Deni Dietz

I was going to blog "funny waitress stories" this week, but I’ll save it for next week and, instead, find my old newspaper editor’s hat…ah, here it is, on the top shelf; a black-leather John Lennon cap…and write a "Happy Obituary."

No, that’s not an oxymoron.

After a bravely-fought battle with a rare form of cancer, author Katherine Shepherd succumbed Sunday morning. Most of you have never heard of Katherine Shepherd, and that’s understandable. As the author of two mystery novels — Fraternity of Silence and Betrayed by Silence — co-starring a mini Schnauzer named Bowie Aloysius Dog [B.A.D.], Kathy never made the N.Y. Times or USA Today bestseller lists. She never sold a movie option. She never even wrote a blog <thud>.

But Katherine Shephard epitomized everything that’s good about the book biz, everything that’s positive about small press publishing. And for the record, she never felt she was "second cousin" to the big guys — the authors who win prestigious awards, the authors who get 400 reviews [in a row] on DorothyL.

Au contraire. If you look in the dictionary under "enthusiasm," you’ll probably find Katherine Shephard’s name. I don’t know how Kathy felt on the inside, but on the outside she was a star.

Kathy paid her dues. She had a degree in Criminal Justice and she was a political speechwriter. She attended political fundraisers. She truly researched first-hand the politicians who peopled her novels. And best of all, she never said, "Someday I’m going to write a book." She wrote one. And then another. And had she not become sick, she would have kept on entertaining her fans.

Her husband Bob said, "Kathy enjoyed the friends she made during her days as an author.  The people she met on book tours, at speaking engagements, at conferences and while working on and researching her books, as well as the fans she developed, were all benefits she had not previously considered.  She enjoyed all of them."

The last time I saw Kathy, her eyes twinkled and her smile lit up the room. She was so excited because she had a big surprise for me. Seems she’d mentioned my fictitious dog "Hitchcock" in her latest B.A.D. book [Betrayed by Silence].

For those who will miss Katherine’s smile as much as I will, I’ve included a Katherineanddeni_1
picture of her ("and her little dog, too").

Rest in peace, Kathy, free from pain. You will live on in your books, and how many people can say that?

Over and Out,

8 thoughts on “QUIBBLES & BITS

  1. Pari

    Kathy sounds like such a gem; I wish I’d met her, Deni.

    Anytime our mystery community loses an author, it feels like a wonderful cousin has left the world.

    Thank goodness Kathy was a writer, that way we can get to know her a little still.

  2. Elaine

    A lovely tribute, Deni – for a lovely gal. I only knew Katherine from her posts on one of the chat boards, but her joie de vivre was apparent in every word.

  3. Beth Anderson

    I never met Katherine in person either, but I was keeping my eye on her progress. She really worked at it, and she was so joyful about the whole publication process. In addition to that, she had a LOT of class, she really did. I’m really sorry to hear about her death, but she did get to leave two damn fine books behind. As you said, how many people can say that?

  4. Beatrice Brooks

    Thank y’all for your comments. I discarded my usual “make ’em laugh” (okay, TRY to make ’em laugh )approach to blogging this week because I felt *compelled* to write a tribute to Katherine. It was totally selfish on my part. You see, it made ME feel better.

    I think what I wanted to emphasize was that Kathy was published with two books. That means she wrote (at least) two books. If I had a dollar for everyone who has ever said, “Someday I’m gonna write a book”…


  5. Jeff Cohen

    Thanks for saying it, Deni. I knew Kathy a little bit (she was tickled when I sent a blurb for, as it turned out, her last book) via email, and she was always a delight. I’m sorry we never got to meet “in person.” There aren’t enough such people, and one fewer is too many to lose.

  6. Regan Marie Brown

    A Tribute to Katherine Shephard

    I met Katherine Shephard in 2002 when she hired me long-distance to edit her first book (her web designer connected the two of us). Reading about Gerald Ford’s death and Michigan politics this week made me wonder “What’s the unstoppable Katherine up to now?” and led me to this dismaying, but wonderfully evocative, blog entry about her death. I’m sorry now that I didn’t keep in touch more. And dismayed that her planned third book — the one that would reveal all the secrets and tie up all the loose ends — will never see the light of day.

    Throughout the process of editing both of Katherine’s books, I was constantly delighted by her humor and impressed by her drive. She had a clear vision of herself, how the world works, and what she wanted. Though ultimately (I think) a cynic about politics and how it brings out the worst in people, she had a warm, giving heart and a talent for seeing everyone’s latent gifts. She had little patience for people who thought about writing someday, but weren’t doing anything about it. I’m used to coaching new authors and drumming a “You can do it!” attitude into writers who doubt themselves and question their talents. No need for that with Katherine! Instead, she encouraged my own backburnered writing projects and nagged me about never buckling down to bring my ideas into the light of day. If her energy and drive could somehow be distlled into a magical Elixir of Katherine for the stalled, blocked, and despairing writers of the world, many more books would be finished, sold, promoted, and purchased. Seeing her in action at a book signing was something to behold — she found a way to connect with everyone in the room. I always told her she should be an agent, and would have signed up with her in a heartbeat. Who could resist her, or say no to her?

    Katherine was both tough and kind, shrewd and charming, with a persuasive energy about her that was contagious — I loved working with her through two books. I don’t think I’ve ever edited an author so focused, so generous, and so determined to make her book better. We argued about how much canine cuteness one book could hold (she won that one). I had to set her straight about the flora and fauna of the Texas Hill Country (she wanted the Larken Love Nest to be a cabin in the pines, but all we have out here is cedars and live oaks). In thanks she modeled the Larken Love Nest after my own humble Wimberley abode, and I’m honored by her kind mention of me in the Acknowledgments for both books — a glance through them illustrates both how connected and how grateful Katherine was.

    The idea of that exuberant spirit being done in by cancer is a heart-wrenching notion. Knowing Katherine, she probably charmed everone in the hospital, from doctors and nurses to the person who cleaned the floors. What a loss to everyone who knew her. I’m going to print out her photo as a kick-in-the-pants, memento mori reminder of how time flies whether you’re pursuing your dreams or not. She wanted to be an author and by gum, she became one. I’m not much of a drinker these days, but next time I’m in a bar I will order one of those god-awful chocolate martinis she loved so much and raise it in her honor.

    Katherine dedicated Betrayed by Silence to to her guardian angels. And her main character, Beth, loved to invoke obscure saints. Katherine, I hope your guardian angels made your passing easier, and you’re a saint in my personal pantheon. I won’t say “rest in peace” because I think you have far too much energy for that to happen. May you now become a powerful guardian angel for those you left behind — we could use someone like you on our side!


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