Starting on 11/28 WWK presents original short stories by some of our authors. Here's our lineup:

11/28 Debra H. Goldstein, "Thanksgiving in Moderation"

12/5 Annette Dashofy, "Las Posadas--A New Mexico Christmas"

12/12 Warren Bull, "The Thanksgiving War"

12/19 KM Rockwood, "The Gift of Peace"

12/26 Paula Gail Benson, "The Lost Week of the Year"

If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at

November Interviews
11/6 Barbara Ross, Nogged Off
11/13 Lena Gregory, Scone Cold Killer
11/20 Lois Winston, Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide
11/27 V. M Burns, Bookmarked For Murder

Saturday Guest Bloggers:
11/2 V. M. Burns
11/9 Heather Redmond
11/16 Arlene Kay

WWK Bloggers: 11/23 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Paula Gail Benson's story "Wisest, Swiftest, Kindest" appears in Love in the Lowcountry an anthology by the Lowcountry Romance Writers available 11/5 in e-book and print format on Amazon. The anthology includes fourteen stories all based in Charleston, South Carolina.

Lyrical Press will publish Kaye George's Vintage Sweets mystery series. The first book, Revenge Is Sweet, will be released in March. Look for the interview here on 3/11.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology was released on June 18th.

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files.

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: or at Amazon:

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30. It is now also available in audio.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Are You a Professional?

If the definition of professional is “one who is paid for doing or creating something,” then what follows is a list of occupations for which I am a “professional.” I’ve ranked them based on income received, with no attempt to adjust for inflationary differences between the 1960s and today.

Consulting Actuary (This is the one that actually put food on the table for 30 years.)

Preacher (Lay)

Camp Counselor (Day Camp and Sleep-away Camp – 3 summers)

Bridge Teacher

Author (Bridge book, short stories and one essay)

Landscaper (Mowed lawns, etc. as a kid)

Financial Planner (Testing out an idea for post-retirement)

Soccer Player (Semi-pro)

Snow-removal Specialist (Shoveled driveways and sidewalks)

Gambler (When I had a memory, I would play blackjack and count cards)

Musician (Fireman’s Band playing Tenor Sax; playing guitar for a church service as part of the annual national assembly; singing bass as a fill-in for the Cincinnati Symphony Chorus for one summer concert)

Night Watchman (Read Don Quixote while making sure tractor trailers didn’t get stolen)

Manpower Factory Worker (A week and a half one summer after camp counselor job ended)

Babysitter (Filling in for my younger sister if the job ran too late or she was already booked)

Domestic Worker (When I desperately needed extra cash as a kid, my mother would pay me to 
clean the oven – obviously before self-cleaning ovens)

Usher (Traded a gig ushering at a concert for seats to see/listen to Anonymous Four)

Food Vendor (While visiting friends, helped make and sell falafels for a fair)

Bridge Caddy (Filled in when someone didn’t show)

Artist (I painted one landscape in oils and it sold in a garage sale – although perhaps it was the frame they wanted?)

Compared to many people, I suspect my list is short. I grew up in a middle class home and did not have to work while I was in high school except to earn some extra spending money. Also, I lucked into my career as a consulting actuary and stayed with it for thirty years. Many people are not as fortunate or lucky. As a result they had to start real jobs earlier than I and change jobs multiple times during their life.

Some of the jobs I worked had the main benefit of convincing me that type of work was not for me – in many cases because they were physically harder than I wanted to work or did not challenge my brain. To clean my mother’s oven took considerable physical effort scrubbing, and I had to put up with the stench of harsh chemicals. I nearly died of boredom during my brief career during college as a part-time night watchman. Similarly, during my short stint with Manpower, I learned how to operate every machine at a factory that produced molding for autos. I ended up doing the job with the most variety because I filled in for everyone when they went on break—and still I was bored, bored, bored. Plus, my back hurt from being on my feet all day.

The financial planning gig was instructive because I realized that although I was very good at it, I did not want to take on the additional stress of worrying about other people’s financial problems for my retirement. I knew I should be able to distance myself from their financial concerns, but I realized I wouldn’t, indeed couldn’t. While I did make (some) money as a gambler, casinos were loud, smoky (back then) and sealed off from any outside views. I realized the time spent at the tables was soulless.

People were sometimes willing to pay me for doing something I would have done for free. All the musical gigs fall into that category as did playing soccer and helping out friends serving falafels or caddying at a bridge tournament. Designing a holistic religious service and providing the homily also fits in that category. If the only part of a minister’s job was the Sunday service, I’d sign right up. The follow your bliss folks suggest that, done right, my main career should fit in this category—and parts of it did; but lots of my work as a consulting actuary fell into the spirit of “they call it work because people have to pay you to do it.”

In my retirement, I am doing better at following my bliss. I enjoy teaching bridge. I get a kick out of finding ways to help people learn to play better and engaging them so thoroughly that at the end of a two-hour class, they wonder where the time went. And I enjoy writing. I enjoy the process of creating a first draft and rewriting to improve the piece. I also enjoy hearing from people who have appreciated my work. 

Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to turn query letter rejection into a joyful activity, so I still have a ways to go toward complete bliss.

Care to share any experiences from your list of “professional” accomplishments?

~ Jim


KB Inglee said...

I picked beans on summer for money. Like Jim, I found out it wasn't a carrer I wanted to follow. One forgets that being a professional doesn't mean being good at something, only that you were paid to do it. The "good at" list would be very different.

James Montgomery Jackson said...


Were you paid by the hour or by the bushel? And you are so right--being paid does not imply being good or qualified.

~ Jim

Alyx Morgan said...

Jim, your list of "professions" reminds me of an essay Robert Fulghum once wrote about his business cards, & how he once put everything he was on it (i.e. father, author, friend, etc). He said it was a great conversation starter . . . which, it seems, so would your list be.

James Montgomery Jackson said...


I hadn't heard or forgot about Fulghum's business cards. What a clever idea.

One of the things that has fascinated me is what happens after people ask what work I do and I say I'm retired. They usually persist with wondering what work I had done.

His card would really solve that problem (as would remembering to say from the get go that I'm an author).

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

I'm impressed with your eclectic list of jobs, Jim. I did babysitting and worked part time at a clothing store while in high school then got an office job after I graduated. I never liked working in an office even though I did different things there. After I had kids, I handled the bookkeeping, etc. for my husband's part time business and did lots of unpaid volunteer work. It wasn't until I became a teacher in my late 40s that I found a job I really loved and got paid for, too.
Now my retired job is writing, back to something I'm still not getting paid for like when I was a Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader.

Kaye George said...

I'm not sure I could even remember them all, but they include waitress, house cleaner and nanny, janitor in a tractor factory (Farmall), nurse's aide, bookkeeper, babysitter, computer programmer, many iterations of secretary (two of them for scam outfits), violinist (mainly string quartet work and teaching), writer, and some I've forgotten. This in no order at all. Oh yes, we once shoveled the neighbor's walk, but she paid us a quarter so we never did it again.

Kara Cerise said...

You have a fascinating professional background, Jim. Do you give your characters similar occupations or get ideas for mysteries based on past work experiences?

I've sold flowers on street corners, mopped floors and scrubbed industrial ovens but I couldn't write an interesting story based on any of those jobs.

James Montgomery Jackson said...


Now if you had invested that quarter the day you got it in Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, just think what it would be worth today! Good judgement on not continuing to shovel snow for your neighbor.


What if you open an institutional oven and find a roasted leg -- human that is?

I've certainly used life experiences in helping flesh out my characters.

For example, my mystery novel protagonist, Seamus McCree, is a retired bank stock analyst who quit Wall Street when a boss changed one of his reports because it reflected badly on a corporate client. I've brushed against that profession from my consulting career and so I know something about what makes them tick -- and then add other ingredients to reflect a character that can walk away from it all based on principle.

As for the police officers, bodyguards, waitresses, crooks and such that provide the side characters, I mostly invent them from whole cloth as the situation needs -- and they are often my favorite characters.

~ Jim

Carolyn J. Rose said...

This got me to thinking and adding up my mini occupations: farmer, carpenter, painter, legal secretary, grocery store clerk, administrative assistant, copywriter, promotion director, tutor, teacher, news producer, news assignment editor, mystery writer. Sheesh. I need a nap.

E. B. Davis said...

I worked on an assembly line in a commercial laundry during my high school summers. Top dollar $1.70 per hour! When I was in college, I got an "A" on the paper I wrote about the experience, so I guess it was worth it. I've had a lot of jobs in between. My current job: human resources executive, bookkeeper, secretary, mom, cook, housekeeper and fiction writer. Losing about five hats would really be terrific.

James Montgomery Jackson said...


If you can't catch a quick nap on Sunday, then you need to rethink your day. :)


I suggest keeping mom and fiction writer; let the others fend for themselves (he says knowing full well that's not how it works.)

~ Jim

Kaye George said...

E.B., how do you get paid for being a mom? I never managed that. :)

marilynn larew said...

I worked in a Woolworth's from age 14 to age 16. They fired me rather than pay me wage and hour law wages. That was in S.Car. Never say that slavery is dead.

E. B. Davis said...

I don't get paid to be a mom, but I take an average among all my jobs (which comes to about 0 percent of 0). :>)

James Montgomery Jackson said...


In my early years as an actuary I worked on the pension plans for the department stores McCrory and JJ Newberry.

Because of age discrimination, women all lied about their ages so they could work longer. It really screwed up our work (determining pension plan costs), but that was before passage of ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) and it was the only way women could keep working after age 65.

Of course I also remember when teachers had to go on leave of absence when they started to show. God knows a third grader would be ever so harmed being taught by an obviously pregnant woman.

~ Jim

jan godown annino said...

I'n a new poster here, via Guppies.

Quite the cool column. Neat to see all your lives, so to speak.

my stints-
various jobs as a news hen, nursery school worker, dishwasher/food server in a school that taught sailing to wealthy kiddos, clerk in a jobs office for youth, classified adv, clerk.

James Montgomery Jackson said...


Welcome to Writers Who Kill.

I have to ask (rather than googling, I suppose) what is a "news hen?"

~ Jim

jan godown annino said...

Thanks for the welcome &
also for the question, Jim.

I've heard the term always, for gals who work in a newsroom. With three generations of newsroom folks (writing & editing) in my family, it was heard at home or on visits to the paper as a kiddo. Then, heard not at all, except at home, when I became one.

Andl- looking back over the 10/8 post, my hubby would be surprised that I left off this work -

day camp counselor

cheers to WWK