Tag Archives: Terry Shames

A day in the life of Ellen Forester by Terry Shames

unsettling-crime-for-sam-craddockThis morning I lie in bed for a few minutes and wish things could have been different. Frazier knows I’m awake and he starts to stir, but like the gentleman that he is he waits until I start to move around before he leaps off the bed and gives a sharp bark to hurry me up. He has no use for self-pity. He wants to be out patrolling the yard to find out what mysterious creatures have visited in the night. He runs a tight ship and expects me to do the same.

“At your service, sir.” I swear he smiles when I say that. I let him out the back door and start the coffee and then go back to the bedroom to put on yoga pants and a T-shirt. I don’t exactly do yoga, but I do some stretches to get my blood moving. While I stretch, I hear Frazier give a few barks, telling the cat next door to stay in his own yard. By the time I’m done, Frazier is at the back door looking pleased with himself and ready for breakfast. The two of us eat together, although I draw the line at him sitting at the table. I listen to the news while I eat my toast and boiled egg.

It’s 7:30 and time for me to go to the studio. Classes don’t start until 9AM, but I like to get a sense of the day before the students come in. Today is Thursday. The beginning watercolor class meets on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Monday and Wednesday mornings are for more advanced watercolor students, and Friday is for private classes. It’s seldom I have a student with real talent. After all, this is a small town. But most of the people who attend seem to really enjoy art class. I am touched at how attentive they are and how earnest in their endeavors.

Only one student has surprised me. Loretta Singletary is a fussy, gossipy old woman. I guess all small towns have their share of women like that. But first impressions can be misleading. I found that she’s also generous and has a sly sense of humor. I was startled when she told me she wanted to take a watercolor class. Not only did I have no idea that she would be interested in painting, but I thought she didn’t like me because she has her eye on our chief of police, Samuel Craddock, and Samuel clearly was partial to me. But as soon as we got started, I found that she had a natural talent. I think painting has changed her in subtle ways. She’s quieter, and more thoughtful. But maybe she was that way all along and I just noticed it because I’ve gotten to know her better.

When new classes started this fall, I told her I wanted her to go into the more advanced class. I expected her to get all twittery and demure, but she said, “Good. I’m ready.”

I teach classes to make ends meet. My ex-husband is reluctant to pay me the money the judge awarded as alimony. I worked to put him through school, kept house, raised our kids, and yet he seems to think my work toward our mutual success was worth nothing. I know partly it’s because he is so angry at what happened between us, but that can’t be changed. At any rate, I’m pleased that I can make my own way when he withholds funds.

Classes go smoothly and the day speeds by. Eventually I’m alone to work on my own painting. I’m working on a landscape I like. Nothing earthshaking. I’m never going to take the art world by storm. But I sell a few pieces every year—enough to pay for personal art supplies. Samuel doesn’t know I sell them through a gallery in Houston. He thinks the ones here in my studio are the only ones I’ve done. He doesn’t like the art I produce. He likes modern art. I like it, too, but I don’t have the inspiration to do that kind of art. I’m not sure why I keep quiet about the work that gets sold. I never thought of myself as a secretive person, but it seems that I am about that.

I work for two hours, until Frazier barks to tell me it’s time to go home. Samuel will be coming over later. We spend a lot of evenings together. I know he’s working up to a fine romance, and I keep putting off the inevitable confession I’ll have to make before things go too far. I do wish things could have been different, but they’re not.


AN UNSETTLING CRIME FOR SAMUEL CRADDOCK is the sixth book in the Samuel Craddock mystery series published by Seventh Street Books, January 2017.

When the Jarrett Creek Fire Department is called to douse a blaze on the outskirts of town, they discover a grisly scene: five black young people have been murdered. Newly elected Chief of Police Samuel Craddock, just back from a stint in the Air Force, finds himself an outsider in the investigation headed by the Texas Highway Patrol. He takes an immediate dislike to John Sutherland, a racist trooper

Craddock’s fears are realized when Sutherland arrests Truly Bennett, a young black man whom Craddock knows and respects. Sutherland cites dubious evidence that points to Bennett, and Craddock uncovers facts leading in another direction. When Sutherland refuses to relent, Craddock is faced with a choice that will define him as a lawman—either let the highway patrol have its way, or take on a separate investigation himself.

Although his choice to investigate puts both Craddock and his family in danger, he perseveres. In the process, he learns something about himself and the limits of law enforcement in Jarrett Creek.

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About the author
Terry Shames is the Macavity Award-winning author of the Samuel Craddock mysteries A Killing at Cotton Hill, The Last Death of Jack Harbin, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, and The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake. She is the coeditor of Fire in the Hills, a book of stories, poems, and photographs about the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire. She grew up in Texas and continues to be fascinated by the convoluted loyalties and betrayals of the small town where her grandfather was the mayor. Terry is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames

An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames is the sixth book in the “Samuel Craddock” mystery series. Publisher: Seventh Street Books, January 3, 2017

an-unsettling-crime-for-samuel-craddockWhen the Jarrett Creek Fire Department is called to douse a blaze on the outskirts of town, they discover a grisly scene: five black young people have been murdered. Newly elected Chief of Police Samuel Craddock, just back from a stint in the Air Force, finds himself an outsider in the investigation headed by the Texas Highway Patrol. He takes an immediate dislike to John Sutherland, a racist trooper

Craddock s fears are realized when Sutherland arrests Truly Bennett, a young black man whom Craddock knows and respects. Sutherland cites dubious evidence that points to Bennett, and Craddock uncovers facts leading in another direction. When Sutherland refuses to relent, Craddock is faced with a choice that will define him as a lawman either let the highway patrol have its way, or take on a separate investigation himself.

Although his choice to investigate puts both Craddock and his family in danger, he perseveres. In the process, he learns something about himself and the limits of law enforcement in Jarrett Creek.”

This engaging and intensifying drama shares a chapter in the life of Samuel Craddock’s growth as a police chief when he is confronted with racism as he begins his career. The author did a wonderful job in executing this well-written story that quickly became a page turner. The narrative was deeply rooted in the various investigations which led to some great scenes with the strong-willed and determined young police chief that kept me riveted to all that was happening and at times I felt like I was in the middle of all the action. Terry did a great job of telling a story that needed to be told which gave me a better understanding of Samuel and is reflective of today’s times. This was a very good book.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher.

Ruminating with Ellen Forester by Terry Shames

The Necessary Murder of Nonie BlakeAfter months of living in Jarrett Creek, I still wake up startled, fearful that Seth will be coming out of the bathroom frowning, looking for something to criticize. I think Frasier has the same problem, because sometimes he stares toward the door of the bedroom, ears pricked forward on high alert. Eventually we’ll both relax.

I’m usually at my gallery early—long before a class starts or the gallery is open for business. This morning I unlock the front door at 7:30. Although it’s already warm outside, it’s nice and cool in here. The gallery used to be a clothing store before it closed down in the sixties, which means the space was not broken up with walls. There’s a tiny office and a small power room, which serves my purposes. The old linoleum, still in good shape, is perfect for an art facility. And Frasier likes it because it’s cool when he lies down on it while I work.

I have two hours to paint before the 10:00 class. I’ve just begun a painting of a field of wildflowers. Watercolor is my favorite medium. I love the ethereal effect of the colors and the way watercolor can surprise you. We had a beautiful spring and I’m working from a photo I took in April. I’ve put down the washes for the general areas of the paintings, and today I’ll tackle the sky, a clump of trees on the horizon, and an old barn.

When I was married to Seth, the only thing that kept me from unraveling was being able to disappear into my studio to paint. I’ve long accepted that I’m too timid to be a great artist. The most daring work I do is when the color runs or blots and I have to find a way to incorporate the accident into the painting.

I don’t care that much for modern or abstract art. My art appreciation ends with the impressionists. I like representational art. I love to discover a Texas artist who renders cactus and bluebonnets and scrub brush in a way that makes me feel I could step into the scene.

Thinking of modern art takes my thoughts to Samuel Craddock. I can tell he doesn’t like what I paint or the art that I sell in my gallery. I wish I could find a way to tell him that it’s okay. I know he wants to please me–something I haven’t experienced in a long time.

My ten o’clock class is a beginning watercolor class. Everyone seemed surprised that so many people in a small town like Jarrett Creek signed up for classes. I wasn’t surprised. People like to create things. It’s in our DNA. I enjoy helping budding artists discover how to create things that please them.

I doubt that I’ll ever discover someone who will set the art world on fire, as Samuel did a while back, but at least one person startled me with talent I never suspected. Loretta Singletary is a gossipy old woman. She’s a good friend of Samuel’s, and he says she has a good heart, but I would not have discovered that for myself. It always seems to me that she’s on the lookout for juicy tidbits to pass along. But there’s no question that she has more talent than any student I’ve taught. Maybe the same sharp eye she has for her neighbors’ doings gives her a discerning eye for observing the world. And she’s able to translate that onto the paper.

I’m a hands-on teacher, and two hours passes quickly as I move from one to another of the eight students.

At lunch I eat the salad I brought from home. Sometimes I wish I had never become a vegetarian. It would be so much easier to slap together a turkey sandwich. I admit I became a vegetarian to annoy Seth, at the urging of my best friend Kitty. Former best friend I should say. She was always sniping about Seth, telling me I should leave him, but after I finally did, she became aloof. I was so lonesome after I first moved here that I tried calling her one night, but she clearly didn’t want to talk to me. Maybe she thinks I don’t deserve happiness. I sometimes think so, too.

The afternoon flies by with another class and then a visit from an eighth grade art class. Before I know it, I’m packing up my supplies, collecting Frasier, and heading home. I’m tired and yearn to have the evening to myself, but Samuel is taking me out for a meal. Maybe tonight will be the night I make my confession. He thinks I left Seth because Seth was abusive. It’s not true. I’m afraid to tell him the truth because I’m afraid he will lose his regard for me. But until I tell him the truth, I won’t feel like I can really get close to Samuel.


The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake is the fifth book in the Samuel Craddock mystery series, published by Seventh Street Books, January 2016.

All comments are welcomed.

About the author
Terry Shames writes the award-winning best-selling Samuel Craddock series, set in the fictitious town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. A Killing at Cotton Hill was a finalist for numerous awards and won the Macavity for Best First Mystery, 2013. The Last Death of Jack Harbin was a Macavity finalist for Best Mystery, 2014 and was named one of the top ten mysteries of 2014 by Library Journal and top five of 2014 by MysteryPeople. Her fifth Craddock mystery, The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake launches January 2016.

Raised in Texas and a University of Texas alum, Terry lives in Berkeley, CA. She is president of the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America and of International Thriller Writers. Visit her at www.terryshames.com to see photos and to find out about upcoming events.

A Day in the Life of Loretta Singletary by Terry Shames

The Last Death of Jack HarbinToday I’m doing a day in the life of Samuel Craddock’s “down the street” neighbor, Loretta Singletary. Some people have told me they don’t like Loretta because she’s a gossip. But I’m very fond of her and maybe you’ll feel the same way when you get to know her better.

Loretta:

When I’m 80, I plan to stay in bed late every day, drinking coffee and reading, but until then I have too much to do! This morning I’m up at 5 o’clock baking Christmas cookies for the Methodist Church Christmas party tonight. If I’m going to take cookies over to the church by 2 o’clock, I have to get started.

The dough rested in the refrigerator overnight and while it comes to room temperature I sit down to write my son Gary an email. I know it’s a compliment that Gary thinks I’m sharp enough to learn how to use a computer, but every time I open it to send an email I feel as if I’m walking out onto thin ice. If I hit the wrong key, I can end up swimming below the surface, looking for a way to get back on top—meanwhile, being frozen out by all the things I don’t know. I tried to tell Gary that, but he said I was being dramatic.

This morning the computer smiles on me and I hear the little swooshing sound of the letter going off. But after I send it I realize the computer changed a couple of my words so that I sound like a crazy woman. Who would ever say something like, “I wash you and your family were already here.” But that’s what the letter says. I expect he’ll know what I mean.

When the first batch of cookies is in the oven, I run outside to do a little pruning. It’s that time of year and I try to do some every day. It’s my least favorite gardening activity, because I always imagine that it hurts the plant. Silly, I know, but there you are.

