Lady Killers’ Pharmaceuticals

Today we’re discussing one of my favorite topics, lady killers and the drugs they use as murder weapons. I’m also thrilled to introduce you to James Murray, a long time author friend and pharmacist who has agreed to answer some questions for us.


Jim has experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management. Medications and their impact on a patient’s quality of life is his expertise. He draws on past clinical practice as a pharmacist along with an infatuation for the lethal effects of drugs to weave tales of murder and mayhem.


Good morning, Jim! Thanks so much for joining me today on my blog!


Good morning, Diane. It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me. Ask your first question. I’m locked and loaded.


I know it’s out of the norm for women to kill. In fact, women do only 11-15% of ALL MURDERS. Is that correct?





That’s right. Criminologists agree that women who murder are not the norm, and that murder is a predominantly male trait. Women commit only 11-15% of all murders according to recent statistics, and women account for a mere 2% of mass murders.


Women are also not usually serial killers. Women tend to know their victims and, according to statistics, are more likely to kill just one person. Serial killings account for only 1% of all murders, and women represent only 17% of serial killers.

The usual victims of women who kill are their significant others (a spouse, an ex-spouse or someone the murderer is dating up to 60% of the time), and women tend to use poisons or drugs that don’t produce violent side effects to put down their intended victim.


What types of drugs do women often use and how do they affect the body?


The types of drugs most commonly used by women as murder weapons include those that sedate their victims—drugs that cause the victim to fall asleep and never wake up. These include toxic doses of alcohol, opiate painkillers, and sedatives-hypnotics. Let’s take a closer look at the specifics of these general categories:



Alcohol: These might include spiking a drink with too much alcohol and then injecting the victim with a lethal dose after the victim is too intoxicated to fight back. Methanol and isopropyl alcohol (the kinds of alcohol used in rubbing and disinfectant alcohols) are the most lethal to inject. Ethylene glycol (a form of alcohol used in antifreeze) is a most effective poison to add to flavored drinks.

Opiate Painkillers: Opiate drugs include some of the most popular prescription painkillers. Some are natural opiates derived from opium poppy seed plants. These include the familiar drugs codeine and morphine. They are powerful painkillers, and larger than therapeutic doses will suppress the central nervous system to produce an opiate coma and eventual death.

Other often-prescribed painkillers are synthetic drugs manufactured to function as opiates in the body, are usually much stronger medications, and work faster as lethal drugs. These synthetic opiates include oxycodone (Oxycontin), oxymorphone (Opana), hydrocodone (Vicodan, Lortab, Norco), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol) and fentanyl (Duragesic). These are much stronger painkillers and, therefore, more effective and efficient when used as murder weapons.




For instance, a mere 7.5mgs of hydromorphone is equivalent to a larger 30mg dose of morphine. To view a chart of therapeutic dosing and duration of actions, and click for equivalent dose comparisons of the various opiate drugs. A normal one-week supply of any of these medications, as is often prescribed for severe pain, would be more than enough to kill a victim—with a few pills left over to calm the killer’s nerves.


Sedatives-Hypnotic Drugs: These medications, like the opiate drugs, cause body functions to slow down—and in large enough doses cause the body to cease functioning at all, resulting in death.


The barbiturate and benzodiazepine classes of drugs predominate the sedative-hypnotic drug categories. The barbiturates include all the “…bital” drugs: secobarbital, pentobarbital and phenobarbital most notably. The benzodiazepines include Valium, Librium and Tranxene tranquilizer drugs.

Some non-benzodiazepine drugs include the popular sleep medications Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata.


All of these sedatives-hypnotics are lethal in larger than therapeutic doses and are readily prescribed by physicians these days to patients with sleep disorders. Click here to review some of the specifics of these potentially deadly medications.


Thanks so much for the information, Jim. Jim also has some great books out. A list and links are provided below.


Diane, I have a new novel coming out in May 2016 that is the sequel to Lethal Medicine, and it’s also an international thriller, mystery, police procedural. It’s called IMPERFECT MURDER. And you’re very welcome. I had a blast. And I’m offering Lethal Medicine FREE to your readers for the next 5 days (March 2nd-6th). Just click on the Lethal Medicine link below.

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz

Jim’s social networks:





Amazon Author Page:

Goodreads Author Page:

Lethal Medicine (Free for the next 5 days)

Clinical pharmacist Jon Masters seems to have it all. But, still haunted by his days in Special Forces, Jon’s life implodes when evidence found at a murder scene implicates him in an elaborate scheme to distribute a pharmaceutical quality street drug disguised as an experimental medication. With the help of a trusted army confidante, Jon reenters the world of covert ops and cyber intelligence and embarks on a global mission to save his reputation and regain control over his life. He uncovers a complex international conspiracy to redefine the nation’s recreational drug culture.

Cuffed (A Short Story)

It’s not easy to work the graveyard shift, and pharmacist Sam Delaney finds out that the overnight shift can be deadly when a dangerous patient from an ER steps into his pharmacy and presents a questionable prescription. Concern turns to panic as Sam calls the police and is told that they will be delayed. A storm and its inevitable fender benders leave Sam to deal with the situation on his own.

