Writer's Notes

Thankfulness: Jackie Zortman

Zortman coverJackie Taylor Zortman

Even though I missed posting this before Thanksgiving, I am thankful to Thonie for giving me this slot the day after. If you could see the disarray my house and life are in right now, you’d be amazed that I can still remain thankful, in spite of all the challenges.

As I write this, our neighbor, who is a contractor, is working on repairing a small porch outside our TV room door that has almost fallen down over last winter. It’s been up there since 1991, so I can’t complain. Living in the Colorado mountains at high altitude means we often have wet, heavy snows that take a toll on wooden structures from time to time. All the local carpenters are so busy at this time that none of them want to take on such a small job. Therefore, I am super thankful to have Rod fixing that while the weather is still warm, sunny and gorgeous and before the snow flies this year. He’s a great neighbor, as is his wife, Karen and we are blessed to have them so close.

On Monday, Tuesday and possibly Wednesday, we are having new carpet installed throughout the house. So, today we have moved all the small things, antiques and electronics that they will not move. In our chalet-style home, everything either has to be moved up a flight of stairs or down one. I am very relieved that task is now over. Our home looks as though we are either coming or going. I am thankful that at our age (my husband is 80 and I’m not far behind) we are still physically capable of doing such tasks.

I am thankful to have had Billie Johnson as my very first publisher and am sad to know she recently passed away. She taught me so very much about the book business and published my first two books.  Both of them turned out beautifully and she was so easy to work with. All of the former Oak Tree Press authors pitched in to help one another when any one of us presented a problem via the list-serv. Nobody was ever jealous or competitive. We OTP authors all became friends, some very close friends, and most of us remain in touch today.

When Billie’s illness prevented her from publishing our books, in stepped  Mike Orenduff of Aakenbaaken & Kent (A & K). I am so very thankful that he immediately agreed to publish the second editions of both my books, as well as my manuscript for my latest and, at that time, unpublished book, SNOW ANGEL. Many A & K authors today are from Oak Tree Press and are able to remain together.

Mike did an excellent job on my book SNOW ANGEL, designed the cover and published it quickly, all things considered in his busy life. It’s available as both a Kindle and paperback on Amazon and also as a paperback on Barnes & Noble. I learned that covers greatly influence book sales and love both of mine as created by Mike.

I have connected to author friends with various other houses who are well established and successful and will jump in to help in any way possible. That’s a special gift and I am thankful that I have met and grown to know and love each one of them.

Toss in my wonderful husband, Richard, my three children, five grandchildren and the latest and greatest gift of all, our very first great-granddaughter with her beautiful blue eyes, quick smile and happy personality and you have a huge basket of things for which I am extremely thankful and forever will be.  Like Thonie, there have been some bad times through it all and I truly feel that Divine Intervention helped us get through those horrible weeks and months. But we made it and I am thankful for that huge blessing.

I hope we all have a wonderful holiday season and much success in 2019. Thanksgiving means we will put the Christmas tree up, so that’s what I will do next, hopefully on new carpet and with a strong and sturdy porch outside. Let it snow! God bless us every one.



Jackie Taylor Zortman is the author of non-fiction book We Are Different Now, first place award-winning fiction novel Footprints in the Frost (Detective Max Richards Book 1) and award-winning novel SNOW ANGEL (Detective Max Richards Book 2). She has written numerous short stories and articles for various publications for the last 26 years.

She is a Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. A contributing author to the anthologies Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides, American Blue, The Centennial Book of the National Society of Daughters of the Union and Recipes by the Book, Oak Tree Authors Cook.  She also writes poetry, genealogy and history and has won 10 writing awards.

She lives in a bustling quaint tourist town high in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and Siamese cat. When the deep snows of winter blanket the terrain surrounding her home, it becomes the perfect spot in which to write.



SHORT BLURB-SNOW ANGEL by Jackie Taylor Zortman

In this second Detective Max Richards book, he and his sister inherit their mother’s estate and find an old forgotten and dusty wooden box on a shelf in her bedroom closet. It reveals a secret about her they never knew and connects them to an abandoned Victorian house in Colorado where Max and his wife already own a remote cabin. During the Christmas holidays, they fly to Snowflake to investigate the abandoned old house. Following their tire tracks in the snow, the local police chief introduces himself and quickly becomes part of their tight-knit circle of friends.

What was that hidden secret and how did it change the lives of her children and lead them in directions they never dreamed they would follow?

Find out at:




Writer's Notes

News on New Novel

By Thonie Hevron

News flash! Billie Johnson, publisher of Oak Tree Books has sent me a publishing contract for With Malice Aforethought! It may be re-named Malice Aforethought. What do you think?

Anyway, as of now there is not a publishing date, but I’ll let you know when I get one. Also, look for a book launch or signing at Copperfield’s Books, too. That will also be announced.


Warm Springs Bridge where the climax of With Malice Aforethought takes place over Lake Sonoma.


WITH MALICE AFORETHOUGHT–Violent Crimes Investigators Nick Reyes and Meredith Ryan respond to a homicide in the remote northern Sonoma County hills. Finding more than a half-buried corpse, the case gets complicated—fast. The detectives uncover a violent militia-led a plot to devastate the area. When the militant soldiers chase the detectives trying protect their catastrophic plans, the detectives are in the fight of their lives to stop the disaster.


Writer's Notes

With Malice Aforethought-Progress Report

By Thonie Hevron


Lake Sonoma overlook
Lake Sonoma overlook

The week slips away and I’ve missed another of my artificial deadlines. As I’ve said before, being so structured, I set goals for myself—for the completion of With Malice Aforethought (WMA), my latest thriller. Because this work is not under contract, I only have to answer to myself. Nonetheless, I’ve missed most of my targets on this project.

Life happens. This year, my husband and I sold and bought homes, moved, traveled for numerous family events both happy and sad, attended a conference, took a real vacation, and most recently, attended a high school reunion. Now, I’m dealing with family health issues that demand my attention—and are the priority.

If all this sounds like an excuse, well, I guess it is. I like to take one year to write and edit a new manuscript. WMA has gone over by three months and is behind schedule. The manuscript has “The End” typed on it but in version five, there are still mistakes to correct. I’m at the point where I read the text out loud. I catch so much with this method, that I can’t skip it. I have two-thirds of the manuscript left.

Dry Creek Valley--Collier Falls Winery
Dry Creek Valley–Collier Falls Winery

Next step, is off to beta readers. I have beta readers to perform several different tasks. First, my husband reads it. Being a retired fire fighter, he knows about car wrecks (there’s one for him to choreograph), electrical matters (for some MacGyver action), and lastly, the characteristic of wildland fire. Then, on to Billie Payton-Settles for editing. She culls the work for grammar, punctuation, sentence structure. At the same time, I’ll send it off to Mike Brown, a retired Sonoma County Sheriff’s Lieutenant who has specific knowledge of the procedures and culture of Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. The homicide investigation that Nick Reyes and Meredith Ryan embark on is set in the beautiful and wild Dry Creek hills area of Sonoma County. As you know, authenticity is very important to me as a writer and a reader. After I make corrections from these three, I send it to two other law enforcement professionals who will read my work for realism—John Schembra, author of Retribution and many other books and Dave Freedland, author of Lincoln 9.

One of the many fire roads that lace the countryside in Dry Creek hills area.
One of the many fire roads that lace the countryside in Dry Creek hills area.

When I receive the manuscript from the beta readers, I’ll make the corrections and decide whether to send it to another editor for a final review. Then, it’s off to Oak Tree Press. My publisher Billie Johnson has agreed to read the manuscript. My hope is that she will find it a compelling enough story to publish under her banner. With all the work that goes into the manuscript, I hope she does. If this goes according to schedule, I look for With Malice Aforethought to be available this winter.

At least my excuses aren’t totally lame. The point is two-fold: I want the reader to know that there are very sound reasons this book is slow to finish and secondly, by posting this, I keep myself honest to those who read and anticipate my next story.

Writer's Notes

Backdoor Publishing Gig

By Thonie Hevron

This article is a re-post from Marilyn Meredith’s blog, Marilyn’s Musings which appeared June 21, 2015. Marilyn posts about writing, her appearances and often has guest poster sharing their expertise or in my case, experience. Enjoy!

Marilyn suggested I write about how I got published. It’s a great idea and may offer the unpublished writer some hope to be published!

CF final - By Force or FearI’ve been writing for years—since I could hold a pencil. About fifteen years ago, I got serious and decided to write a novel. It took several years but I completed Probable Cause which became By Force or Fear-eventually. Getting serious included joining a professional writing association-Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA but in those days it was known as Police Writers Association). One of the percs of membership is a free manuscript evaluation by a professional editor. I sent Probable Cause in and was encouraged to submit it as an unpublished manuscript in the PSWA annual writing contest. I tied for third place in the unpublished fiction novel category. Woohoo! This made me an award winning author!

During this time, I continuously submitted query letters to agents and publishers with nothing to show for it but a growing rejection pile. In fact, until I signed my publishing contract in January 2014, I kept this up. This was the path of traditional publishing and for a long time, this was the route I thought I should follow. In early 2013, I began to feel the clock ticking and decided to independently publish. It was a cumbersome effort but in June 2013, I published By Force or Fear on Amazon. I had moderate success.

By now, I had a second book in the final stages, Intent to Hold. Following in my first novel’s track, I decided to enter Intent in the PSWA contest. Again, I won third place for unpublished fiction novel.

Yay! Okay. So, I’m getting tired of searching for agents. I’ve won two book awards on two books so there must be some merit to my writing. As I had earlier changed directions of my plan, I decided to hold off on agent queries and concentrate on

2013 Anthology-Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides
2013 Anthology-Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides

contests. In 2013, PSWA put out their 2013 Anthology-Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides, in which a short story of mine was included. I found the publisher of the edition—Oak Tree Press—and looked up their website.

Ohhhh, Oak Tree Press was sponsoring a contest! And in my genres—mysteries and cop stories. The winner would get his/her manuscript published in print and e-copy, (To date, By Force or Fear was only published in e-format) and provide editing and covers, plus public relations opportunities. Winning this prize would achieve my goal—to have a book published. So I entered and months later, found out I won—first place!

The road to getting Intent to Hold was not easy street. Editing proved to be a problem as I was so excited that I let many boo-boos slip through the galleys. Working with Billie Johnson, the publisher, was best when I did my job. It took a few printings to get all the mistakes corrected, but I’ve learned my lesson. Billie does her job and I do mine. The promised promotion opportunities have been consistently provided to venues I would not have found otherwise. I’m thankful to Jeana Lomprez of Oak Tree Press for her help. A huge part of what I consider my “success” is the marketing plan that OTP required up front. In doing research, I learned many places where I could market my book, plus organized my plan. OTP also published my first

PSWA Debut of both books
PSWA Debut of both books

book, both debuting mid-July at the PSWA 2014 Conference in Las Vegas.

Fast forward to 2015: I’ve missed the PSWA contest deadline as With Malice Aforethought (my third Nick and Meredith Mystery) is not yet complete. When I do, I’ll be sending it to OTP’s Acquisitions Editor, Marilyn Olsen—the very person who recommended I submit my first story to PSWA.

At this writing, I do not have an agent, nor will I seek one.

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