In the summer before my second senior year of college (yes, I was on the five-year plan), I needed money. I was broke. Desperate for a second job, I took a better-than-minimum-wage gig working for a local company, updating the city directory. Our job was to wander the city of DeKalb, knocking on doors, asking personal questions of residents: what’s your income bracket? How many people are in your household? Do you own your own home?
The questions were a combination or dull demographics and invasive questions about money. See, the “city directory” wasn’t actually sponsored by the city. A scuzzy marketing company used college students to collect these intrusive answers, selling the results to telemarketers so they could better target calls. Using the words “city directory” made their questions seem legitimate.
For two hours, I knocked on doors and asked my misleading questions, writing answers on a clipboard. Who could argue with my legitimacy? I had a clipboard, for God’s sake. I hated doing this. Once or twice, someone would look at me askew and say, “Is this city sponsoring this?” When I stuttered out the scripted answer I was instructed to give, they slammed the door on me. By 10:00 a.m. on my first day, I felt sick to my stomach.
Late morning, I asked an elderly woman about her yearly income and when she answered me in a trusting voice, I knew this was not only my first day on the job, it was also my last.
At noon, I quit.
I never felt better about quitting. Of course, I was still broke.
In Filthy Acquisitions, a book I released in July, we see the world through impoverished Keldon, a twenty-something college drop-out who feels he has no meaningful life skills. He tried retail and hated it. He tried temp work and hated that, too. He’s out of money. Out of options.
When we meet Keldon, he is recently employed by a wealthy client, engaged in a job he finds distasteful. He collects art painted by an executed serial killer. He is hired to collect, what Keldon calls, filthy acquisitions.
Perhaps my scuzzy half-day work for the shifty City Directory inspired Keldon’s character to some degree. While I have no experience collecting serial killer art (thank Hercules!), I understand what it’s like attempting to reconcile a job that disgusts you with that pesky habit of eating.
Keldon’s distasteful job is a significant part of the story. Why does his employer want this art? For what purpose? How can he live with himself in this role?
The ugly job takes a strange turn when he meets a potential love interest who does not know details about Keldon’s true job. Keldon meets Joshua, a registered nurse who works for someone who unknowingly owns a piece of this serial killer art. As Josh and Keldon’s spark of attraction evolves into something wonderful, Keldon must choose his loyalty. Will he choose the enormous financial reward if he collects all fifteen paintings? Or does he risk poverty on the chance that he and Josh might create something more enduring and richer than money?
In some ways, the real question behind money is whether or not you believe people are good or…not. At the end of their first date, Keldon and Josh snuggle and discuss their views of humanity.
“Truth or dare?” Josh said in a dreamy voice.
“Truth,” Keldon said quietly.
“Do you think people are basically good or basically terrible?”
Keldon said, “Let me think about it.”
Josh slurred his words. “After tonight, I think good.”
Keldon didn’t want to answer, not with the answer in his heart. Why ruin the evening? While debating the right words, he felt the rhythmic breathing next to him and came to realize Josh had fallen asleep, or was at least in that thin trance that precedes actual sleep. With very little motion, Keldon pulled Josh tighter and inhaled the smell of them together. He reveled in the wealth surrounding them in the four-poster bed, Josh’s warm skin, the thousand yellow window squares still projecting light through their sitting room, light sneaking into the bedroom to remind them of the city’s protective embrace.
With their bodies pressed together, Keldon could feel Josh slip deeper into sleep and thought to himself, Some people are good.
These days, I enjoy the luxury of having a stable job (knock on wood). I don’t worry about paying next month’s mortgage payment. I’m lucky. But some days, I wonder about the choices I make on a day-to-day basis. When I work weekend hours, am I choosing money over the people in my life? When I implement a client’s terrible suggestions, am I compromising my principles for job stability?
The real world is fraught with hard questions: love or money?
I think one of the beautiful aspects of romance novels is we generally know the outcome: love wins.
Perhaps that’s why we read (and write) romance. To remember to choose love. To see role models who choose love. To remember how we want to choose when faced with our own filthy acquisitions.
Keldon Thurman hates his job, purchasing serial killer art for a private investor. He would quit if he weren’t completely impoverished, but with no life skills and no ways to generate income, Keldon has no options.
However, Acquisition Number Five proves to be more challenging than expected. Wheel-chair bound Irene Woullet and her handsome nurse caretaker, Joshua Greene, refuse to cooperate. Keldon’s only chance is to seduce the old-fashioned, simple-living Josh in the hopes that Joshua can persuade Irene. But Keldon has to work fast—he has only two dates to win Josh’s affection.
About the Author: Edmond Manning has been writing for many, many years, but only recently started publishing books. In 2012 he published King Perry. His 2013 release, King Mai, was a finalist in the Lambda Literary Awards in the Gay romance category. In late August, he plans to release a third book in the same series, The Butterfly King. Filthy Acquisitions is available immediately from Wilde City.
The Giveaway: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED