A few months ago, one of our smoke alarms…of course, the one right outside our bedroom door, began “chirping” off and on…most often in the middle of the night.  My husband was sleeping on the main floor in a recliner after shoulder surgery, so it didn’t bother him, nor could he fix it if it did.  Finally, in desperation, I got the step ladder in the daylight, unplugged it and jerked that thing down. After pulling out the battery, I was stunned to hear it continue to chirp.  Shortly, it did a rather weak chirppppppp and that was the end of that.

I got on-line and ordered the model recommended for replacement of the ones we had, which were 17 years old and past their prime.  When they arrived, I called a local electrician and he came and installed two new ones in a flash. But alas, four nights later, the same alarm outside the bedroom door began chirping, first 4:00 a.m. and then again at 6:45 a.m. That was last night.

First Alert 120 VAC hardwired with battery backup – our new alarms.

The electrician told us they all will chirp and usually in the wee hours when it is coldest. The ones in his house do and they are interconnected. He also said he’s found spiders in them that were the cause, as well as dust. Back on-line to read the comments for the particular ones we have.  One man said he found little green bugs inside his that caused the chirping. Others have never figured out what’s making it happen.

Okay, here’s my question, especially for, but certainly not limited to,  those of you who are firemen/women. I know there are several in the PSWA group and among my Facebook friends.  In your opinion, what’s the best brand/kind of smoke detector to buy?  And what’s going on with this chirping with a product that’s only been up four days and was installed by a professional electrician? Ours are hard-wired with battery backup.

Where the light is shining is the alarm. The peak is above the Double Happiness emblem backed in black.

For everyone reading this, tell me what brand and kind you have in your house and how they are working.  Do they ever chirp?  Do you know why? As the electrician immediately suggested, I tossed the cheap “free” battery that came with them into the trash and provided alkaline 9 volt replacements. Lithium is my next purchase. But until I find out what’s making it chirp, it probably won’t matter.

Here is one possible cause, though no problems for 17 years, even when burning a wood-stove full-time in winter.  The picture on the right shows where the alarm is located outside our bedroom door, which is right off our loft office.  As you can see above the black-backed Chinese Double Happiness emblem the great room is beside and below the loft and the peak of the ceiling is 24 feet. Could that cause a problem?

Someone please tell me what you know and think. Help!

Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, Fire Departments, Public Safety Writers Association, Smoke detectors, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


When Glen Campbell recently left this earth, someone posted his rendition of “Amazing Grace” on Facebook.  In that version, he played the bagpipes.  I have to say it is the first time I’ve ever thought bagpipes sounded absolutely beautiful.  Did you even know he played them?  I knew he played a multitude of musical instruments, but bagpipes never entered my mind. You will find it on his album “Jesus and Me”.

But one of my personal favorites is “Wichita Lineman”. My husband is from Wichita. He was a detective with the Wichita PD for twenty years. My best friend worked for the telephone company there. First she worked in the Wichita office and then decided to become a lineman, which was not usual for a female back in those days. She stayed with the phone company for thirty years, still working outside in fiber optics after she moved back to her Colorado hometown.  But she had once actually been a Wichita lineman. I got to see her climb a telephone pole on the job right here on our property years ago and it was quite impressive.

I  loved so many of Glen Campbell’s songs at the height of his fame.  During a business trip, I recall standing in the sun on a pier in Topolobampo, Mexico, staring at the ocean and listening to him sing “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay” as it played from the deck of a nearby yacht. Today I always associate the song with that moment in Mexico.

Recently, I wanted to know if he wrote “Wichita Lineman” and why. He did not. The writer of the song was Jimmy Webb. He was driving along an Oklahoma highway (I assume into Kansas) when he spied a single telephone lineman on one of the poles with an ear piece attached to it. It evoked loneliness in Mr. Webb’s mind. If you’ve ever driven across Kansas, you certainly understand why. He wondered what the lineman was saying. Was it about a lost love or was it strictly business?

Remember the wall phones? We still have one in the gunsmith shop.

When winds blow over small wires, like those of a long stretch of telephone line, it can make them whine. The wind rarely stops blowing in Kansas. Part of the lyrics to the song refer to that eerie sound – “I can hear you through the whine…”. The song changes keys in both verses and the subject of the lyrics change each time the key changes.  In other words, one key speaks about the job and the other key is about the lineman’s romantic life. How clever and unique is that?

When we lost Glen Campbell,  we lost one of the most talented musicians this world has ever known. It is said he was as kind and unassuming as he was talented. The angels must be thrilled to have his voice in their heavenly choir.

Author Jackie Taylor Zortman

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Author Jackie Taylor Zortman

Yes, it’s true and I thought it would never be here. Like many prisoners, I am actually crossing the days off on the tiny calendar that sits in front of my computer monitor. Will my husband get to return to our bedroom to sleep?  I often awaken in the night and think I hear him breathing beside me.  When I reach over to touch him, I remember that he’s not there anymore. I did that last night and touched our Siamese cat whom it scared the wits out of.  But he soon settled down again and snuggled back tight against me. His life has been upside down, too.

Where is my husband, you wonder. He’s downstairs in the TV room wrapped snugly in a duvet cover because in the high altitude in which we live, our monsoon rains continue day and night and keep the temperatures rather cool. And let’s face it, fall is staring us right in the face here in the high country.  It looks like nobody lives here with untended flower beds and weeds and grass to our knees.  But there’s light at the end of the tunnel now and I’m sprinting toward it.

It has now been seven weeks since he had surgery on his rotator cuff and when he fell way back on April 13th, he did more damage than is average.  Therefore, his recuperation is two weeks longer than the average bear’s, as well.  It has been a complete nightmare.

His reaction to 4.5 hours of anesthetic made him confused day and night for 17 days.  After two weeks of having absolutely no sleep at all, I took him to the family doc who solved that with, of all things, 3 mg. melatonin.  Having always been skeptical of the magic that supplement is touted to perform, I have to tell you it’s the answer to my prayers. He sleeps like a baby now. We did have one night where he got up, made a pot of coffee, sat down and drank a cup and didn’t know he did it.  He was stunned to find a luke-warm partial pot of coffee waiting when he got up the next morning.  Doc said that’ll happen once in awhile. Apparently, he is sleep walking, which he did a lot as a youngster.

On the positive side, my hair had time to grow out and I didn’t care how it looked because the unusual high humidity makes me look like Janis Joplin anyway. Although on really rainy days, I look more like a French poodle.  But we’re pretty much confined, so who’s gonna know? Everything is relative and compared to the rest of it, my hair is the least of my worries.

And that, my friends, is my excuse for neglecting my blog for the last month, plus a few days and I’m sticking to it.  I do have a manuscript being read by a new publisher and hope my next novel, SNOW ANGEL, a sequel to FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST,  will be coming soon. Please don’t abandon me yet because winter’s coming and I’ll be writing my little arthritic fingers off again.



Posted in accidents, blogs, fall, summer, Writing | 8 Comments


Book Review: Footprints in the Frost by Jackie Taylor Zortman

If you need a bitter chill to chase away the heat of summer, Footprints in the Frost is the one book you should take home with you.

I gauge a book, particularly a thriller, on the way a story makes me feel. It’s not the thrill of the hunt that matters, it’s the experience that surrounds me when an author as talented as Jackie Taylor Zortman grabs me by the throat and jerks me into the the unsolved riddles of a novel like Footprints in the Frost.

I feel the beauty of the Colorado high country.

I have a photograph of the mountains embedded in my brain.

I’ve been there and stood on its ridges.

Jackie’s descriptions are better than the photograph.

I feel the peace, the comfort, the loneliness of a remote mountain cabin that sits far above the noise, the confusion, the rigors of city living.

It’s a place where a police investigator can escape to untangle the cobwebs from his mind.

It’s a place where he and his girl friend can rekindle their relationship.

But will he ever be able to flee the nightmares created by a serial rapist?

The memories of five beautiful women, five beautiful victims, won’t leave him

They linger day and night.

Will the girls ever be the same again?

Or does their lives lie in ruins?

Their voices cry for justice.

Is there any justice?

I feel the hope, the frustration, the fear of two intense people – a detective and his love – who are battling time and circumstance in a desperate effort to unravel the knots that keep their lives together, yet, at the same time, separate them.

Do they really have any time for each other?

Or will their jobs drag them apart?

I feel the cold of a Colorado winter as it creeps into the bone marrow of the key characters – Max and Sami – as well as the intensity of the story.

Their love runs hot and cold.

Can it survive?

Footsteps in the Frost is a romance.

It’s a mystery.

It’s a crime story.

It’s a love story.

Max and Sami have many mysteries to unravel.

Most revolve around them.

Max won’t be satisfied until the serial rapist is behind bars.

Sami won’t be satisfied until she knows how Max really feels about her.

He comes into her life.

He walks out.

She wonders if he will ever return.

For Sami, there are only fragmented moments between “I love you” and “goodbye.”

Jackie Taylor Zortman has twisted a haunting tale around hope and fear, crime and punishment, guilt and innocence, promises made, kept, and unanswered.

But when it’s all said and done, feelings are all that count and all that are left.

If you need a bitter chill to chase away the heat of summer, Footprints in the Frost is the one book you should take home with you.

Please click HERE to purchase your copy of Footprints in the Frost from Amazon. 


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Author Jackie Taylor Zortman

When New Year’s Eve 2016 rolled around, I remember being so sure in my heart that 2017 was going to be the best year ever.  Boy, was I wrong.  Starting in January, things that have never happened before started and they are still going strong here in June.

For the first time ever, we had carbon monoxide alarms go off in the middle of the night in both January and February, which meant having the Fire Department in the house, some in full regalia, looking for the source.  They never discovered what caused it, but we had to pack up our cat and go to a motel both times.  We learned our cat isn’t a motel kind of guy. Finally we bought new alarms, paid a small fortune to have the water heater changed from gas to electric and are shopping for an electric drier to replace the gas one. The furnace is gas, but it checks out and nobody, including the FD, gas tech or furnace tech think it’s the culprit.

Then, after having no problems for months, one of the alarms began chirping. It didn’t alarm,  just chirped once, but about every four hours and only at night.  This really adds to one’s lack of sleep due to other reasons, such as my husband falling out of a high closet (don’t even ask) and tearing the rotator cuff away from the bone on April 13th. That causes some restlessness at night.  His surgery is in late June, so it’s been fun.

But back to the CO alarm, we suspect it is due to a Hoya plant’s (I have three in bloom right now) pungent perfume that only reveals itself at night. Did you know that perfume, after shave, aerosol sprays and other things can set off a CO alarm?  I moved the plants to another room and finally ripped that alarm out of the electric socket, took the batteries out and replaced it with a battery driven model last night.

Yesterday I opened the smoked glass door to my built in computer and discovered the field mice we’re battling this year (for the first time in 36 years) have been in there.  They totally stripped the rubber off the USB cable to my exterior hard drive.  They tore up manila envelopes of all sizes and the back off a ream of paper, as well.  Thankfully, they didn’t touch the wires of my computer stack. There’s D-con in there waiting for them now.

Yes, we have a cat.  We have a very expensive Siamese cat.  We’ve had him for 12 years now.  He doesn’t hunt mice.  He uses mice for entertainment only. He sleeps all day because he’s up all night cavorting with the mice. Here he is today.

We also discovered mice have been in two storage closets in our office and really wreaked havoc, apparently all winter.  Yesterday we spent the entire day cleaning that mess out.   This has kicked me over the edge, folks, so I’m raging war against them now.  Caught two in traps last night and two the night before.  How many must there be?

After Mother’s Day, the cut-off time for planting things outside here, we had a foot of snow over three days and nights. I mean it was grueling on that third day.  Looks like it has killed most of the scrub oak trees in the area, including ours.  Lots of tree cutting needs to be done, but a guy with a torn rotator cuff isn’t able to do such things, so we are just goin’ with the flow this summer.

Just to fill in between these things, there have been daily other disasters, too numerous to mention.  We refer to them as crisis du jour now and wonder what’s next every morning over coffee.

