Lunch With the Dalton Gang

My husband was born in a house built by his grandfather on a large homesteaded wheat farm in western Kansas. If the walls of that house could talk, what wonderful stories they could tell.

His grandmother was Scotch/Irish and a tiny little thing in stature, though she is reputed to have had a fiery personality and hair-trigger temper. She, her husband and little daughter moved from Indiana to western Kansas in 1883, leaving behind a son in his eternal rest.

Grandpa was adventurous and when he heard about the opportunities in the west, he took his horse and wagon and rode on a railroad car to where the rails ran out in Anthony, Kansas. His wife and daughter had gone ahead via passenger train and the family reunited there. With the wagon, horse and a borrowed one, they traveled on trails requiring them to ford rivers and creeks with all their possessions. They lived in a sod house about three-fourths of a mile north of the splendid farm house he eventually built. The house still stands today, occupied by his descendants. Family legend says the weeds outside the sod house were taller than grandma and she had to pick bugs off her small child every night. Hearing such stories, it is not surprising the tiny lady had a red-hot and quick temper.

In July 1884 Grandpa homesteaded one hundred and sixty acres that is still part of the much larger Zortman farm of today. There isn’t a lot of excitement around the farm right now, but let me tell you about the day when there was plenty of action with Grandma right in the middle of it.

On June 8, 1893 Grandma was cooking the noon meal for her husband, sons and field workers when the Dalton gang rode into the yard. They spotted the nearby barn and put their horses inside it, leaving one member to tend to them. They walked across the short distance to the house and entered it, telling Grandma they wanted food. She told them the men would be in from the fields shortly and she would feed them at that time. However, they didn’t hesitate to make it clear that was not going to happen and they would have their food right then and there. She fed them.

When they finished their meal, they returned to the barn and sent the lone man in to also be fed. When his hunger was sated, they saddled up and rode off to Cimarron, Kansas where they robbed a train. Following that, they retraced their trail, riding hard and fast past the farm while Grandpa and a neighbor man happened to be standing outside in the yard. They did not bother to acknowledge the two men, wave or stop to talk and appeared to be in a tremendous hurry with their horse hooves kicking up dust and gravel as they rode by.

When Grandpa and the neighbor later heard about the train robbery, the neighbor is said to have remarked, “I had my big 50, if I’d a known what they’d done, they’d never have made it out of Kansas.”

I’ve never heard how Grandma felt after all of this happened, but were it me, there would be a twelve-gauge shotgun by my side and a substantial pistol in my apron whenever I cooked lunch.

I hope you enjoyed this true story and that you’ll check out my books at My latest book is GHOSTED: Book Four in The Drifter Series at

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Big Snowstorm Rolling In

According to the meteorologists, here in the southwest Colorado mountains we are preparing for a huge snowstorm from today (Friday) through Monday. We don’t panic when this happens and it is probably easier for us than those of you who have been and are long in city pent. We love the snow in Colorado and our outdoor activities, such as the ski resorts, pray for plenty of it. In addition, we are in a drought condition and need the moisture.

The storm has already begun here at our house and my husband and son have prepared the snow blower and Jeep with the snowplow on it with adequate gas and have a collection of snow shovels and brooms handy and dry. We have groceries in the house and our son is a chef and does almost all of the cooking. In addition, we have a treadmill, exercise bike and free weights, so working out won’t be difficult, if you don’t get enough cardio from shoveling snow or cleaning the house.

Forty years ago, I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio and three inches of snow would absolutely shut that entire town down. Around here, three inches of snow is considered a dusting and we pay little attention to it since we often measure our snowfalls by the foot. Normally it is powdery and not conducive to making snowmen or snowballs, but sometimes we have a wetter version that packs well and is super heavy. It’s much like picking up water with a shovel and pitching it off the deck or wherever else it may happen to be. A nice push broom is a must for cleaning snow off the vehicles because pickup trucks and SUVs are what most everyone drives in winter. We couldn’t get up our driveway without four-wheel-drive..

