We're happy to welcome Michael Murphy to the clubhouse today to talk about his newest, Coin of the Realm!
Timothy moved to Washington, DC to go to graduate school, and he does quite well. The end is in sight, but unfortunately so is his money. Even though he works several minimum wage campus jobs, Timothy is unable to keep up with expenses. When he gets a lead on a modeling gig, he follows up and is immediately hired, which is great until he learns he has to pose nude. But desperate times call for desperate measures and Timothy sucks it up and shucks his clothes. He’s making some good money until an instructor in one art class gets a little more familiar with him than he likes. And just like that, his lucrative posing career crashes and burns.
Still needing money, and now with even less time to earn that money before his rent is next due, Timothy tries working as a male stripper. But if he’d been uncomfortable posing for art students, taking off his clothes on a stage in front of horny strangers is even less appealing. But he tries it and is totally underwhelmed with the tips he earns. Since tips are his entire income as a dancer, his stripper career starts and ends the same night.
With only one idea remaining, Timothy creates an online ad and starts working as a male escort. Much to his surprise, this is easier than he had anticipated and he finds he is quite popular and booked every evening. One of his first callers is a man with strange requirements – Timothy cannot see him or know who he is. To drive the point home, Timothy is asked to sign a non-disclosure form in which he swears to never speak of anything he sees or hears while there.
But Timothy is apparently smarter than some of the other escorts his mystery client had seen before because he has no problem figuring out who he is with. And wow! He had no clue – none – that the man he was with was even gay. But Timothy now had fairly definitive firsthand evidence that the man was gay. On subsequent calls, when it becomes clear Timothy has figured out the game, the two men develop a bond that neither anticipated. But they find their connection growing stronger with every time they get together.
But not everyone shares their happiness. Timothy’s feelings of hopefulness and happiness are smashed when out of the blue he is abducted off the street on his walk home from school one night. Thrown roughly into a car with a hood over his head, Timothy is terrified. Is this the night he is going to die? He didn’t want to die. He finally had too much going his way and was looking forward to the years ahead.
Timothy Mitchell worked his way from humble beginnings to graduate school in Washington, DC. The end is in sight — but so are his funds. Determined not to let his dream slip through his fingers, Timothy goes from part-time jobs, to modeling for art classes, to stripping, and finally to working as an escort to pay his tuition.
The nation’s capital is full of powerful men and secrets, which Timothy learns firsthand when he takes on a client who demands absolute anonymity. Even though Timothy realizes he’s sleeping with one of the most influential men in the world, he must keep up the façade. Despite that, their association moves from sex to love.
But power and secrets also mean danger. When Timothy is violently abducted off the street, all because of what — and who — he knows, his lover must make a decision: risk his power and position or lose the man he loves.
“EVERYBODY WANTS to know somebody,” Professor Myerson said enthusiastically as he stood before the graduate students in his political science theory class. “And I don’t mean just anybody. I mean somebody. Everyone wants to know someone who can make things happen.”
One of the things Timothy loved about this class was how into it Professor Myerson got, how passionate about the subject he was. The man’s enthusiasm was infectious as he practically leaped with joy over the topic of the day. He was like an evangelist, only rather than selling religion, he sold knowledge of how things worked behind the scenes.
“Think how great it would be to pick up the phone when there is some problem and say, ‘Hey, Joe. You need to know about what’s going on over here. We need your help to fix it.’ Wouldn’t that be awesome if you could do that and have your problems go away?
“And I don’t care what level of society we’re talking about. It could be something like being buddies with the factory foreman who is in charge of scheduling and can get you preferential treatment when you need time off. It could be a store manager who can extend a sale by a day just for you because you couldn’t make it in before the sale ended. It could be the mayor of a town or village or city who can cut through red tape and do something as simple as getting a pothole fixed.