My 23-year-old granddaughter just commented, “Granny, the craziest things happen to you.”  She just graduated college (brag – something went right) and truly is a really smart girl.  And one of my dreams came true, her brother and his wife are making me a great-grandmother to a little girl in the fall.

Do I dare hope the next six months fulfill my original optimism on New Year’s Eve? Let me know what you think.


Posted in Jackie Taylor Zortman, Mother's Day, New Year's Eve, spring | 12 Comments


Spring cleaning meant we got into the closets and really cleaned them out, hauled stuff to the thrift store and filled trash cans to the top.  And then, to fetch just one last bag on a top shelf, my husband climbed up, fell and tore his left rotator cuff.  He was in physical therapy for a time, but the family doc has him scheduled for an MRI this week and postponed PT until we see the orthopedic doctor and discover what’s next. Surgery is possibly looming.
Therefore, we had some free days we hadn’t expected and I got to finish a book called “Back Side of a Blue Moon” written by Caleb Pirtle III. It’s about a desolate Texas town that a con man rolls into and tries to make it an oil boom place.  There’s romance, murder, everything you can want in this book and written beautifully, as always, by Caleb.

Richard, husband of author, with his “broken wing”.

I was telling my husband, sitting across the room in a sling, about this book because I thought he might enjoy it. To my surprise, he has a story of his own about oil fields. When he was 18 or 19 years old, he worked as a rough-neck on an oil rig, just south of Meade, KS. This rig ran 24/7 for 7 days a week and was staffed by three 8-hour shifts. It was never, ever shut off.
My husband worked the night shift from 8:00 PM to 4:00 AM and, at the time, there was a lot of snow on the ground.  He and another rough-neck were half way up the derrick with the ram rod (leader of the team) getting ready to pull the drill out and change it because it wasn’t boring well.  They did this with a strong metal cable on a huge winch because those drills weigh around 20 tons. The pipe has to come out before the drill and as one pipe came out of the hole, it was swinging hard on the metal cable.  It smacked the guy standing right next to my husband, knocked him completely off the derrick and a good distance out into the snow below.  It almost killed him.
How lucky was my husband not to have also been hit.  The author of “Back Side of a Blue Moon” said he grew up on an oil field in Texas and they kept ambulances running around the clock.  It’s a high paying, but very dangerous job that makes a “broken wing”seem like not much of a big deal at all.

Author Jackie Taylor Zortman

Jackie is the author of award winning FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST and WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW.  She’s a charter member of the Public Safety Writers Association and a member of the  Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Coming soon – SNOW ANGEL.  For more about her books, click the “About” button at the top of the page.
Posted in accidents, Authors, books, fiction, Jackie Taylor Zortman, oil rigs | 4 Comments


Author Jackie Taylor Zortman

As I write this, it is snowing outside on April 27th to fulfill the infamous “springtime in the Rockies” legend.  Trust me, that legend is all it pretends to be and then some. Sometimes we have all four seasons in one day.

I’ve been neglecting my blog to finish my next novel SNOW ANGEL.  As an author friend once referred to the end weeks of rewriting/editing/polishing, it is grueling.  But now it has gone to my editor, who warns up front that she is really tough.  Well, that’s what she gets the big bucks for, so I hired on anyway. I know she’s good and that’s what I want.

Now I will have a couple of weeks to focus on the other parts of my life before it’s, once again, back to the book. We get to do fun things, such as buy a new electric drier  (as opposed to natural gas) and have an electric water heater installed and the gas heater removed.  If you scroll down, you can read about our two nights with carbon monoxide alarms going off.  They never did find the source, so for peace of mind, I’m eliminating the possible sources.

My husband either sprained or tore his left shoulder’s rotator cuff, so we have many frequent physical therapy sessions to attend, 40 miles away and they are painful for him.  I think we’re at the MRI point and a trip to the orthopedic surgeon to see what sort of damage he actually has. We were cleaning out closets when he fell from two feet up and are thankful no bones were broken. We had been hauling a lot of stuff to the humane society’s thrift store and throwing much away. It’s amazing how much stuff you put into a closet and forget.

Thanks for stopping by and, if you feel like it, leave a comment to let me know you did.  I appreciate your support, especially when I’ve not been holding up my end of this blog deal. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments