My beloved late husband always thought Valentine’s Day came way too quickly after Christmas. He didn’t think he was the best shopper for this particular event and flowers and candy never seemed to cross his mind. Lucky me, he normally headed to the jewelry store instead and I have to say he did an outstanding job in that venue. This coming Monday will be my very first Valentine’s Day without him in thirty-seven years.

Actually, it’s my first ever Valentine’s Day without someone in my life because I had a first husband who was the father of my two adult children. We were married twenty-five years. We began dating when I was eighteen years old and he was twenty-one. Like most young and single girls, I was also dating other guys, as well. One of them had become a pretty regular companion and gave me a nice pearl choker for some occasion.

On the first Valentine’s Day dating potential Hubs #1, we went to a dance at the Topper Club. It was an elegant ballroom on the second floor of the south wing of Music Hall in the downtown area of Cincinnati, Ohio, the town where we grew up and lived. All the big bands, orchestras and singers were featured there, one at a time, of course. I wore a knockout red dress and beige silk stiletto heels with the aforementioned pearl choker around my neck, plus matching clip-on earrings. He was quite dapper in a gray suit, white button-down dress shirt with cuff links (remember those?) and a tie.

We and our friends were having a splendid time that evening and future Hubs #1 and I were out on the dance floor enjoying a slow tune. To my dismay, all of a sudden he grabbed the pearl choker around my neck and jerked it hard. It broke and pearls plinked rapidly to the hardwood floor. I was astounded and began picking them up. Other dancers had stopped to stare at us, mouths agape. I glared at him and stomped back to the table.

But before I got there, he grabbed me by the arm and asked, “You didn’t like that?” I just stood there dumbfounded and said nothing. That’s when he reached into the inside chest pocket of his suit and pulled out a long, thin gray box. Handing it to me, he said, “Well, maybe you’ll like this.” When I opened the box, inside was a beautiful and obviously expensive cultured pearl choker. It was then I discovered he had a rather dramatic personality or, if you prefer, a unique sense of humor. I still have that choker to this day and only now realize how old it has become – much like myself.

Don’t ask me what brought this story to my mind. It suddenly flashed back into my memory when I decided to write a Valentine’s Day blog. Sadly, Hubs #1 also passed away several years ago. However, if he’s looking down, he will smile that I remembered.

(Your comments are always welcome. You can post them here, find me on Facebook or email me)

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The Feathers Inside the Vase of Petals

Immediately after my husband’s memorial service seven months ago, I began finding white feathers. Most of them were found in unusual places inside my home, such as deep inside the huge vase of dried petals from the white funeral roses. I found three there and had personally pulled each petal off those roses and dropped them individually into the empty and dry vase, one at a time. In addition, each feather is obviously from a different bird and are different unique shapes. The feathers are rather small as you can see in the above picture. Following the loss of a loved one, feathers are believed to come from the spiritual realm and they tell you that you are not alone. They bring peace and calm.

I believe these feathers are messages from my beloved late husband to let me know he has successfully crossed into the spirit realm and is now watching over me. Thirty seven years ago, he carried me over the threshold of this very house as his bride on the day we returned from our honeymoon. Today it feels as though the entire place carries his energy and spirit. After all, his blood, sweat and tears fell upon many of the materials that make up a house and now surround me in my haven. We shared close to forty wonderful years together here and it is truly home. How blessed I am to have a home my husband built himself, filled with love for years and then left for me. But I digress, so back to feathers.

Native Americans believe feathers are a connection to the Divine. They hold powerful meaning as they represent higher wisdom, peace and the end of disaster and the new beginnings that come after death. They also represent great warriors. My husband was a forty-two year veteran law enforcement officer who is reputed to have been exactly that – a great warrior. I was stunned to hear the stories people told me at his funeral about how my husband had helped them in various ways during the twenty-two years he was the local chief of police here where we live. Before that, he was with the Wichita Police Department, retiring as the senior homicide detective. Yes, he worked the infamous BTK killings during his twenty years there and years later received a challenge coin for it. Again I drift from the subject, so let’s return to it.

In Shamanism white feathers cleanse the energy of objects and people and are used to cleanse the aura and chakras. They represent purity and carry a high vibration that transmutes negative or unwanted energies back to universal consciousness.

Most white feathers are considered to have come from white doves and represent the Holy Ghost. I don’t think all my white feathers are dove feathers. I find it strange that they’ve all been a different shape and size from the others. I do not go searching for feathers, they simply suddenly appear in my life. Sometimes I find them outside and many times they appear inside my house. The last one I recently found was stuck on the side of a plastic phone Rolodex box sitting on the bar between the kitchen and great room. I have no clue how it possibly could have gotten there.

To be honest, I do not know why this feather subject suddenly began pulling me to research and write. Perhaps it is to get me back to the unfinished manuscript for my fifth JAKE book. I have been told again and again that all I have to do is get through this first year. Meantime, I hope you enjoy my article.

Your comments are always welcomed by me and you can leave one at the end of this blog or email me at jtzortman@ouraynet.com. Otherwise, you can find me on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you.

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The Tree

We built our house thirty-eight years ago and have lived in it for thirty-seven. It is situated about fifty feet up from the road below and is next to the base of a mountain. There is an ancient tree atop a place on the mountain top that I have admired through my windows for every single one of those years. It has not a single leaf on it and stands there proudly, totally naked. Over the years, I’ve never even seen it lose a limb.

Many times I have wondered exactly how old that majestic tree is and how many storms it has weathered. We can have fierce winds with blizzards of snow or rain storms and even worse is the real tree killer known as lightning. Since this tree is right up there, proudly presenting itself, it is inviting all of those to demolish it. But it prevails. One has to admire and wonder at the strength this beautiful old tree must possess. They say oaks are strong and I often wonder if it is a mighty oak.

Think about it. If that magnificent old tree could talk, can you even imagine the stories it would tell? My house is sitting on land that was once a mine, and you know the tree saw a lot of activities during that era. In addition my daughter-in-law told me when she was in school my land was known as “Hooky Hollow”. That explains itself and I don’t need to tell you what went on then.

For me there is something magnetic about this old tree. I watched it while we built our house. It saw my husband carry me over the threshold as a new bride. It saw my children marry and watched my grandchildren carried in as babies. Today it has watched my great-grandkids. It has seen life and it has seen death. I lost my wonderful husband days short of four months ago and the tree watched him many times over the years we’ve lived and loved in our home.

I don’t really know why this particular tree fascinates me and draws my eyes to it so often. I check on it every day and it has never disappointed me. It has a special grandeur that pulls me to it. Oh, how I wish it could tell me what it knows.

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Site for the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony

The little mountain tourist town in which I live is small in year-round population. However, it is big in heart. Today we gathered to remember the horror we witnessed twenty years ago. Since it was 8:30 in the morning, the crowd was not large. But it was very heartfelt. It was held outside of City Hall, with the ambulance and fire truck bays adjacent and the county court house diagonally across the intersection.

A bagpiper played Amazing Grace prior to the opening statements by the mayor and heads of the first responders – police/fire/sheriff/EMTs, etc. I had to compose myself when the bagpiper played prior to the ceremony. The last time I heard the same bagpiper play that particular song was at the end of my husband’s funeral a few weeks ago.

Waiting for the ceremony to begin as bagpipes played.

People ask where you were when you heard what was happening that fateful day twenty years ago. My husband and I were fixing breakfast when the phone rang and a friend simply said, “Turn on your television.” Without another word, she hung up. We snapped it on and were glued there the rest of the day. It was shocking. It was scary as hell. It was something we never thought we’d see happen in our country. But it made people forget about mundane matters like political/racial/religious/social status/occupations and such. We were all just people who were exactly the same. We were surviving the unthinkable together. Nothing mattered except helping our fellow human beings, whatever it took.

Officers of the Ouray, Colorado Police Department

Unfortunately, the love and camaraderie we shared that day did not last long before things went back to the way they had been before our country was viciously attacked. I have copies of LIFE Magazine with pictures on the cover of the events of that dreadful day. I saved them because I knew people would want to read about it sometime in the future.

The ceremony I attended this morning felt good to publicly remember those who lost their lives or loved ones twenty years ago and remind us it could happen again. We gathered then and we gathered now. It’s a simple thing to do, but lives are so incredibly busy that we sometimes forget.

Having said that, I’m now going out to proudly hang up my American flag.

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My late husband’s memorial service (back on July 24th) was held outdoors in the local park with a strong law enforcement presence. The local chief of police had contacted me to suggest he would help me arrange a proper law enforcement service for my husband since Richard was a 42-year law enforcement veteran and had been the chief here for twenty-two years. We had two flower arrangements of big  white roses with police blue touches and a single red rose from me to him in only one arrangement. I brought both flower arrangements home after the ceremony. As they withered, I pulled each rose petal off and dropped them into one of the clear DRY vases.

Clergy both opened and closed the service with an appropriate prayer. My daughter spoke for me and herself, then my stepson talked about his Dad. He was followed by a former LEO, the chief of police, the sheriff and a former sheriff. A trumpeter played “Taps” followed by the traditional twenty-one gun salute. At the end of the service a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace.” Law enforcement officers were all in their formal uniforms and it was a beautiful and touching tribute to my beloved husband. The flag was folded and presented to me, as is customary.

But back to the rose petals. Today I noticed that some rose petals at the bottom of the large clear vase looked brown and possibly wet. Therefore, I spread paper towels on the counter and dumped them all out to properly dry. Imagine my surprise when I found a white bird feather among the petals in the bottom. Then as I pulled more out, I found a second white bird feather. I kept pulling petals out and yet a third white bird feather appeared. Since I had personally put each individual petal into that vase, nobody had been around here and it was sitting up high, I was astounded. It has been two weeks since the memorial funeral.

Here is where I may lose you as a reader of this particular blog. Many of us believe that our loved ones who have passed away before us will show us signs they have arrived in heaven and are okay. One of the ways they can do this is with white feathers. I have to tell you that I don’t see any other possible way for three white bird feathers to have gotten into the rose petals in that vase.

In addition, earlier when my husband had just died, I saw something sticking out from under the toaster in the kitchen. I was home alone and had been. When I pulled it out to see what it was, it also was a white bird feather. There are screens on all my windows and doors and no birds have been inside my house, nor has the vase with the petals been anywhere but inside.

(It should be noted that I wrote this five weeks ago, but grief kept me from posting in a more timely fashion. I still think it may be worth sharing, however.)

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It all began when I moved to Oxnard CA when my husband was serving in the Seabees. I honestly don’t remember exactly when it all started, but I know the first books I read by Erle Stanley Gardner were set in Oxnard—they weren’t the Perry Mason series. Of course I already knew about Perry Mason because there’d been a radio series about him when I was younger, and I was an avid fan.

Along came the Perry Mason TV show and I was definitely hooked. Hubby and I were watching the latest episode when I began experiencing labor pains for our third child. The pains became intense and close together, but despite my husband’s desperate urgings, I wasn’t about to head for the hospital until this episode was over. Fortunately, the hospital was nearby and we made it.

In later years, I went on a ghost tour with the board of the Public Safety Writers Association. Our first stop was at the old Ventura County Courthouse where we viewed the very court rooms where Erle Stanley Gardner defended his clients. We also made a stop at the front of the building where the lawyer turned author had his office. No, we didn’t see any ghosts.

I had the privilege of being a guest author and instructor at a mystery writing conference in honor of Erle Stanley Gardner several times. It was held in Temecula where Gardner retired from his law practice to write his mystery novels.

When I began writing The Trash Harem, #19 in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, which is set in the town of Temecula I knew I had to find a way to include Gardner the writer. You’ll have to read the book to see how he fits in.

Official Blurb:

Deputy Tempe Crabtree has retired from her job in Bear Creek when friends, who once lived in Bear Creek and attended Pastor Hutch’s church, ask her to visit them in Temecula. The husband, Jonathan, is a suspect in what might be a murder case. The retirement community includes many interesting characters, any of whom might have had a better motive than Jonathan. There is also a connection to Earle Stanley Gardner as well as the Pechanga Old Oak. What is a trash harem? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

To purchase The Trash Harem

Marilyn Meredith’s Bio:She is the author of over 40 published books including the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, and writing as F. M. Meredith, the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. She’s a member of two chapters of Sisters in Crime and the Public Safety Writers Association.

Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com/

Blog: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marilyn.meredith

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On the night of May 16th, my 42-year-veteran law enforcement officer fell several times in the night after repeatedly getting out of bed for reasons unknown to us. The final time he fell, we discovered him bleeding and unconscious on the floor from hitting his head. We called 911 and he was transported to the local hospital, forty miles from home. They discovered two brain bleeds. Seven hours later, he was flown to Denver’s Swedish Medical Center, noted to be the best place in Colorado for treating his situation.

Two weeks and two days after his fall, they moved him into a nearby Denver rehabilitation center. He remains there, working with various therapists throughout the day, seven days a week, and is doing well. At this point, we do not know if he’ll return to his mental or physical baseline prior to the injury, show improvement or be different. We pray he’ll be better. They think the constant falling on that fateful night was caused by an urinary tract infection.

The facility he is in is fantastic. They consult with me before doing any small thing concerning him and they rehab him several times a day. Our hopes and prayers are presently pinned on the care he is receiving there. The staff is affable and welcoming and truly care about each individual patient.

We recently celebrated our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, never being apart for any length of time. Tears have refused to allow me to shed them, but I’m sure they are not far beneath the surface. I can feel them there. We will be going to see him again soon. The trip is long and our stay is short, but I need to be where I can hug him and see him smile. All of his nurses have mentioned how his beautiful smile makes their day.


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In honor of Law Enforcement Memorial Day, author and former Suffolk County New York Police officer, Keith Bettinger, has written two poems that I share with you below:

Judiciary Square By Keith Bettinger

Author Keith Bettinger

The wall is gray,

Made of granite, tough and strong.

It stands in an old converted parking lot,

That’s now a very special spot.

It lists the names of thousands of America’s best,

People who pinned badges upon their chests.

They came from the four corners of our great country,

but now they’re part of a sad fraternity.

It doesn’t matter where or when they met their fate,

The ones they left behind come to visit and contemplate.

To touch that name, and shed a tear,

Remembering who they lost and held so dear.

The flags ripple in the breezes above.

Flowers are placed with respect and love.

Uniformed hands render salutes,

Friends are gone, but duty calls, survivors remain resolute.




Our old toys, they sat in the garage.

Mommy and Daddy, always bought us new,

New toys became old, and sat alone waiting to be used.

We enjoyed our toys, but new was always better.

We played with what we liked, until we received another.

Daddy was our hero, he bought us what we wanted.

He worked real hard and many strange hours.

He was always in danger and wanted to protect us

From things that kids should never see,

Things that some kids just accept as reality.

One day Daddy went to work, but he didn’t come home.

His boss met Mom at the door, and held her as she cried.

He told us he was sorry, but Daddy had died. 

We didn’t play much after all was said and done.

When your Daddy’s gone, it’s hard to have fun.

We read about a wall that was being built.

It would have the names of peace officers who were killed.

They needed money, to make this wall come true.

We went into the garage, and found those old toys

They were just like new.

We had a sale one Saturday morn.

By afternoon the toys were all gone.

We wrote a letter and sent a check.

We asked if this was enough

To list Daddy’s name with all our love and respect.

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On April 26th my husband and I will celebrate 35 happy years of marriage. Since neither of us need anything, we usually buy something that both of us want or can use. This year I had an 18×18 inch throw pillow made that says IT ALL BEGAN with an area to fill that information in along with the names and dates. We both laughed when I had it say “At a Hardware Store”. But that truly is where it started.

I had been putting the finishing touches on the new apartment on top of our commercial building all day and was both tired and dirty. The building contained my bookstore, the apartment above it and an antique store below. On the way home, I stopped at the local hardware store to buy an Apartment for Rent sign. I stepped inside at the top of the flight of stairs that went down into store level and said to myself, “Wow! Look what just blew into Ouray!” I saw the best looking man I’d ever seen in my life talking to the owner at the checkout counter below. Oh, I wasn’t the only one who had this thought about him. The available ladies in town were standing in line to meet him for a very long time.

Not wanting to be seen by him with a red dew rag tied on top of my long, sweaty hair, I was careful to hide behind the tall counters that made up the aisles of the store until the man left. I came out of hiding and plonked my sign down on the counter to check it out.

The store’s owner said, “Is your apartment ready?” I told him it was and he asked, “Did you see that guy that just left?” I assured him I did. He replied, “He’s new in town and is looking for an apartment. ” This is a small town and it’s very easy to find new people. By that night, the handsome gentleman had rented my brand new apartment and was happy to have it.

He was single and a newly retired metropolitan homicide detective that never wanted to be in law enforcement again. He had retired after twenty years, the last eleven in homicide. He applied for a job as an UPS driver and told this to everyone who would listen. Despite that, three months later he was sworn in as the local chief of police and remained in that position for twenty-two years when he opted to retire. City Hall was right across the street from my building and it was super convenient for him to get to work and back home. Five years after that fateful day when we first met, we were married. It was the best thing either of us have ever done.

My very first novel was based on a case he had worked in the city. One day he remarked that he’d love to see that case written up as a book. I decided to get his old files out and do just that as an act of love for him and for no other reason. The case was rather horrific and I had to stop writing at times and put the files away for a week or two, but finally it was finished.

That book was Footprints in the Frost. I wrote it and tossed it on a shelf where I discovered it years later. I read it once more and decided to rewrite it as fiction and enter it into the Public Safety Writer’s Association’s Writing Competition. My plan was if my book bombed there, that would be the absolute end of it. Imagine my surprise and delight when it won First Place in the Fiction Book Non-published category in Las Vegas on July 13, 2014. My publisher at the time (Oak Tree Press) was delighted to publish an award-winning novel for me.

That was the beginning of my fiction novel writing and today I have seven books on the market with an eighth as my WIP. I also wrote a sequel to Footprints in the Frost titled Snow Angel that won a PSWA Honorable Mention award on July 16, 2017. Both are available on Amazon.com, if you’d like to check them out.

Your comments are always welcome on my blog or via email, Facebook and Twitter.

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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 http://www.amazon.com/author/jackietaylorzortman. My latest book is GHOSTED: Book Four in The Drifter Series at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DJCB74H.

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