“It doesn’t matter what part of society you occupy; everyone wants to know somebody with power who can get things done. And people who know somebody have power by association. The higher up the food chain you go, the greater that power by association becomes. And here in Washington, DC, we get to see this play out every day. For those of us geeks who watch such things, we can see people who use their connections to get in to see a member of Congress about some pet issue. We study the visitor logs to the White House and see who comes and goes. The simple truth is that if you’ve got connections to someone powerful, you have a potential leg up on everyone else. Proximity to those in power has always been the coin of the realm.”
Timothy quickly typed notes as his professor talked.
“The odds are that someone here in this room right now has what I’m talking about. Someone in here probably knows someone with some power to get something done.” When he paused, everyone, Timothy included, looked up and glanced around the room, checking the faces of their classmates, people they knew somewhat.
“Don’t look at me,” Timothy said. “I don’t know anybody.”
His self-deprecating remark earned some laughter and allowed Professor Myerson to move the lecture along.
“Those who can flip through their smartphones to the number of someone in the President’s administration have others who want to be close to them—power by association. The depth and breadth of one’s contact list can sometimes guarantee jobs, since those people are presumed to have enhanced value.”
AS A student of political science and of human nature—coupled with his year and a half in Washington—Timothy had some insight into how things worked in the nation’s capital. As a political junkie, he could not have been happier living in DC, because every day in the city seemed to feature some element of political intrigue, sometimes small but sometimes quite large. His position gave him a front-row seat to it all.
But Timothy did not appreciate another aspect of life in Washington. The city was an expensive place to live.
While he’d known the inevitable was coming, when it happened, it hit him hard. He had ignored the obvious for as long as he could, but DC was expensive, and Timothy hadn’t saved enough money. He had exhausted what he had and was faced with a dilemma.
“Tim, I need your rent check,” Jeremy, his roommate, called to him that evening from their apartment kitchen.
“Um, is it that time again already?” he asked, even though he knew the time precisely. He also knew Jeremy had given him an extra day because he understood Timothy was flat broke.
“Yes. I need to drop off the rent checks in the morning. So, fair warning. I need yours when I leave.”
“Um, okay.” Timothy scurried into his room. He rifled through every drawer, book, pants pocket, jacket pocket, and every part of the room for any money he could find. He was forever tossing change onto his desk or leaving it in his pockets. He just prayed that now, when he needed it, he would find enough.
His small pile of cash started to grow over the hour it took him to thoroughly sweep his room. His final hiding place was his backpack that never left his side. He had to go through every single compartment—and there were a lot of them. Using the blanket on his bed as a sack, he carried the money into the dining room and started to count it. It took another twenty minutes, but he was so fucking proud when he had exactly what he needed.
“Will they take cash for the rent?” Timothy asked, which earned him a look from Jeremy. Usually he could read Jeremy, but at that moment, not so much. It only took a moment for Jeremy’s look to morph into one he could read—disbelief.
“Dude, are you that poor? Do I need to start looking for a new roommate?”
“Please! No! I’ll earn more money this month and be ready for the next payment,” he promised, even though he didn’t have a freaking clue how to make that happen.
“Tim, there are pennies here! Were you digging through every pocket to come up with the rent money? Huh?”
When Timothy didn’t answer, Jeremy said, “Oh. My. God! That’s what you’ve been doing. Dude! I didn’t know things were this bad for you. Does this leave you—”
“Broke,” Timothy supplied. “Flat broke.”
“What about food?” Jeremy asked.
“Eating is overrated,” Timothy said, wishing desperately that was true.
The simple fact was that his campus job and his other job didn’t pay him enough to survive. He could either pay his rent or eat, but he couldn’t do both. And God forbid anything unexpected should come up. If it did, he was just plain screwed.
That night as he lay in bed, his mind refusing to shut down so he could sleep, Timothy flashed back on something his mother had said to him before he’d left home.
“I don’t got no money to give you, baby. But I done give you good looks, a strong back, and a sharp mind. You got to use them and take it from there.”
At the time, he hadn’t known what to make of that remark, but now, lying in the dark of his bedroom, he had a thought. Was there something he could do with his good looks, which people were always complimenting him on, and his strong, tight body?
Whatever he did for work had to fit around his classes and his research. School was his first priority. He would not sacrifice his studies to make money, no matter how much he needed it. And that seriously limited the options open to him, not that there were that many to begin with.
That evening, Timothy remembered a friend’s comment from a month earlier. She’d said, “Honey, with your hot face and body, you’d be a natural to model for my art professor and his classes. They’re always looking for guys.” At the time, he’d laughed at the idea and changed the subject.
A few hours later, when the sun was up and it was a reasonable hour to contact her, he pulled out his phone and hesitantly got the name and contact information for her professor. Another call had him scheduled to meet the man in twenty minutes. It looked as though his friend was right—they were desperate for models.
THE BUILDING where Timothy was to meet the professor was one he passed every day on his way to class. While he knew the outside, he’d never actually set foot inside. Finding the room he needed, though, was not difficult. The door was open, revealing a large space with lots of windows, all with the blinds mostly drawn shut. A small, raised platform stood as the centerpiece, surrounded by a dozen easels with canvases.
He knocked hesitantly.
“Timothy?” someone said from his left, and with his nerves on edge, Timothy jumped.
“Yes,” he said, his voice slightly higher than usual. He cleared his throat and tried to get better control of his nerves. “Yes, I’m Timothy.” He confidently stepped forward and extended his hand to the man who’d spoken.
“Thank you for calling, and thank you for coming in so quickly. I’m Professor Isaacs, and I’m delighted that Rebecca mentioned posing as an option for you.” He walked all around Timothy, checking him out from all angles. “From what I can see, I have to agree. You’ve got precisely what my students want with that jet-black hair, your chiseled jaw, and your runway-model good looks. They are going to positively drool over you.”
“Um, okay,” Timothy said. “Can you tell me what’s involved? And what does this pay?”
“Pay is simple. We pay you fifty dollars an hour, cash at the end of each class. The fees for the model are paid by the students separate from their tuition for the class. So if you pose for two hours, you leave with one hundred dollars.”
Finally, something to put a smile on his face.
“Oh, and dimples too,” Isaacs cooed. “They are going to adore you.”
“So, two hours you said?”
“Yes. Provided it works out well, we’d need you for two hours twice a week.”
“So that’s two hundred dollars?” Timothy asked to make sure he understood.
“And all I do is stand up there?” he said, gesturing toward the platform.
“Yes, that’s it. You come in, take off your clothes, and we position you in a series of poses.”
“Wait,” Timothy said sharply. “Take off my clothes?”
“Yes, this is a drawing class. The students draw nude models to learn the human anatomy.”
Timothy’s face burned with embarrassment.
“Is something wrong?” Isaacs asked. “You did know this was a nude modeling gig, didn’t you?”
“No. I didn’t.”
“Well, it is. And assuming you work out well, which I’m sure you will, I can spread the word to my colleagues in the department, and you will easily be picking up some other modeling gigs for other classes. We have a very large program with a record number of classes this semester, so we desperately need models.”
Timothy stood silently, stoically, for a moment, thinking. One hundred dollars for standing around for two hours sounded great. No other job he’d heard of paid anything remotely close to that. And he was desperate. But the thought of standing nude in front of a room full of people freaked him out.
“Um, I need to think about it,” he said.
“You do that.” Isaacs handed him a business card. “But I hope you will do it. We need you, and I’m guessing you need the money.”
“Um, yeah, I do.”
“How much do you need?” Isaacs asked.
When Timothy told him the amount of his rent, Isaacs didn’t bat an eye.
“If you have what it takes and you work out, I think we could guarantee you earning that much each month.”
“All in cash,” Timothy said, salivating at the thought. “Okay.”
“You’ll do it?”
“Um, uh, yeah, I guess, when you put it like that.”