I’ve just taken the first batch of sugar cookies out of the oven when the phone rings. It’s 9 o’clock sharp, so I expect it’s Becky, making sure I’m up and baking. I don’t know why she volunteered to be in charge of the Christmas party. She’s the most nervous person I ever met. But it isn’t Becky on the phone, it’s Mary Ann Beasly with the news that Mrs. Summerfield, who lives next door to Samuel Craddock, took sick in the night and had to go to the hospital in Bobtail. They said it was nothing serious, but she’s almost 100, so I don’t know how they can be so sure. Mary Ann is in charge of the phone tree to get a prayer circle going. I don’t have time for this, but then I think, what will it be like when I’m that old—would I want some prissy woman say she doesn’t have time to pray for me?

I make myself sit down at the table and bow my head, hoping God doesn’t mind if I cut it short. Then I call the two ladies who come after me on the phone tree. I guess God heard my prayer because neither of them is home and I can leave a message on their machine and don’t have to talk to them.

While the next batch of cookies bakes, I decorate the first batch—little angels and wreaths. After a while I take a few minutes out to run some cookies down to Samuel’s house. If he’d come to the church party, I wouldn’t have to carry them over to him, but he’s stubborn like that. He says he doesn’t have any use for Christmas church parties. I need to tell him about Mrs. Summerfield, too, but his truck is gone and there’s no answer at the door. I set the plate of cookies inside. I’ll call him later.

The party starts at 6, and I’m in the rec room by 5:30 to help arrange the refreshments. Keeping busy is important when you’ve been a widow as long as I have. Hard to believe that Charlie has been gone for twelve years. Christmas is the hardest time and I’m blessed that my boys will be visiting me with their wives and sons. It would be fun to have a little granddaughter, but I’m thankful for those sweet boys.

I hear people arriving, the beautiful chatter of children, the voices of their parents trying to hold down their excitement. It’s time to go into the church service. Things will be lively for the next two hours. I’ll be glad to get into bed tonight.


You can read more about Loretta in The Last Death of Jack Harbin, the second book in the “Samuel Craddock” mystery series, published by Seventh Street Books. The first book in the series is A Killing at Cotton Hill . Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Book description of The Last Death of Jack Harbin
Investigating the brutal murder of a Gulf War veteran, Samuel Craddock uncovers a dark tale of greed and jealousy that extends into the past, and well beyond the borders of the small town of Jarrett Creek.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on January 21, and you will be entered to win a copy of The Last Death of Jack Harbin. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
Terry Shames is the best-selling author of A Killing at Cotton Hill and The Last Death of Jack Harbin, Seventh Street Books. Her books are set in small-town Texas and feature ex-chief of police Samuel Craddock. Terry lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two rowdy terriers. She is Vice President of Norcal Sisters in Crime and on the board of MWA Norcal. For more information, please visit her website: www.Terryshames.com.


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A Day in My Life: Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames

Killing Cotton HillMost of my days start out the same way, and I like it like that. I leave my curtains open at night, so that I don’t miss the dawn. As soon as my eyes open onto the first graying of the day, I swing my legs off the bed and my feet hit the rag rug. After I stretch and clear my throat, I sit on the side of the bed for a few seconds to orient myself. For a while after my wife, Jeanne, died it took me longer to put my thoughts in order in the morning. But gradually I made my peace with being alone when I woke up, and now I get moving pretty quickly.

When I was younger, I’d start the coffee before I hit the bathroom, but age has a way of rearranging your priorities. I still love the first cup of the day, though, the strong, warm smell and the bitter sting of it on my tongue.

With a cup in my hand, I slip out the back door, always with a moment of feeling like I’m a boy again, anticipating what the day will hand me. I head through the back yard, the grass heavy with dew, to the pasture where my cows crowd up to the fence to greet me. You wouldn’t think cows would have much personality, but they do. Some are greedy for the feed and push their way to the front; others stand staring over the fence, seeming to be lost in daydreams. There’s one that tries to boss me around, and I have to set her straight every damn day. I always spend more time than is absolutely necessary checking to make sure nothing bad has happened to the cows in the night. They look like such solid creatures, but things can creep up on them—a stone in a hoof, footrot, parasites that live in the soil, and more obscure diseases that can attack and fell them without warning.