Available at: Amazon, iBook/iTunes, B&N/Nook, Kobo and Smashwords.

Unforeseeable Consequences:

Six short stories (including one from Diane) of intrigue and suspense created by five talented authors about the consequences of actions. The lives of the characters in each story are forever changed as a result of the choices they make and the unforeseeable consequences.

Available at: Amazon, iBook/iTunes, B&N/Nook, Kobo and Smashwords

Almost Dead (A Murder Mystery):

Detectives Rosie Young and Vince Mendez chase an elusive villain when not one but two victims turn up alive less than twenty-four hours after they are pronounced dead. The body count continues to climb as the detectives investigate how two seemingly unrelated victims share an almost identical near-death experience but have no memory of the event. The trail of evidence leads to startling revelations of deceit, greed, and an international conspiracy in this entertaining murder mystery.

Available at: Amazon, iBook/iTunes, B&N/Nook, Kobo and Smashwords

IMPERFECT MURDER. Coming out in May 2016.

{No cover yet}

While mourning both professional and personal losses suffered in the recent past, clinical pharmacist Jon Masters learns that his trusted friend and mentor, Dan Whitmore, has died. Although the police have ruled the death a suicide, Dan’s wife, Sheila, insists that her husband was murdered and asks Jon to help prove that. Pushing through his tremulous emotional state, Jon convinces the police to reopen the investigation.

When Jon retraces the last hours of Dan’s life, he uncovers evidence that proves Dan was not only murdered but was also involved in an international conspiracy to undermine the nation’s drug delivery system.

Blog edited by: Sally Berneathy

Resources used in blog:

Statistics of women murderers/serial killers

How women kill

Women are more likely to use poisons to kill

List of Opiates

Chart of Opiate dosing comparisons

List of Sedatives-Hypnotics



Only a Kansas City Sports Fan would…Part Four

October 26, 2014



Only a Kansas City Sports Fan would chant, “Let’s Go, Royals” for their professional baseball team (who made it to the World Series) at a Kansas City Chiefs football game!


I’m not from Kansas City. I live on a small farm in Kansas. I can tell you, coming from a small town doesn’t make you any less of a Kansas City sports fan. We love our sports teams!


Not so surprising when you think about small towns. Our kids play football, soccer, and baseball from the time they can hold a bat. There’s not much else to do in a small town.


Both my mother and father were diehard Chiefs fans. While they were married, they held season tickets. After their divorce, they only agreed on one thing: their love for their Chiefs would never die. And it never did.


I have memories of Sunday dinners and watching the game. We’d scream at the top of lungs when the team was about to make a touchdown or had made an interception. My mother once lost her false teeth screaming so loud for a Chiefs player to run. Her teeth went flying across the room and hit the TV. Even our dog barked when we yelled!


My husband won driver of the month at his company and was given KC Chiefs football tickets as a reward. On October 27th, 2014, I took my grandson, Alex, to his second game. It was his first one with me.


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Alex knows football. When I say he knows football, I mean he knows the players on every team in the entire NFL. No, he didn’t learn it from me; instead, he learned it from the PlayStation Madden NFL game he plays with his friends. He knows all the players’ stats in the NFL. Alex learned to be an analyzer of players so he could pick the best teams for his Madden game. Plus, he plays as a defensive tackle on his junior high football team.


He also enjoys telling me what I don’t know about players.


But Alex didn’t understand what it was like to be a Chiefs fan until he went to the game with his grandma.


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I screamed and banged on my seat when the opposing team had the ball. (In case you don’t know this already, Arrowhead is in the Guinness World record book for being the loudest confirmed stadium in the world.)


He kept hushing me, and I’d scream louder. Alex is a little shy. As I said earlier, he’s an analyzer of the game. I chanted when we got a touchdown or a first down.

Finally in the fourth quarter my grandson started to yell, chant and bang on his chair. My duty as a Chiefs fan and as his grandma had been fulfilled.

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Alex also got to experience a couples engagement two rows down. Three KC Chief’s band members showed up beating the drums in our section. KC Wolf followed them. KC Wolf showed the gal he stood in front of a chalk board. On It read: “Emily will you marry me? Blake”

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And she said yes!

I told Alex, ” Now, that’s a game she’ll never forget! I’d marry him!” LOL!  All of the couples family stood behind me holding up signs. It was great!


Both my parents are gone but I felt their presence at this game when I saw my grandson loosen up and scream for the Chiefs. He wasn’t an analyzer anymore; he was a Chiefs fan. My parents would have been so proud of the fans when we chanted for our Royals in Arrowhead Stadium. Win or lose, we love our teams!


And even then!

And even then!

We won against St Louis. It was the first time I ever went to a game where the Chiefs won. Alex is my lucky charm. As a writer, we must write words that evoke emotions. Sitting in that stand, feeling the power of the love for a team from all of the KC Chiefs fans is a emotion I know he’ll never forget. I know I never have!


Diane Kratz with her grandson Alex. at Arrowhead Stadium, KC, Mo.

Diane Kratz with her grandson Alex, at Arrowhead Stadium in KC, Mo.