On a lighter and brighter note, the snow is absolutely beautiful and those who visit, but do not live here, say it looks like a Christmas card. I have to admit that it is absolutely beautiful and I love it.

I know there have been some horrendous snowstorms in many other places recently and they have created havoc and left many people without electric or other essential needs, so I’m not trying to make light of the seriousness of the situation. Furthermore, things can get ugly here, too, when things such as the loss of electricity come into play. We have a wood-burning stove in our home with lots of candles plus my mother and great-grandmother’s kerosene lamps, in case we are forced to be independent. It’s simply a different life-style in our remote neck of the woods and living here isn’t for everyone.

Wherever you are today, I sincerely hope you are safe and warm and that you have everything you need. COVID has taught most of us how to stay home and survive well, so that is the silver lining in that horrible pandemic. To quote the tag line that has come with our nemesis virus – We Are All In This Together. Be kind. That works for snowstorms, too.

PS: While you are weathering the storm, it’s a great time to read good books. My latest is titled GHOSTED: The Drifter Series Book Four. You can find it on


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Murder on the Dance Floor

While doing a search on, I ran across six different books with the title “Murder on the Dance Floor“. This snapped my mind back in time to a story I’ve known for many years involving my great-grandfather, known locally where he lived as Al Hale and to me as Pappy.

Pappy died when I was five years old and that was my first experience with death. Of course, back then they didn’t tell children anything at all about what was going on, so it was all a huge frightening enigma to me from beginning to end. I was only five years old at the time. All the quiet and secrecy surrounding me was terrifying to me, only to be surpassed by the mob scene and tears, plus the fire and brimstone service at his funeral.

Pappy was a member of a Bluegrass Band that had been playing for a dance on July 24, 1914. As I understand it, the place was packed with revelers, all local folks enjoying the festivities of Christmas Eve.

As the story goes, one woman had asked her husband to watch their children while she walked a short distance to repay another woman a small amount of money she owed her. She had it in change that was wrapped in her apron and she set out on her mission, saying she’d return in a few minutes. Apparently, she didn’t keep that promise and at midnight her husband set out to find her. He must have waded the creek because he is said to have been wearing trousers that were wet to his knees and is alleged to have been drinking.

Long story short, he found his wife at the dance. She was on the dance floor dancing with a man the husband was very jealous of. He stabbed and killed her right then and there…on the dance floor. Another man at the dance was also stabbed when he tried to interfere. Then the killer tried to stab himself but was unsuccessful in his suicide attempt, inflicting only superficial wounds before passing out.

One little girl remembered seeing the funeral procession pass by her house on December 26, 1914 while snow softly fell. Many people slowly walked to the church and cemetery on the hill. The knife is said to have been borrowed from the little girl’s father and it was eventually returned to him, though he didn’t keep it.

The victim’s death certificate (which I happen to have a copy of) states the cause of death as “killed by knife stab-instantaneous death”. Written on the bottom in someone’s handwriting are the words “Crazy husband killed his wife.” She was twenty-seven years old at the time of her death.

The killer served one year and one day for the murder.

But I still think Murder on the Dance Floor is one terrific title.

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At my age, which we will simply say is advanced, I have watched many years come and go and I have to say that 2020 stands out in my mind as one of the absolute worst. We seemed to get the ball rolling early on with the pandemic and lock-down, which in my opinion was not good for anyone’s psyche.


In our house, there were absolutely endless things that needed to be repaired or replaced to the point where it became astounding. Illness has touched our lives through my husband and Rick (son) moved in to help with his Dad, handle the deep snows and fix endless things that needed attention. Birthdays were not celebrated on the right days, holidays became lonely events and life changed in a major way. I had no Christmas spirit this year and only put up the tree and a few small decorations here and there inside the house. However, Christmas Day with our adult children was wonderful. My son and daughter-in-law cooked a big brunch and we all agreed that being together around a family table is what Christmas is really about.

I no longer make New Year’s resolutions, having learned how that works via the hard way.  I have no expectations for the coming year except to hope it is better than 2020. I’ve made only one plan and that is to return to my normal times to write my books. They’ve been neglected and I’ve missed having the time to focus my mind on things other than the trials and tribulations of the real world.