By the time I get back to the house my old friend Loretta Singletary is often sitting on my porch waiting for me. The front door is unlocked, so she could go inside, but she has an idea that it wouldn’t be proper. This morning she has a smarty-pants grin on her face.

“You know the old drugstore on Main Street that’s been closed for twenty years?”

“Of course I know it.” Boarded up in a haphazard manner that has always stuck out, it’s not something you’d suddenly forget was there.

“Somebody bought it. I believe you’re going to be tickled to death.”

“Well, spill it. Who is it?”

“Two women.”

“What is it about two women you think would tickle me? They opening a bordello?”

She sits bolt upright. “Samuel Craddock. Of all the things you could think of! That’s just plain vulgar.”

I laugh. I said it because I knew she’d be scandalized.

“I have half a mind to leave here without telling you another thing about it.”

“Go ahead,” I say, to tease her a little bit more.

She juts her chin out and gives me the deadeye. “They’re opening an art store.” She gestures toward my front door. “You’ve got all those paintings in there, and now you can buy some right here at home.”

Loretta’s attitude is pretty typical of people who don’t know anything about art and don’t really care to know. They think you just stop in a store, see a picture you like and buy it. Bring it home and hang it up. On the contrary, Jeanne’s and my art collection took years of careful selection.

But there’s no reason for me to worry over it because that old drugstore location has been the source of rumor since the day it closed. The likelihood that an art gallery is opening there is slim to none.

As soon as Loretta leaves for her church auxiliary meeting, I head out for Bobtail to look at a couple of cows that an old boy wants to sell. He’s moving to Houston to live with his daughter and her family. I don’t have kids, and maybe I don’t quite understand all the ramifications properly, but moving to the city is the last thing in the world I’d want to do.

Negotiating for the cattle, loading them up and getting them squared away in the pasture takes the rest of the day, and wears me out. For supper I poke around in the refrigerator and make do with a bowl of chili and some stale cornbread. I sit down in the front of the TV, intending to watch the last few innings of the Astros baseball game before I head off to bed. Next thing I know I’m staring at a soccer match. It’s time for me to haul myself off to bed. My knee has stiffened up, still not fully recovered from the surgery that repaired it from damage done to it when one of my cows knocked me down and stepped on it. It takes me a minute to rub out the stiffness before I can get up. I go around turning off the lights and locking the doors. I pause at the front door. The tree frogs are making a mighty racket tonight. Good music to sleep by.

Her debut novel, A Killing At Cotton Hill, Seventh Street Books / Prometheus, will be available July 16, 2013. It is the first book in the new “Samuel Craddock” series set in the fictional town of Jarrett Creek, Texas, featuring ex-Chief of Police Samuel Craddock.


Terry is giving away one (1) copy of A KILLING AT COTTON HILL. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. The book will be shipped directly from the author. Contest ends July 17; US entries only.



Bonus giveaway. Terry will randomly select a winner, who will receive a trio of fine Texas barbecue sauces, from those who correctly identify the car on the front cover of the book. Contest ends July 17; US entries only.


Meet the author
Raised in the wild state of Texas, at age six, Terry Shames began a life of crime, stealing money from her grandmother to buy a notebook—beautiful blank pages where she could write a story. A terrible liar, when her mother grilled her, she confessed and the notebook was confiscated. Although her criminal career was short-lived, her life of crime writing was launched.

Terry financed her BA from the University of Texas and her MA from San Francisco State University with numerous jobs–waitress, maid, assistant to a notorious law professor, computer programmer/analyst and real estate agent. Meanwhile, she kept writing, dreaming of publication day.

Visit Terry at her website or on Facebook.

Reviews for A KILLING AT COTTON HILL:

“Shames’ novel is an amazing read. The poetic, literary quality of the writing draws you into a small town and its interesting, secret-carrying residents.” -RT Book Reviews, August 2013. FOUR STARS

Readers will want to see more of the likable main character, who compassionately but relentlessly sifts the evidence. Convincing smalltown atmosphere and a vivid supporting cast are a plus. – Publishers Weekly

“…if you’re as fond of good writing as I am, it will be the characters in Cotton Hill that will keep the pages turning until late in the evening, or maybe even early into the morning…Each and every one of the people in this book is a human being, as perfect and as flawed as you or I, starting with Craddock himself” – mysteryfile

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.