Happy writing,

Diane Kratz

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy

PSWA Conference 2014 Part Three


July 10-14, 2014

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Another year, another wonderful conference put on by the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association) July 10-14 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas! The conference is open to anyone writing crime and mystery fiction or non-fiction technical writing for public safety magazines in print or online or anyone interested in writing.


This is a small conference filled with public safety officers from all walks of life.


We had former undercover DEA agents, FBI agents, CIA agents, Naval Intelligence agents (that’s a whole lot of agents!), and detectives/police officers from all over. EMTs and firefighters were also in attendance as were seasoned mystery writers, therapists and social workers.


This year I volunteered to be a contestant to play CSI Jeopardy. I was the only non-law enforcement person to play.

and Diane Kratz

Joe Haggerty and Diane Kratz

I was up against Pete Kilsmet whom you met here on my blog. He wiped the floor with me. Even though I came in last place, everyone rooted for me. It was a great experience and lots of fun!

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Pete Klismet and Thonie Hevron


This year’s panels were a mix of the writing craft and expert knowledge.

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Panel- Madeline Gornell, Janet Greger, Marilyn Olsen and Marilyn Meredith.


Flexibility in Your Plotting

Writing Articles in Today’s Competitive Market

What are Setting and Dialogue and How Should You Use Them?

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Mike Black put together this years conference








Point of View: What is it, How to Use it Best

Working with an Editor, the Art of Revision, and How to Edit Yourself

The Aspects to be Considered When Writing a Series



On Expert Knowledge:

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Dave, a former DEA agent , gave a presentation on Working Narcotics Undercover.








Working Narcotics Undercover

The Medical Side of Wounds and Forensics

Weapons for Writers

Defense Criminal Investigative Organizations in the Military

The Evolution and Aspects of Fire Fighting and Arson Investigation

The Art of Interview and Interrogation


They also have a competition every year. No, I didn’t send anything but the entry fee is only $10.00 per entry.


Competition categories were:

Michelle Perin officiating Judge

Michelle Perin, PSWA award spokeswoman



Books, Short Stories, Flash Fiction


Non Fiction:

Books, Creative-Non-Technical, Creative-Technical, and Technical Manual






Also, if you join this group, you are entitled to a free one-time manuscript review.


On the last day we had our awards luncheon where the winners of the competition are revealed. I didn’t attend this because we met up with family.


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This year I got to meet in person, two people I’ve become friends with over the web in other writing groups. Sam Bradley, my KOD sister, joined PSWA this year and fit right in to the group. She volunteered to be on three of the panels.


Diane and Sam

Diane and Sam


Rayne E. Golay, an Elements group sister, also joined PSWA this year. She volunteered to be on two panels. I had a great time and learned a bunch.


Rayne E. Golay


I can’t say enough about this group of writers. I love, love, love PSWA!


If any of you would like information on or would like to join PSWA please go to their website at:

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy

Oceanside, California the adventure continues…Part Two


LA- in front of  train station

LA- in front of train station

We arrived in the beautiful town called Oceanside. Oceanside is on the southern California coast next to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, it’s a beach community. Bags still in the car, we went straight to the beach. WOW! Talk about breathtaking!

Oceanside, California and my first look at the Pacific Ocean.

Oceanside, California and my first look at the Pacific Ocean.

I saw the ocean once as a child but never remembered it the way I saw it as an adult. It was powerful. It was beautiful. And it was seductive. I could have sat there for hours just gazing at the ocean’s beauty.

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean

Lisa and I had just earned our train legs. Now we had to earn our sea legs. The waves were strong. We walked up to the edge. When the wave came in, it almost knocked us over. Then when we thought we were out of danger the wave exhaled and almost sucked us back into the water.

My cousin Carla instructed us to position our legs slightly apart and dig our feet into the sand—sand shoes—which we did. I don’t know how long we were there, but I didn’t want to leave.

My cousin Carla

My cousin Carla

Eventually we left the ocean for lunch. We ended up at a sports bar named PCH to have burgers and beer while we watched the Chiefs playing against the San Diego Chargers. We were the only Chiefs fans in the bar. Lucky for us, the other patrons in bar were more interested in the San Francisco 49ers game than the Chargers. Only one TV had our game on.


I didn’t realize that California has three professional football teams—San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers and the team every Chiefs fan hates the most, the Oakland Raiders.

This man has his car covered in jewels! Never seen anything like it!

This man has his car covered in jewels! Never seen anything like it!

We drank dark beer, watched our team lose by three points, then went on a tour of Oceanside. I got to see sea lions warming themselves on boat docks and a bedazzled car before we proceeded to Linda and Carla’s home.

Gets up to 126/ 10 MPG City/Hwy. Found picture at:

Gets up to 126/ 10 MPG City/Hwy. Found picture at:

As I stated in an earlier post, Californians eat smart and are environmentally responsible. My cousins are no exceptions. Carla and Linda recycle everything. They have a Nissan Leaf electric car and Fiat 500 convertible; both are energy efficient, as is every appliance in their home.