We are excited to have fireworks at midnight on the snow-covered mountains which is always beautiful to see. We didn’t have them on July 4th because we didn’t want to attract crowds of people to watch them, which is traditional in our little mountain tourist town. However, COVID did not stop tourists from pouring in here through summer and fall and they are still here through this weekend. We also have many new residents moving in and houses are going up on any vacant land available. Realtors have no listings for houses to sell or even places to rent. It’s true that the pandemic has inspired many folks to leave the cities, work from home and live rurally.

My message to you on this final day of 2020 is that you have a happy and healthy 2021 and that life settles down for us all once again. We have hope and with it comes potential. Our new motto is to wake up each morning and say, “Today is going to be a good day.” Take it one day at a time, make it happen and we shall all get through this together. Happy New Year!

Posted in Christmas, elderly readers, Jackie Taylor Zortman, New Year's Eve | 5 Comments


Hasn’t this year been filled with one thing after another. In the little Colorado mountain tourist town I live in, almost everyone put their Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving and for the first time ever, we did the same. My husband no longer likes to put up outside decorations, therefore I simply hang a pretty lighted wreath on the side of our house that can be seen from the vehicles on the highway across the canyon. Most other residents put their outside decorations up super early this year. The most popular theory is that everyone is looking for some happiness during the pandemic and, in addition, they are  anxious to see this year come to an end. Count us among that group.

A Grandmother’s Love is Forever

Before Christmas this year, I have lowered the price of all my published paperback books on Amazon to make it is easier to purchase them as last minute gifts. You can check all of them out on simply by typing my name in on the search box. When it takes you to one of my books, click on the link (usually right below my author’s picture) that takes you to my Amazon Author’s page where my books are listed. Simply click on the cover and it will take you right to the book and the description of the content. I hope you can find one you like and don’t forget that books make a great gift, not only those I write, but from any author you prefer.

Life has been a bit hectic around our house recently  and I haven’t tended to this blog or marketing my books as often as I should. I’m hoping that the new year will provide some personal time for me to return to being more attentive to the book business. I have a new JAKE book as my work in progress and hope to have that out after the holidays, though it may take a few months to get it finished. My mentor stresses patience and my muse has become indifferent due to my lack of attention. Gives me a good resolution for the coming year.


Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, books, Christmas, Colorado, JAKE | Leave a comment


People frequently ask writers what is the hardest part of writing a book. My answer is locked and loaded, so I do not hesitate to say “marketing”. It’s not a word that adequately explains the whole concept of what we have to do to sell our books because marketing has some facets that are tougher than  others.

In my opinion, the hardest part of writing books is getting those who say they just bought your book and couldn’t put it down or proudly tell you they’ve read it and loved it, to take a minute and write a review on

There’s an endless amount of time, fatigue, self-doubt and hard work involved in writing a book and it’s not as easy as it sounds. First of all, it’s a long, time-consuming process from the first word you write until you are finally ready to write the words The End.

At that point, you have to involve a group of specific professionals. You need to find an editor you trust and believe in.  If they truly know the ropes, you’ll see a lot of black, red or purple lines through some parts of your work and copious notes in the margins when you get the manuscript back. Then the real work begins. Rewriting is a long and tedious process and it takes total dedication and many hours. It leaves you weary at the end of each day you do it.

You must find and hire a professional formatter to convert your book to both eBook format and paperback. Next you  find a cover by an artist whose work you like and have the front and back cover created. I am lucky enough to have both a particular formatter and cover artist that I love to work with. But that didn’t happen overnight and you wouldn’t believe the hours that go into selecting just the right cover for your book.

Once your  book is finally out there for people to buy and read, you need to ask those who don’t automatically volunteer to write a review on to do so. Reviews are extremely important to authors and it helps us sell our books. I’ve had people accept free books and then not write their promised review. A few tell me they simply never got around to reading the book and now don’t have the time. One friend told me she’d gone on Amazon to write her review and decided to read the other reviews, then decided her review wasn’t as good and didn’t follow through. Don’t ever do that! It doesn’t matter how simple or short your review is, it’s just as valuable as anyone else’s. Author’s love them all, I promise.