“Excellent.” The little man beamed at him. “Come,” he ordered, walking toward his desk. He pulled a single sheet from a file in his desk drawer, handed it to Timothy, and gestured to a chair. “This is our standard model release form that outlines what you are agreeing to do and how much you will be paid. I’ve found it useful to put everything in writing so neither of us are surprised by anything.”
“Good,” Timothy said, quickly reading through the solid page of small print, text clearly written by a lawyer.
After reading the document, Timothy picked up the click pen Isaacs had laid out for him. But rather than sign, he chewed on his lip, furrowed his brow, and clicked the pen, nearly incessantly for a full minute. He wasn’t aware of doing it until Isaacs put his hand on Timothy’s and said, “Please, stop. That is… grating.”
“What?” Timothy asked, completely oblivious. Automatically he apologized and put down the pen.
His hand was suddenly wet with sweat, as was his brow, and just about everywhere on his body. Remembering the previous night and the desperation of going through every nook and cranny of his room for money, Timothy wiped his wet hand on his pants, grabbed the pen, and signed his name. He added the rest of the requested information and provided his ID for age verification.
“Excellent.” Isaacs grabbed a blank piece of paper and started writing out dates and times. “These are when we will need you.”
The times did not conflict with any of his classes; most of them appeared to be afternoon sessions. The first one listed was that afternoon at two o’clock.
Pointing at the paper, Timothy said, “Today?”
“Yes. I recommend you dive in and get your first experience under your belt.”
“Except I won’t be wearing a belt, will I?”
“No, it’s just a figure of speech. Nonetheless, the sentiment is the same. Get your first experience out of the way quickly and see how easy the work is.”
“All right. I’ll be back here at two,” Timothy said.
“Actually, come fifteen minutes early at one forty-five so you can get changed and get ready to pose. The class begins at two, and I like to have everything set to go when the students are ready.”
“All right, I’ll be here.” As he walked out, Timothy muttered to himself, “I must be freaking insane.”
It didn’t matter that he had no money for food that day. His stomach was so twisted into such knots that he couldn’t have handled food even if that had been an option.
At one forty-five precisely, Timothy knocked on the classroom door. Professor Isaacs directed Timothy to a small adjacent room, more of an office than anything else, and instructed him to undress and slip on a small, cheap, cotton robe that barely covered anything.
Timothy forced himself to quickly pull on the robe and cinch it tightly about his waist.
“I can do this,” he said softly to himself as he paced the small space. “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. Mama gave me a great body, and it’s time to use it to make some money. I can do this.”
By the time two o’clock rolled around, Timothy almost believed it. But it only took one step into the room for him to nearly freak out. There were so many faces, so many people, so many women! God, he didn’t know if he could get naked in front of women. Guys, sure, no problem. But women? Why hadn’t he thought about that?
Sweating profusely, he stopped in his tracks.
“Timothy,” Isaacs said softly, “it’s time.” He gestured to the platform.
Timothy forced his feet to move again and ascended the steps to stand on the raised platform in front of the assembled students. He barely focused on the reactions of the students around the room as two or three mouths dropped open and a couple of students smiled appreciatively at his handsome appearance—at least as much of it as they had seen.
Isaacs was explaining something about what the students were supposed to do or focus on, but Timothy was too freaked to hear anything but noise until the professor stood beside him. “Timothy, it’s time.”
“Lose the robe. I’ll get you posed for the first segment.”
And much to his surprise, Timothy did it. He put his freak-out aside, and with his back to the students, he shed the robe and then reclined on the posing couch Isaacs had set up for him. They started with him looking at something on the wall, not at the students. One of his hands was resting above his head and one of his legs was raised, effectively blocking anyone from seeing his tender bits.
“I can do this,” Timothy said softly to himself.
It shocked him, but he did it. Even when Isaacs had him turn onto his side, facing the students, his flaccid penis flopping into view and his loose balls not far behind, he was directed to close his eyes and act as though he was asleep. He did it. He did not look at the students, and very nearly fell asleep.
At the end of the session, Timothy quickly slipped the robe back on and wanted to make a fast exit to get dressed again. He was surprised, though, when a number of students wanted to talk with him. Both men and women complimented him on his face and his physique, and one of the guys even asked about his exercise routine.
Timothy was surprised by the gushing praise. He could do this.
And for the remainder of that month Timothy did it, and he earned the money he needed to pay his rent on time. He even had enough to eat occasionally.
Who am I? I really wish I knew the answer to this question. One of these days I need to decide what I want to be when I grow up.
I am a middle-aged man, born in the far reaches of upstate New York – parts that give the word "rural" meaning. I used to walk the fields, ride in trucks full of hay, ride horses, and drive on dirt roads. Now I live in Washington, DC where there are no hay trucks and no dirt roads, but I do see the occasional horse.
Recently, when I came upon one of those frightening milestone birthdays (and no, I'm not telling you which one), I realized something that scared the crap out of me: there were more years behind me than there were in front of me. My mortality hit me that day like someone dropping a load of bricks on me.
With my realization, I constructed a bucket list of things I absolutely had to do in the years (hopefully many) that I have left. Writing a book was one of them and was near the top.
My biggest influences when growing up were my two grandmothers. Both were ferociously strong women who were widowed way too young and had to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and try to put them back together again. And they did! They were incredible women and I adored them both.
These women loved to read and to tell stories, so it just always seemed a natural thing for me to want to do the same. One Christmas when I had a break from work for a few days I had an idea – just a simple single flash of an idea. I sat down at my computer and thought for a minute. And then I started writing – and like magic this story started to pour out of me. I hadn't planned to write a story. I was amazed, in awe, floored.
It was like the characters were coming to life and telling their story and I was just tagging along for the ride. I typed as fast as my fingers would fly across the keys (I used to earn money by typing so I'm a pretty fast typist). I couldn't wait to see what happened next. It was the most amazing experience I think I've ever had. Okay, maybe not THE most amazing, but it ranks right up there near the top.
My husband finally came to me a couple of days into this, sat down, looked so serious, and asked, "Are you mad at me?" I assured him that no, I was not mad; I had just been kidnapped by my two characters who refused to let me go. He sort of believed me. When I handed him a printout of the entire book he really believed me, although he wasn't all that thrilled about the book. What can I say? He is a biomedical scientist who primarily reads non-fiction. The fact that I got him to read any fiction was a huge step.
I sent it in to Dreamspinner. Much to my shock and surprise they accepted it. Out of the hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts that they receive every year they only accept a tiny fraction from new, unknown authors – and I was part of that tiny fraction.
When I got the news I was riding on the subway to work one morning. I screamed and hugged the man sitting next to me – I don't have a clue who he was and I'm sure I scared the crap out of him, even though I tried to explain why I was so happy. When I got to work, a co-worker joined me in doing a happy dance (yes, we really danced in a wild and crazy fashion).
Once I started writing, the spirit of my departed grandmothers started taking over and story after story started to come out. Dreamspinner and Harmony Ink Press have published a total of five books so far, with the next one due out . Two additional books are under contract and I am working with a fellow writer (a big time famous writer) on a young adult story.
When I'm not writing, I'm editing and proofing, proofing and editing. When not doing that I work for a small organization in downtown DC located a few hundred yards from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. My work is primarily IT project management which can be thrilling and at other times drive me to distraction.
All in all, I'd rather be writing full time. I could spend my days writing about hot guys rather than listening to people tell me that their quarter million dollar software project absolutely had to be rejected because the third button on the fourth screen wasn't blue! It's always been blue! It's got to be blue! Yes, this happens, all too often.
When I can I love to travel. I know others have done far more than me, but I'm proud of the fact that I've visited 46 of the 50 states in the US and 29 countries outside the US.