We stayed up late talking and catching up outside in their beautiful back yard. They have an avocado tree as well as a milkweed plant for caterpillars to munch on. Butterflies were hanging in cocoons everywhere. They are called “the butterfly whispers” by friends.

California days were in the high 80s and at night the ocean breeze cooled down Carla and Linda’s house to the 60s. PERFECT weather!

Bright and early the next morning we were on the road and off to Disneyland. California’s highways are very different than what we have where I live. They have a car pool lane that only car poolers can use. The landscapes that encircled the California highways were like looking at paintings. Absolutely stunning!

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As soon as we entered Disneyland, my grandma guilt kicked in for being there without my grandkids. But I looked at my sister’s face glowing with excitement because she had never been to “the happiest place in the world” before. I shucked the guilt and had fun watching her grin from ear to ear especially when we rode the teacups. Her dream since she was seven was realized.

Life was GREAT!

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We rode the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, went into the Haunted Mansion, took a ride through Storybook Land, ate homemade toffee, chocolate covered marshmallows on a stick, pretzels shaped like Mickey Mouse, and Carla and I had her favorite, corn dogs.

Tinkerbell in the parade

Tinkerbell in the parade

We watched the parade before going home. Carla thought since we spent the day walking, the next day should be a spa day—a day of relaxation, rejuvenation and, as a social worker would say, a day of self-care.


The next morning, we got up early and headed to Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa, in Corona, CA.

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I live on a farm. My nails are always in bad shape because I always have them in the warm earth. I’d never been to a spa before, and I have to say, this was one of the most enjoyable things I did while in California.



I had my nails, feet and face done. Their nail polish had no harsh chemicals to damage my nails. The facial—I didn’t want it to ever end. The term “magic fingers” was an understatement!


Afterward I was slathered with a paint brush with a deeply hydrating masque of aloe vera, coconut oil, shea butter and hints of eucalyptus and lavender oil. This mixture was applied from the neck down and allowed to soak into my skin as I relaxed in a heated grotto area.

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The grotto was a cave-like sauna. I came out feeling ten years younger. I could do this again and again!

Lisa at Club Mud!

Lisa at Club Mud!

They have nineteen pools that I didn’t get to experience but my sister did. She enjoyed a massage, the hot spring water pool, saline pool for her aching muscles and the mud pool. It’s red clay mud only found in California.

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The setting at Glen Ivy was magnificent. It was like walking into a tropical paradise.

From right to left: Diane, Carla and my sister Lisa.

From right to left: Diane, Carla and my sister Lisa.

When it was time to go, we headed to Callaway Vineyards to do some wine tasting. But because I took advantage of so many of Glen Ivy’s treatments, we arrived at Callaway Vineyards five minutes before they closed so we didn’t get to experience any wine tasting.

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We did, however, get to see all their vineyards with the grapevines. They were massive and gorgeous to gaze upon. I promised my friend I’d bring her back some wine. Lucky for me I have the best cousin in the world, because Carla and Linda belonged to Callaway’s wine club. Carla picked up their monthly offering and gave it to me so I could give it to my friend. Isn’t that wonderful?

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Lisa and I, holding the wine Carla gave me. Neither of us had on any makeup. We just came from the spa.

We spent the next day at Buccaneer Beach in Oceanside. Carla packed a picnic basket with sandwiches, baked wheat potato chips, grapes and vitamin water. We were hypnotized by the waves moving in and out while we sun bathed, people watched, bird watched and collected shells. Finally I got up the courage to attempt to swim in the ocean.

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As I walked out, the sand turned rocky. I had to walk out a little farther to find sand again. The powerful waves grabbed me and I felt like a rag doll being shaken by a dog. I tasted salt water in my mouth and smelled it in my nose. Carla advised me to jump into the waves as they came so I wouldn’t be tossed about. I did, and I survived! I’ll admit I was scared to death. But I can die now knowing I swam in the ocean.

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That night we went to Carlsbad Farmers Market in Carlsbad, California. I bought Asian Pears (they tasted much sweeter than any Asian pear I ever bought in Kansas) and Pluots (a plum/apricot hybrid).

They sold big avocados called Reed avocados which I had never heard of before. Who knew there was more than one kind of avocado? There was strawberry guava too, another fruit I’d never heard of.

They had different honeys from different beekeepers. You could buy honey made by bees that pollinated plants from the region. Examples included: orange honey, avocado honey, wildflower honey, etc. I bought honey from wildflower because that’s what I knew and because it tasted the sweetest to me. Yes, we got to sample everything sold there.

Homemade peach pie! Thanks Linda!

Homemade peach pie! Thanks Linda!

Linda doesn’t eat meat but, bless her heart, she grilled us New York strips on the grill, and Carla made us a delicious kelp salad. For dessert, Linda made my sister and me our favorite pie, peach, from scratch. She revealed after I wolfed down half of it that the flour she used was whole wheat flour. I would have never guessed the crust was made from whole wheat. It was delicious!

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The next day we were off to San Diego to do some whale watching. Carla’s sister, Nellie, and our other cousin, wanted to take us on a chartered boat tour to watch whales.