The purpose of this blog post is to ask you who have read someone’s book to sit down and write a review. It only takes a minute and you will make some author extremely happy. For purposes of showing you how to do a review, I’m going to use my latest JAKE book titled GHOSTED, but you can do this for any book.

Go to: where the book sells. Scroll down until you see “Review This Product” on the left side of the page. Below that is a  box that says “Write a Customer Review”. Click on that. Choose the number of stars you think the book should have. Create a title for your review. Write the review. Hit Submit. That’s all there is to it. Try it. Authors love to hear what the readers think of their books and it helps us perfect the next one.






Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, book reviews, JAKE, Paranormal Romance, Promo, Reviews, romantic suspense | 2 Comments


Living rurally has a lot of advantages, but it also has many disadvantages. I’ve lived here for forty years and have learned to mend things the best I can until I can either get to a town where I can actually buy a replacement or order one and wait for it to arrive.

An example of that is the storm door that goes out onto the front deck from the great room. Mysteriously, “someone” slammed into it from the inside while holding something that punched a good-sized hole into the interior metal wall of the door. Five weeks ago, I ordered another door exactly like this one and it arrived in Montrose (forty miles distant) just today. My best friend’s husband will pick it up and also install it for me. They live in Montrose and are helpful friends. Meantime, after my son told me I needed to replace the door, he also told me to put duct tape over the hole to keep moisture out.


Years ago, my other son gave me an apple tree for Mother’s Day. It has grown into a beautiful big tree with the most perfect shape. However, the bears have climbed into it to get apples and now it has broken branches clear to the top and is pitiful to see. One big branch is only partially broken and after waiting for that branch to die for a few weeks, it is still green and bearing fruit.  I decided the way to fix it was to have my husband hold it up while I wrapped the broken part with duct tape this morning. It may not be a cure, but it won’t hurt anything,  and it may help. Let’s see what happens. Right?

Since we live right in the edge of the woods that comprise the Uncompaghre National Forest, all the wild critters wander onto our property and up on our decks. The Uncompahgre River is right below our house and they need to get to it for water. They are fun to watch, but are also dangerous and we have to remain mindful. They can also reap destruction on things such as fruit trees and hot tub covers. The husband actually built a wooden cover to stop that after we had to buy yet a third soft and thermal cover years ago. Deer hooves also puncture hot tub covers here in the wild west.

Your comments are always welcome, so drop me a word.




Posted in animals, Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, bears, Colorado, Colorado's SW Mountains | 2 Comments

MY NEW BOOK RELEASE: GHOSTED-The Drifter Series: Book Four

It’s always exciting when your latest book finally is released. The eBook and paperback of my new book GHOSTED-The Drifter Series: Book 4 just released .

Jake brings his carefully guarded personal secret out into the open for the first time and allows you to peek into how and where his life is directed. There are strict penalties for not following the orders given him and as much as it pains him, he must obey…or else.

He jumps on his red Harley and rides to Grand Junction to talk his pilot buddy, Stephan, into flying him into Jackson Hole Airport in his private plane.

His fiancee, Tomi, is hurt, embarrassed and furious when he leaves her in the lurch without a word. Will this end their relationship forever or will she find it in her heart to forgive him some day? It doesn’t look promising.

Leaving his Harley behind, Jake lands in Jackson Hole without his cycle, and chooses to rent a Jeep to pursue his highly classified mission. It’s an old score that needs to be settled.

Out of the blue, an old friend, Kioni, appears unexpectedly and  becomes a part of Jake’s mission. In addition, she later becomes a fixture, albeit possibly temporary, back in Kimble, Colorado where she fulfills a badly needed space.

Will Jake’s latest adventure turn out to be the joyful surprise he expected or will it become a total disaster? It’s all right there inside the pages of GHOSTED.

