called asking Jaime to come to Pawhuska intoning, “Come now, Jamie. You must come before it’s too late.”

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Picture above from http://www.sport-touring.net/forums/index.php?topic=5803.0;imode#.WosMcudMGUk.

That phone call sets Jaime on a journey she does not expect and even endangers her life. Jaime does follow her great-aunt’s bidding and takes a week off from her teaching, thinking that is all the time she will need to help her aunt. The reality is quite different from Jaime’s expectations, however.

Jaime arrives to find Aunt Elizabeth’s attorney, Sam Mazie, in the kitchen and her aunt in her upstairs bedroom. Jamie feels a brief sense of recognition when she meets Sam, but she cannot quite place how she knows him. Elizabeth, though weak, is glad to see Jaime. Elizabeth continues to remind Jamie that “time is running out,” but Jaime tells her aunt they will talk when her aunt is stronger.

Jaime does not know anyone else is in the home after Sam leaves besides her and Aunt Elizabeth. However, someone tries to smother Aunt Elizabeth although Jaime does not see anyone else. The would-be murderer slipped out without being seen. Thus, police chief Green suspects Jaime has tried to murder her aunt even though Jamie is the one who calls 911.

Green also learns that Jaime’s husband Ben has died recently of cancer, but Jaime has been investigated in his death. Although Ben begged Jaime to help him die, she could not despite the extreme suffering he experienced because of the cancer. This dark cloud hangs over Jamie along with her sorrow over his death. Now, people in Pawhuska are looking at her as if she wants to murder her aunt.

Back in New Mexico, Jamie’s son has a new job and she would like to be supportive of him and learn about his work. Too, her daughter is getting married soon, so Jamie wants to be involved in the wedding plans. Finally, Jamie’s mother must have some medical tests. Yet Jamie must remain in Pawhuska to discover what Aunt Elizabeth wants and to keep Aunt Elizabeth safe.

As Jamie stays in her aunt’s home while her aunt is in a coma in the hospital, strange events occur. Jamie knows someone has come into the house even though she locked the doors and windows. Threatening notes appear. Windows are broken. And worst of all thousands of black widow spiders are let loose in the house. Readers are also privy to a suspicious character dressed in black and wearing a hoody who hovers in the shadows of the garden watching Jaime and plotting more destruction and death.

Who sends the threatening notes and why? Who is the mysterious figure standing in the shadows? Jaime must figure out the connections and learn about the murderous shadow. What would cause all this intrigue? As Jaime continues to stay in Aunt Elizabeth’s home, she learns more and more about her family’s past and their Osage blood. Old family secrets, long hidden, surface.

Jamie goes through old pictures and learns about family history, but the process is agonizingly slow. People in town do not trust her, so finding an ally becomes difficult. Jamie also keeps getting hurt because of traps laid by that unknown person. Because of her persistence and resilience, Jamie finally discovers the truth. What is that truth? You must read Cobwebs to discover it for yourself.

Read Mary Coley’s blog postings about her adventures in writing at this link: https://marycoley.me/.

For more information and to follow Mary Coley, visit her full Web site at this link: https://marycoley.com/.

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