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It was great! My sister’s phobias started to kick in again so I bought all of us a Mimosa (champagne and orange juice), hoping it would calm her down or at least take the edge off. She wouldn’t bite (or should I say, drink). She stayed terrified all the way there.

The captain kept us out an hour longer than he was supposed to. He wanted to make sure we saw a whale. And we did. I got to see an Orca. I’d love to say I got a picture of this beauty but by the time I got my camera out, she was gone.

I also saw a flying fish and, yes, this fish has wings. It flies and swims. Its scientific name is Exocoetidae, an Asian fish with wings.


. I’d love to say I captured a picture of this elusive fish, but although I snapped many shots, none of the fish were visible in my pictures. I found pictures of them on the Internet. They kind of look like dragonflies to me. It was AWESOME!


Here’s one of many pictures I tried to get of the flying fish. Just too fast to capture on my iPhone.


Afterward we drove to a restaurant called C Level right on the ocean and ate dinner. Carla had coupons she saved just for our trip so our meal was free. My cousins shared salmon with Wasabi mashed potatoes and ahi tuna stack topped with caviar. Linda had lobster macaroni and cheese. I ate a feta chicken salad, and my sister had a burger. We shared each other’s food, talked, laughed and had a wonderful time. The food was delicious, the company superb and the views were beyond words.

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The last night, Thursday night, we went to the Oceanside Sunset Market and shopped for souvenirs. I found an alpaca sweater for my daughter and a stone cross necklace for my husband. Carla bought us a cup full of homemade caramels. We hurried so we could watch the sun set on the ocean.

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OMG! What a sight! I watched the ball of fire slowly descend into the ocean as if it was taking a dip in the water. My sister and I waved goodbye to the ocean and I felt a sadness seep inside. I knew it was the last time we would see each on that trip.

After seeing all these beautiful landscapes, it’s hard not to believe in God or a higher power. Someone or something far greater than you or me painted these pictures. I feel so incredibly lucky to have seen them.

I am a very lucky woman. I’m so thankful to have a family who loves me.


Carla and Linda, my cousins

Carla and Linda, my cousins


Thank you, Carla and Linda! You made our days in California unforgettable.


Nellie and I

Nellie and I

Thank you, Nellie, for showing me what lived in the ocean. I love you girls with all my heart!

Until next time, enjoy the beauty that surrounds you!

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz


Blog edited by Sally Berneathy

Trains, Superliners, and Roomettes… Oh My! Part One



October 3, 2014

There is a reason I haven’t posted much of anything on my blog lately. My family had a horrible year dealing with my daughter’s psychopathic boyfriend. I was finally able to relax and take a deep breath recently when he was captured and sent to prison.

Since that time I’ve been traveling and experiencing many things this year, trying to get my groove back. I’d thought I’d take this opportunity to share some of my adventures with you.



My sister, Lisa, and I decided we would take a vacation together to visit our cousin Carla and her new wife, Linda, who lived in Oceanside, California. Since my sister has a fear of flying, we opted for a train trip, something neither of us had ever done.

We planned this trip back in January and both of us were extremely excited for our adventure to begin. Our trip on the train would consist of two nights to get from Kansas to California. We splurged and booked a Roomette. Amtrak described a Roomette as:

“Our Superliner Roomette is ideal for one or two passengers, with two comfortable reclining seats on either side of a big picture window. At night, the seats convert to a comfortable bed, and an upper berth folds down from above. Roomettes are located on both upper and lower levels of our double-decker Superliner train cars.”

Sounds wonderful, right? Keep reading…

Lawrence Amatrk  train station

Lawrence Amatrk train station

Our train took off from Lawrence, Kansas, at 11:45 p.m. We were shocked when we arrived and realized the train station was closed. A sign on the door said the station opened fifteen minutes before our scheduled departure. This was what they did for every trip. When the attendant arrived, we were shocked once again when our baggage wasn’t inspected and couldn’t be checked.



Taking a train isn’t like flying.



There where no weighing in, inspection of bags, or going through a mental detector like you go through to get on a plane. No probing at all!

I made my cousins Kahlua and Lemoncello. Alcohol. I didn’t think I’d be allowed to take them on the train. I had my husband stay in case I couldn’t and so he could take them home. They didn’t inspect one bag.


Kind of scary if you think about terrorists and all the money our government spends to secure our travels. Guess they forgot about trains.



Not all train stations check baggage. Why do I bring this up?

Because both Lisa and I, not knowing what the weather would be like in California in October, packed our suitcases for any scenario we might encounter and packed close to the allotted amount (50 pounds).


imgres-5Lisa brought two big suitcases and I brought one plus our carry-on bags. Train stations that don’t check baggage mean, basically, your entire luggage is carry-on. And our roomette was upstairs. Not fun lugging the bags up those steps.

After getting our luggage situated we went to our roomette. Small is an understatement! My closet at home was bigger than our room. The attendant had already turned our beds down, which made the room even smaller. It was dark, we couldn’t locate the room light and we had less than two feet to move around.


Our roomette before the beds were down. Picture two grown women sitting across from each other. Knee’s touching and all!

I volunteered to sleep in the upper berth. It was 2’0” wide x 6’6” long. I had to hoist my leg up and over to get my body into this bed. Once I did, I realized I couldn’t sit up to read because of the train’s curved ceiling. I couldn’t even sit up to turn around in this bed. Not a lot of room for an old lady!

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I took this one off the web. It’s a family suite. Ours didn’t have a ladder and was a lot smaller than this. The door is about 2 inches from the bed when its down.

My sister has some phobias, and, during the course of this strange, dark train ride, her irrational thinking began to take over her mind. Every bump was a break-in and every jerk was the train going off the tracks. Luckily for me, sleeping in the top bunk, a harness strapped across the middle would catch me if I started to fall off. Needless to say, neither of us slept a wink all night.


Finally daylight came and we had survived our first night. And what a difference daylight makes! The views were magnificent! We spent hours drooling out our window, gazing at extraordinary views of America.


I had traveled this area many times by car. I never saw anything more breathtaking than the views we experienced by train. Please take a minute and look around at my pictures.

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The dinning car was awesome too!



They seat everyone in fours. My sister and I had to eat with other train people. We got to eat with two firefighters who traveled trains every year, two ladies who were on their way to a funeral in New Mexico, and lots of people from Kansas. We made a lot of train friends!



Once you get your train legs, Amtrak has a wide variety of train cars to visit. The observation car was fantastic! It has a panoramic view on both sides. AWESOME doesn’t explain how gorgeous the views were. If you don’t believe in God before your trip, you will once you see these views. I’m so happy to have the scenes forever etched in my mind.

More Colorado pines.

Colorado pines.

But remember to be safe. One lady’s shoes and lunch were stolen while she was in the Observation Car. She kicked her shoes off before going to the restroom, came back and they were gone.



Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! But I’d be wiser the next time.

Here are some tips for train travelers:

  1. Pack ONLY what you need.


2. If you get a room, don’t pack food because you will eat three big meals a day in the dining car. This is included in your ticket price. (Yea, I had a backpack full of food I also had to carry around. Geez!).



3. Get on the train in daylight, especially if it’s your first time.



4. Bring lip balm and hand lotion. The air on the train dries out your skin and lips!



5. If you need room to move around, book the Bedroom Suite or Family Bedroom Suite. MUCH BIGGER!



6. Bring a camera because you are going to see the most beautiful landscapes you will ever see again.  I used my iphone.




After our adventures on the superliner came to a halt, we ended up in Los Angeles Grand Central Train Station. Here we had to transfer to a smaller commuter train that would take us on to Oceanside. What a culture shock this was for us little ole Kansas ladies.


First thing I noticed was bicycles. They were everywhere inside the train station. Californians are very health smart. They eat well, are environmentally responsible, and exercise. Guess that’s the reason for all the bikes. Below is a picture I took while we were inside:


LA train Station

LA train Station

Second thing, people in LA are rude and weird! Once we got to LA, we were able to check our luggage. We had to hurry because our train took off for Oceanside in 45 minutes. Plus, my sister and I are smokers and we needed our nicotine fix.

We got to the baggage check line and waited our turn, moving our 3 big suitcases, my Nike bag (my grandson’s football bag which I had stuffed), my nifty backpack I won at the PWSA conference (full of food), my sister’s 2 small (43.75 pounds each) over-the-shoulder suitcases, our purses and my make-up train case along with us. No easy task, I promise!

And yes, I ordered a special make-up case made especially for trains. It was really cute! Here a link if you don’t believe they make these kinds of bags:

I rarely wear make up but I still packed it in case I needed to wear make-up somewhere.




When it was finally our turn to talk with the baggage employee, quite a line had formed behind us.

My sister had called before our trip and upgraded our tickets from coach to one night in a Roomette, but she had to pay for it in L.A. We barely got to the booth when a rude man in the back of the line yelled, “Hurry up, ladies, there are other people in line.”

I yelled back, “Like we have any control over that, dumb@#$!” Fifty minutes later our bags were checked, but we had missed our train and had to wait an hour before the next one came. We went outside to curb our nicotine cravings. We had to walk outside the station to smoke.



First a lady came up and asked for a cigarette. My sister gave her one.

Then a longhaired guy who looked as if he was wearing a dreadlock hair and cap wig asked for a smoke. I handed him one of mine.


With the cigarette in his hand he asked, “Is it poisoned?”

“No,” I replied.

“Do you believe in God?”

“Yes,” my sister answered.

“Do you swear on a stack of Bibles this cigarette isn’t poisoned?”

I looked at my sister. She looked at me with a “WTH” kind of look.

I said, “No, I don’t swear on a stack of Bibles for anything.”

He turned, dropped the unsmoked cigarette in the ashtray and left.



Another strange man verbally assaulted my sister. He shouted at her in the train station, said she shouldn’t be wearing “that shirt” in here. Granted, she was wearing her Kansas City Chiefs shirt and we were playing against the San Diego Chargers in about an hour, but—some people!!!!



The first commuter train we were scheduled to ride in ended up having repairs and we had to run to the next train that was about to leave. Once on board, we walked all the way down to the front. By this time our train legs had kicked in and we were able to continue until we found seats though not together.

Ocean View

Ocean View

The ride was a pleasant one. You could tell when we entered Oceanside because the Pacific Ocean appeared in the window. What a beautiful sight! We had finally reached our destination, Oceanside, California.

Happy writing and travels for all,

Until next time,

Diane Kratz

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy


Oceanside, California the adventure continues…Part two


Social Workers’ Safety Tips To Live By

This blog post is slightly different than my usual posts. I recently completed a required continuing education course called “Everyday Self DefenseSM For Social Workers”, taught by Janet Nelson, MSW. I learned some extremely valuable safety precautions, but I was also reminded of why we’re required to take a self-defense course to begin with, and it brings up the opportunity for me to revisit the disturbing case of Teri Zenner, a social worker who was killed by one of her clients while I was in grad school.

I’ll share the safety tips with you in a moment, but first let me tell you the backstory: what happened to Teri, and how this course became a requirement of the Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board, for all new social workers. 

Teri’s Story

Social Worker Teri Zenner
Photo from

Like me, Teri Lea Zenner was a mental health social worker. She was 26 years old, a Kansas University graduate student who worked for the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

In August 2004, Teri went on a routine visit to the home of a 17-year-old, mentally unstable client named Andrew Ramey Ellmaker. Andrew was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder; Teri was there to make sure that he was taking his medication.

Andrew Ramey Ellmaker
Picture from

Zenner’s visit with Ellmaker began normally enough, but at some point things took a deadly turn. We will never know exactly how, or why she agreed, but Ellmaker was able to lure Zenner to his bedroom. Once inside, he refused let her leave. She begged to be released, but Ellmaker had a weapon – a knife.  His mother, Sue Ellmaker, returned from the store, heard Teri’s cries and threatened to call police if her son didn’t let Teri go by the count of three.

At the end of the count, Teri came rushing down the stairs. Blood was spurting from a wound in her neck. Ellmaker came right behind her, stabbing her all the way.

Sue Ellmaker threw herself between her son and Teri, yelling for him to stop. All three tumbled to the floor, and Sue rolled over Teri to protect her. Andrew stabbed Sue four times in the back, once in the chest, and once in the right arm; he also slashed her ear. If the knife hadn’t bent in her back, giving her the chance to flee to a neighbor’s house and call 911, Sue Ellmaker undoubtedly would have been killed.

It is not clear if Teri was alive at this point. All we know is, with his mother gone, Andrew went into his bedroom, turned on some loud music and grabbed his chainsaw from the closet. He began cutting into Teri Zenner, almost severing her left forearm and her neck. He also slashed her head, back, and right hip. At this point, the chain broke – which caused Andrew to feel “pissed off” because he had only recently bought the chainsaw.

Andrew Ramey Ellmaker in restraints
Picture from

After mutilating Teri, Andrew tried to commit suicide by ingesting a variety of pills. He then left the house with two pellet guns and attempted to drive away in Teri’s vehicle. When he had trouble getting the car to start, he took a can of gasoline from the garage, poured it on the vehicle, and set it on fire. As the police arrived, Andrew ran into the street. The police ordered him to drop his weapons, which he did. As Ellmaker was being handcuffed, he spontaneously stated, “I just killed my therapist with a chainsaw.”

I met Teri Zenner’s widower, Matt, while in grad school. He came and spoke to us about Teri’s story and pleaded with us to contact our state representatives to pass help a Kansas law in her honor, requiring specific safety training for all new social workers. Among social workers who are killed on the job, most are killed within the first five years of employment.

As part of the Social Workers Code of Ethics, standards set forth by NASW- National Association of Social Workers, we are required to take Social and Political Action for our clients.

Article 6.04 (a) reads:

“(a) Social workers should engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully. Social workers should be aware of the impact of the political arena on practice and should advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions in order to meet basic human needs and promote social justice.”

Everyone who heard him speak at Washburn University marched over to Topeka Capital building and spoke to their representatives, myself included. Only this time it wasn’t for our clients; it was for social workers everywhere. The bill was signed into Kansas law on April 8, 2010.

Matt and Teri Zenner
Photo from

However, Matt’s activism didn’t end there. Matt was also lobbying for a national act called the Teri Zenner Social Worker Safety Act H.R. 1490 (111th Congress), which would have established a grant program to assist in the provision of safety measures to protect social workers and other professionals who work with at-risk populations. He wanted social workers to have the same publicly viewed protections as police officers do. Unfortunately, as of right now H.R. 1490 is dead and has been submitted to the House Education and Workforce Community for review.

Social work is a helping profession. Teri died because she was trying to make sure that her attacker had been taking care of himself. We see clients at their most vulnerable, often at the worst times of their lives – clients who are mentally unstable, accused of abusing their children, spouse or intimate partners, or clients just released from prison. Our cases are emotionally charged by nature, and can become dangerous in the blink of the eye.

When it comes to the violence on the job, social workers are the second highest at-risk profession. The first are police officers. The glaring difference between these two occupations is that police officers carry weapons and receive intensive training to protect themselves.