Buy Link:




Posted in blogs, Book, Colorado's SW Mountains, Firefighter, Jackie Taylor Zortman, mysteries, wildland firefighters | 4 Comments


We live in a town that’s entirely inside of a National Forest and our house is right on the edge of the woods. This year, like many other strange things that have gone on, when the bears came out of hibernation, they apparently came out in droves. The first day we had them on our deck, there were four different bears at four different times.

One is young and cute and he does funny things such as sit on a stump or plop down on the steps up to the hot tub deck and sit for a little while. I refer to him privately as Teddy. He hasn’t hurt anything,  and he comes at all hours of the day and night. He ambles around, drinks some water, sniffs where bird feeders sit in winter and leaves. My neighbors tell me he’s also doing the same things in their yards. They love it.

Something, not mentioning any names, has almost totally destroyed my apple tree. Bears are the only critter that has picked apples here before. Something has been in it at night about three times now, and has broken small limbs and big ones off. The apples are not as big as a ping pong ball yet, but I am told the bears will eat them any size. I guess they also eat cherries. My son gave me this apple tree years ago for Mother’s Day and it was just a twig, therefore the tree is dear to my heart.

There are six houses in this little section of town that nestles against or among the trees of the forest and Teddy is a neighborhood favorite. It’s true, he’s cute right now and seems harmless. He has no fear of people and is difficult to chase off. But what I’m concerned about is how cute is he going to be when he weighs four hundred pounds and can rip the door off your house in one swipe? That should be about this time next year.

Tthe Department of Wildlife will tell us, we’re inside his National Forest and this is HIS turf. Only time will tell  how he’ll be when he’s grown and may utilize his potential to be lethal. Sometimes it’s hard to live with the baby wildlife and not grow attached to them. But it’s also an experience not many people ever get to enjoy. Teddy isn’t a baby and fits nicely just beneath our deck table as he walks beneath it. He’s a young and adventurous black bear, if you are curious as to what kind of bear he may be. The above pictures are all of Teddy.

Your comments are always welcome on my blog, so feel free to tell me what you think.

Posted in animals, bears, Colorado's SW Mountains, wild animals | 4 Comments


Let me ask you a question. Do you often lose things and know exactly where they have been and where they have never been? Since we’ve now been in isolation for forty-two days where I live, it seems that losing things that have never been outside the house is getting more prevalent.


For example, I usually charge my iPhone every evening while we are watching TV . Other times I wait until bedtime and charge it in our bedroom.  After I charged it several days ago, I clearly recall rolling the cord up and putting the twisty around it. But when I went to use it again, the wall plug portion was gone. I checked all the outlets where I charge  it and could not find it. Did a sweep of the entire house with no luck, too. Ordered a new one from Apple and it arrived yesterday. Today I found it and you won’t believe how.

May 2nd is the 16th birthday of our Siamese cat, Kichai, so I took his picture. We laughed because he looks so sad in it. As you can see, he hates cameras because before we used our cell phone cameras almost exclusively, the flash would go off and it apparently hurt his eyes. Take a look at his picture. Do you see anything besides him in that picture? If not, look again. The wall plug to my cell phone charger is in that picture and that’s how I found it. I saw it while looking at Kichai’s picture on Facebook.

Now, if only I can find the lost paperback book titled ACROSS THE LAKE written by my good buddy, Nancy LiPetri. I bought two copies to give to friends and I actually gave one copy to one of the recipients. The other day I was going to pass the house of the person to receive the second book and discovered it is nowhere to be found. I have looked all over this house again and it has simply vanished. I have my autographed copy, but nobody is getting their hands on that. Funny how these things work, isn’t it? I’m sure it will turn up in some obvious place.

By the way, you can purchase ACROSS THE LAKE at No, I did not write this simply to publicize Nancy’s book, but why not help another author when the opportunity presents itself? I’ve read both her books and they are excellent. I wouldn’t be buying extra gift copies, otherwise. The prequel to ACROSS THE LAKE is titled THE WOODED PATH.

(Your comments are always welcome. I love reading them.)

Posted in aging health, Author Nancy LiPetri, blogs, books, cats, Friendship, isolation, losing things, Pets | 4 Comments