Thursday, October 18, 2012

Journey to find a killer

Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz     

Writing tips, trials and tribulations                  

Jeannie Walker, Fighting the Devil with Giveaway

Jeannie Walker's journey to find the killer of her children's father, a Texas Millionaire

Today's guest, true crime author, JeannieWalker, is offering a Kindle edition of her book to one lucky person who comments.  Please be sure to leave your contact information to be entered into the drawing.

AUTHOR:   Award Winning Author Jeannie Walker
BOOK TITLE:  "Fighting the Devil" - A True Story of Consuming Passion, Deadly Poison, and Murder
BUY LINK:  Amazon:     Barnes & Noble:

GIVEAWAY?:  One Kindle Edition

Tell me a little about your book.   My ex-husband, was a self-made Texas millionaire. He was poisoned to death in 1990. While hospitalized, he told nurses and doctors alike that two women, his wife and bookkeeper, were poisoning him. The hospital staff did not believe his accusations and continued to let the murder suspects have access to him as he lay dying in the hospital.

He died in the hospital while strapped down to his hospital bed with restraints on his hands and feet and tubes in every orifice. Upon his death, an anonymous caller tipped off the police.

The authorities quickly determined that millionaire Jerry Sternadel had died from arsenic poisoning.  The widow was the sole beneficiary of the million-dollar estate and a $350,000 life insurance policy. It was later learned that just before Jerry's death a teenager had visited the Sternadel ranch and became deathly ill after he drank juice that was in the refrigerator. Two years after the death of Jerry Sternadel, a bottle of arsenic was found in a storage locker rented by a woman under an assumed name.

The sheriff asked me to help with the investigation because the small county could not afford and did not have the time or resources to do extensive research. I quickly decided to become a sleuth to help solve the murder. The Sheriff deputized me over the telephone.

 What gave you the idea for this particular story?  The idea for this story was the unexpected murder of my ex-husband. I was the mother of his only children. I wrote the book to speak for my children's father, as he no longer has a voice.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? Full-time - I set aside 3 hours a day to writing.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? I liked reading books and writing stories about what happened growing up on a small farm. My English teacher at Lone Wolf, Oklahoma was a big influence in my life. Mrs. Schreiner encouraged all her students to excel in reading and writing. My candle for writing was lit when one of my stories won a state award when I was in junior high.

What do you hope readers will take from your writing?  It is my hope that anyone who reads my book will come to the realization that they are not alone in their struggles, no matter how big or small. I want readers to see that everyone has the ability to overcome any adversity or shortcoming. I hope that crime victims will become conscious of the fact that they are not alone and can become their own Sherlock Holmes if that is needed to help solve the crime. My hope for readers is that they too, discover God will walk beside them every step of the way in their trials and tribulations. If they get too weary to carry on, God will pick them up and carry them. When they reach their destination - there will be only one set of footprints in the sand.

Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why? Non-Fiction - I have always like true stories. And I am not very talented at imagining or dreaming up scenarios or the framework for a tale of fiction. I believe that is definitely a talent I would need to do in order to write successfully in the fiction genre.

What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?  I think the toughest part is the beginning of a story. The only way to get past that hurtle is to just sit down and let the creative thought process flow, which will happen, if writers keep a positive attitude, and then start writing down the thoughts. We can always edit afterwards. Stephen King once said when he has a thought about something in the middle of the night, he jumps up and writes it down because he knows he won't remember it in the morning. I think that is great advice coming from the master writer and that is what I do.

Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it. The entire book is a real life event beginning with the horrible murder of my ex-husband and everything that happened during the arsenic poisoning murder and the investigation afterwards.

How much is your protagonist like you? How different?   I am the protagonist in the book. I took on the job because someone had to fight the antagonist in order to help get justice for a horrible injustice. I also took on the fight to protect my children as much as I could and help them find closure for the dreadful way their father was tortured and murdered. My children's lives were changed forever by evil deeds. Unfortunately, I could not bring their father back to life so that he could be with them in the future to share his love and prosperity. But I could be a strong mother who would show them in their sorrow that having faith and trusting in God would bring success and conquer wickedness and abomination.

What kind of research did you do for this type of story?  I began my research by reading everything I could about arsenic poison and its effect on a human being. I read books about people who use poison as a weapon to kill. I started contacting toxicologists, medical examiners, detectives who had solved arsenic murder cases, District Attorneys who had handed arsenic murder cases, the EPA and even the FBI in Quantico, Virginia.  

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not? Yes, writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother me a lot. I do not condone or believe in violence or sexual abuse of any kind. However, in a true crime story, a writer does not have a choice other than to write the facts as they happened - the good with the bad!

What about your book makes it special?  I believe the fact that my book is a true story makes it special, along with the fact a lot of innocent people were harmed and still suffer, even today from and evil and wicked deeds.

What is your marketing plan? My marketing plan is to grant interviews like this one and telling everyone who will listen about the impact and misery crime against humanity has on innocent victims.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?   Information about my book and myself is on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. When they get a chance, they can also find information on my website or blog.  
The link to my website is:  
The link to my blog is:  

Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?Honestly, I hope none of your readers become crime victims.  But, if they are put into a similar situation, I hope they fight for their rights and the rights of their loved ones. I believe they will need to research any material they might need and keep a diary of what they did. I think that is a good start for any writer who plans on penning a non-fiction book. And, like Stephen King says, read every book you can get your hands on. It takes a good reader to become a good writer.

What’s in the future for you? I am currently working on the true story of my father and paternal grandmother whose ancestors were on the Trail of Tears.

There was a time when the millionaire rancher, Jerry Sternadel, gave all the orders. No one dared to tell him times were a-changin'. When he discovered in May of 1990 that his wife, Lou Ann, and his bookkeeper, Debbie Baker, had stolen thousands of dollars from him, he demanded the money back by Memorial Day, threatening to have them arrested for embezzlement if they did not. He also told his wife he was going to divorce her.
A week before Memorial Day, Jerry ate lunch with Lou Ann and Debbie as he often did.
Soon after consuming his taco salad, he became violently ill, with nausea, vomiting, and severe diarrhea. He was admitted to the hospital on three different occasions between May 23 and June 12.
Doctors were mystified as to what was causing this otherwise healthy forty-nine-year-old man to become so deathly ill. Jerry did not smoke or drink and he exercised daily. During his final stay in the hospital, toxicology tests showed 4,895 mcg of arsenic in his system. Even while he was a patient in the hospital, the arsenic levels had continued to climb!
Jerry told nurses and anyone within earshot that his wife and bookkeeper were killing him.
                                          —excerpt from "Fighting the Devil"

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