Something needs to change.

Now on to Janet’s safety tips…

Above all, STAY CALM!

BREATHE and CENTER yourself to stay in CONTROL and to regain balance in emotionally charged situations.

Client known factors contributing to assault behavior:

  • Violence in client’s history or a criminal record
  • A diagnosis of dementia or low mental functioning
  • Intoxication from alcohol, drugs or medications
  • Low impulse control and high frustration level
  • Mania, paranoia and antisocial personality disorder
  • Law enforcement or military training/combat experience
  • Knowledge of weapons
  • Authoritative or confrontational counseling approaches
  • Client’s feeling powerless
  • The treatment environment itself

   In Your Client’s Home and Neighborhood

old houses photo: Old houses P3100008.jpg

Picture from

  • Make sure you understand that you are on their turf. This is a natural safety dilemma.
  • When you schedule a visit, let them know when to expect you. Let them advise you about any safety concerns in their area.
  • Drive by first to check out the dwelling, the atmosphere and the surrounding area. Notice what’s happening on the streets and who is present.
  • Ask your client to watch for you as you leave your car upon arrival. Have them watch you go to your car as you leave.
  • Observe the home—both inside and outside. Notice its hiding places, vulnerable points, blocked exits, and escape routes.
  • If anything looks out of the ordinary in or around the dwelling, or you feel uneasy about the situation you are in, leave and call for back up.
  • Listen while outside the door for any disturbances. After knocking, stand off to the side.
  • As you enter the home, notice the general interior layout, exits, and phones.
  • Position yourself for an easy exit, if necessary.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement. Do NOT wear anything that can be used as a weapon against you. This includes jewelry, scarfs, belts, etc.…
  • Carry a cell phone with you. Keep it on and preprogrammed to Call 911 for assistance in any emergency.
  • Keep purses locked in the trunk. Keep keys, a little money, and a cell phone in pockets or a waist pack (on your person).
  • Look around and think of what objects could be used as weapons, if needed.
  • Most importantly, know your client. Be aware of what they may be capable of based on size, gender, mental health status, medications, legal status, and history.
  • Whenever possible, travel with a co-worker or law enforcement if uncertain about safety.
  • Stay out of the kitchen! The kitchen is the most dangerous place in the home.

In the Car

Cars 005

  • Make certain your car has gas, water, and a spare with jack, a working horn, spare change, a flashlight, jumper cables, and a first aid kit.
  • Travel with a cell phone. Keep it on and preprogrammed to Call 911 for assistance in any emergency or threatening situation.
  • Have understandable directions and maps available.
  • If you have a flat tire at night, try to keep going along the shoulder to a gas station.
  • Use extra caution in parking garages. Scan the garage as you enter it.
  • Have your car keys in your hand as you approach your car assuredly.
  • Scan the area as you approach the car and check the floor/back seat and under the car.
  • If stranded and you accept assistance, pretend that someone else will soon be arriving. Stay on guard so that you do not become a victim of a “Good Samaritan” ploy, in which your helper becomes an attacker.
  • Ask to see the identification of anyone stopping to assist you (police too!).
  • If someone approaches your car to force entry, lay on the horn and drive off.
  • If someone is in your car forcing you to drive, turn on the flashers, press the horn, stop suddenly, get out and run or cause an accident with other cars (with your seat belt on).
  • If you have your windows open be aware of what’s going on around you.
  • Keep car doors locked while in or away from your vehicle.
  • If you are being forced into your car, throw away the keys (distracting the attacker) and run.
  • During home visits park your car in position for a quick and easy departure.
  • Be careful about what you leave on your seats or dashboard — valuables and items with your name, address, phone number, or e-mail address on them (e.g., mail, cell phone).

Thank you, Janet Nelson, for your input on this post – and for giving social workers everywhere the tools they need to protect themselves. To find out more on Janet’s self-defense courses, visit her website at: .

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz


“Everyday Self Defense­ SM For Social Workers” by Janet Nelson, MSW, website:

NASW- National Association of Social Workers

WIB.COM, Sentence Holds For Man Convicted Of Murdering Social Worker, Posted: Fri 1:07 PM, Dec 04, 2009.

Edited by Sally Berneathy and Nicolase Mallat (Crime Consultant)

Diane Kratz

About Me:

Diane Kratz is crime fiction writer. She has been married to her wonderful husband Tom for 25 years, lives on a small farm in Kansas and has worked as a social worker in domestic violence shelters, hospice, and in county mental health.

She graduated from Emporia State University bachelors in Sociology, and from Washburn University with a Masters in Social Work. She is accredited as Licensed Master Social Worker from the Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board in Kansas. She is also a member of NASW (National Association of Social Workers). She has a Golden Lab named Maggie, and a very old cat named Figaro, and another named Patches.

She is an active member of Kiss of Death, Midwest Romance Writers, Romance Writer of America, Sister In Crime and International Thriller Writers Association.

Her favorite authors include Karin Slaughter, Jeff Lindsey, Steven King, Tess Gerritsen and CJ Lyons.

She is currently working on her first novel in a series of five books, Victims of Love Genesis.