November 9, 2014 ~ Terry Shames Speaks about Professionalism and the Mystery Writer

terry-shamesMystery author Terry Shames will speak about professionalism at the meeting of Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas Chapter at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 9, 2014. She will tell about her determination to be professional, how professionalism paid off for her in finding a publisher, and how it continues to pay off now that is she published.

Terry Shames writes the Samuel Craddock series, set in the fictitious small town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. She grew up in Texas and has abiding affection for the small town where her grandparents lived, the model for Jarrett Creek. Her first novel, A Killing at Cotton Hill was nominated for the Left Coast Crime award for best mystery of 2013, the Strand Magazine Critics Award, and a Macavity Award for Best First Novel of 2013. MysteryPeople named it one of the five two debut mysteries of 2013.

Her second novel, The Last Death of Jack Harbin came out in January. MysteryPeople dubbed it one of the top ten mysteries of 2013. Her third novel, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek came out October, 2014.

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter, meets on the second Sunday of each month at 2:00 p.m. at Recycled Reads. The address is 5335 Burnet Road, Austin.

Meetings are free and open to all. For more information, check out the Sisters in Crime website at http://sinc-heartoftexas.com

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A Pitch-Perfect Paragraph – for Readers Who Know Cows

English: Herefords, The Park, Ashford Carbonel...
English: Herefords, The Park, Ashford Carbonel. The light coloured bull calf (1 month old) belongs to the cow on the right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I head into the house for my hat and my cane and the keys to my truck. There’s not a thing wrong with me but a bum knee. Several months ago one of my heifers knocked me down accidentally and it spooked her so bad that she stepped on my leg. This happened in the pasture behind my house, where I keep twenty head of white-faced Herefords. It took me two hours to drag myself back to the house, and those damned cows hovered over me every inch of the way.

~ Terry Shames, A Killing at Cotton Hill


 This post appeared on To Write Is to Write Is to Write on January 22, 2014.

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Book Not-Quite-Review: Terry Shames’ A Killing at Cotton Hill

It took me two hours to drag myself back to the house, and those damned cows hovered over me every inch of the way. ~Terry Shames, A Killing at Cotton Hill

Waterhouse's The Lady of Shalott Looking at La...
Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in my teaching days, I handed a student a copy of T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and told her I thought she might like it. She did. So much, in fact, that she volunteered to write a review for the school newspaper.

The review went something like this: I loved this book. It was just so…Guinevere was terrible. She was just so… It was so sad…It’s a wonderful book. I just love it.

Unfortunately, the review was never published, because instead of turning into ideas and thence into sentences and finding its way onto paper, it remained a clump of molecules of emotion lodged somewhere in the vicinity of the student’s corpus callosum. Only a few tiny bits escaped as babble.

The reason was no mystery: The writer was too close to her subject. She lacked distance, detachment. She needed, as Wordsworth said when defining poetry, to recollect her powerful emotion in tranquility.

Lack of detachment is a common condition. I’ve suffered from it for weeks.

Several days ago, I posted part of a paragraph from Terry Shames’ first novel, A Killing at Cotton Hill, and illustrated it with a photograph of four white-faced Herefords. That was all.

That’s still all. I’m too close to the book. I wouldn’t dare try to review it now.

If I did, it would come out like this:

I love this book. It’s just so…There’s this wonderful sentence on the second page about hovering cows…That’s exactly what cows do…I can just see those cows…The person who wrote that sentence knows cows…And the dialogue…It’s just so…I just love it.

As soon as I saw it, I fell in love with that cow sentence.* I’ve read well past page two, but I can’t erase hovering cows from my mind. So I’ll say no more about A Killing at Cotton Hill.

I can report that yesterday evening I attended a reading at BookPeople celebrating the release ofkilling at cotton hill Terry Shames’ second book, and the second Samuel Craddock mystery, The Last Death of Jack Harbin.

Terry spoke, read an excerpt from the book, and finished up by taking questions from the audience. To prevent this part of the post from turning into babble, I’ll simply list some of the notes I jotted down:

  • Terry is from Lake Jackson, Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas and then worked for the CIA. [KW: I have your attention now, right?]
  • Both of Terry’s books were finalists for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award.
  • The Last Death of Jack Harbin is about a veteran who comes home from war damaged in body and in spirit. The book is about what people do with their guilt.
  • Library Journal gave Jack Harbin a Starred Review. [KW: And they don’t hand those out to every book that comes along.]
  • Scott Montgomery, BookPeople’s Crime Fiction Coordinator, says Jack Harbin “subtly works on you”–that you don’t realize its depth until you’ve finished–and you’ll still be thinking about it a week later.

Because of the hour, and my lack of detachment, this is as far as my not-quite-review will go. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed Terry’s reading, that I love A Killing at Cotton Hill,** and that The Last Death of Jack Harbin has gone to the top of my To Be Read list.

For more about Terry Shames and her books, read Terry’s “What’s Next for Samuel Craddock” and “MysteryPeople Q&A with Terry Shames,” both on the MysteryPeople blog.***


  • The sentence isn’t really about cows. It’s about Samuel Craddock. But I am fond of white-faced Herefords, and the image Terry painted is so vivid, the cows overshadow the protagonist, at least in my mind.

** I forgot to take my camera to the reading, so I’ve illustrated with a photograph I took myself. The fur on the right of the book shouldn’t be there, but it was easier to just take the picture than to move the cat.

***Terry’s third Samuel Craddock mystery, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek, was published in October 2014. Catriona McPherson, author of As She Left It and the Dandy Gilver Mysteries says about this book, “Small towns in mysteries can be too cute or too weird to be true, but Jarrett Creek is the real deal and Samuel Craddock is the jewel in its crown. Flawed, complex, decent, and captivating—spending time in this town with the Chief is a delight. And what a terrific story, too.”

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This post first appeared on To Write Is to Write Is to Write on January 28, 2014.

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