Please say hello to Pearl Love and
We all have cities that we love, either the place we were born and raised, somewhere we moved to in pursuit of education or a career, or even somewhere we went for a few days on vacation. For me, my first love is Chicago. I was born, raised, and educated in the Windy City. Or the City of Big Shoulders. Or the Home of the Blues. Chicago has a lot of nicknames.
I saw the couple on which Tyrell and Jeremy are based on a train heading into Washington DC one morning. But when I realized I wanted to write a story about two kids who have a destiny to save their city (and the world), there was only one place I was interested in setting their tale. Although I haven’t lived in Chicago for over fifteen years, the city is still very near and dear to me. Most of my relatives still live there, and I go as often as I can to visit. Plus, I am familiar with the landscape and, more importantly, the school system. Write what you know, as they say.
“Salvation’s Song” has numerous settings anyone familiar with Chicago will instantly recognize. The main one is the high school Tyrell, Jeremy, and their friends attend. Although Winton Yowell is not a real school, it is based on one. Mine in point of fact. High school may be four short years of your life, but it is amazing the profound impact those few years can have on your life. It was important to me that my guys have a similar grounding experience, especially when everything else is spinning out of control for them. As with my own school, Winton Yowell is situated not too far from the beating heart of downtown Chicago. I freely admit I chose the locations based on the bus routes which play an important role in the story, including facilitating character meetings, dramatic exits, longing waits, and forlorn partings. Plus, the distance between the school and the bus routes providing excellent opportunities for creepy plot moments.
I grew up only a couple of miles from the south side neighborhood of Hyde Park, which Tyrell calls home. Even when I was a youngster, Hyde Park was a mecca of diversity, being one of the few integrated neighborhoods south of downtown. Now it is even more niche and gentrified, but it still has a character that is uniquely Chicago. Hyde Park is still a place where you can walk around and find hidden gems, be they art stores, one of a kind restaurants, or one of the 570 parks you can find within the city limits. Chicagoans love their green spaces, especially the ones only a few steps from their homes.
Jeremy, on the other hands, lives on the city’s north side, a world away from Tyrell. I grew up on the south side, and to this day, the northern half Chicago is a mysterious place I would instantly get lost in if I tried to navigate it without GPS. The north side, however, is what many outsiders think of when they consider the city. It’s a land of bars, ethnic restaurants that represent Chicago’s immigrant history, and, of course, those recent World Series champions. Took you long enough, Cubs! (Btw, I’m a White Sox fan. South Side!) As with Tyrell’s home and Winton Yowell, the location of the small apartment Jeremy miraculously shares with his parents and several siblings is the result of its proximity to the “EL,” Chicago’s famed elevated train system. Having such a through mode of public transportation available is a Godsend for teens who don’t have access to cars. Plus, walking between trains, buses, and homes gives yet more chances for eerie demon attacks.
Lastly, there is the University of Illinois-Chicago campus. Although the boys are still in high school, they will soon be college bound, as I hope to have them in a future story. Jeremy’s large family, in particular one of his older sisters who attends UIC, as it’s commonly known, provided a convenient way to bring the campus into the story. As with other large cities, Chicago is fortunate enough to have many colleges and universities within the city limits, each with their unique personalities and landscapes. As the boys and their friends age and the threat increases, the story will tie them more closely to this new world that is in their midst and yet is an entity unto itself.I hope you enjoy my first YA, and that you will come to love the beautiful city of Chicago as much as I do!
About the book:
Only a chosen few can prevent an ancient evil from overtaking the world: the Singers, the Seekers, and the Saviors…. Tyrell Hughes and Jeremy Michalak are both juniors at Winton Yowell High School in Chicago, and aside from sharing a homeroom, they couldn’t be more different. Tyrell is well-liked, surrounded by friends, popular with girls, and looking forward to a bright future. Jeremy transfers to Winton Yowell to escape the troubles of his past. He’s hoping to survive his last two years of high school by flying under his new classmates’ gaydar and indulging in his passion: playing clarinet.
Tyrell and Jeremy struggle to ignore their attraction to each other. But that becomes increasingly difficult as young people across the city start dying. Both teens realize they alone know the true cause of the tragedies—and have the ability to put a stop to them. They’re the city’s only chance to defeat the dark forces threatening it, but to succeed, they’ll need to find common ground and reconcile the desires they’re trying to deny.
“One, two, three. Two, two, three.”
The entire low brass section exploded into the dark, heavy opening strains of the “Infernal Dance” from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. Mr. Crabtree had sprung the piece on them as a surprise. Everyone had been delighted, especially Tina, who was currently pounding away on the tympani drum like she’d died and gone to heaven.
Jeremy was pleased at the selection, though for a far different reason. The oppressive atmosphere of the piece fit his mood perfectly. He still couldn’t believe he’d been such an idiot.
He’d spent all of Wednesday and most of today avoiding Tyrell as best he could while trying to hide the fact that he was doing so. Yesterday in homeroom, he’d buried himself in a textbook, giving Tyrell only the barest greeting, though by the end of the period, he’d had no idea what he’d read. During lunch he’d tried to act normal while eating with everyone, although he spent the entire hour deliberately speaking only to Cynthia. Today he’d resorted to the same strategy, and by the end of the lunch period, Tyrell was staring at him like he’d lost his mind.
Jeremy didn’t blame him. After the friendly note they’d ended on following Tuesday’s rehearsal, Tyrell was probably totally confused by Jeremy’s abrupt about-face. Jeremy gritted his teeth and scolded himself to get a grip as the memory of the scene he’d witnessed the previous morning played over and over in his head. Of course Tyrell had accepted that girl’s offer to go on a date, as her party invitation was clearly a cover for.
He was jealous, plain and simple, which was why he was cursing himself so profusely. Tyrell was straight. He’d never given Jeremy a reason to doubt that simple fact, no matter how friendly he’d been after rehearsal the other day. Sure they could be friends, but that would be the extent of their relationship. Jeremy would be a fool to think otherwise.
But he simply couldn’t help it. He’d always thought Tyrell was gorgeous, and Tyrell’s sudden change in attitude was the final straw that had broken through his repressed feelings. Hell, he’d even had a freakin’ wet dream about Tyrell last night. Jeremy sighed as his face warmed predictably at the memory. Yep, he was a complete moron.
After a few minutes, he gave in and glanced toward the back of the room. The rhythm section was silent through a large portion of the beginning of the piece, but it hadn’t stopped Tyrell from expressing his enjoyment of the music. He was watching Tina, but his sticks were busy as he smacked them against his thighs in a beat only he could hear. Just like the other day, Tyrell’s delight shone upon his face, and his entire body swayed in time as he listened to the other sections play.
“Fuck,” Jeremy said under his breath, trusting in the loud music to cover his defeated utterance.
Eventually he would figure out how to be just buddies with Tyrell, but not today. He needed one more day to go home and lick his wounds in private. By tomorrow everything would be fine.
“That’s fantastic, guys,” Mr. Crabtree said to the brass section after cutting them off. “Okay, woodwinds. Let’s start at measure ten.”
Jeremy was glad to finally have a distraction from his uselessly spinning thoughts, and he spent the remainder of the hour concentrating furiously on the music. At last, Mr. Crabtree called an end to rehearsal, and Jeremy packed up as quickly as he could in order to duck out before Tyrell could find him and ask him what in the hell was his problem. Trust me, he thought, you do not want to know.
He hustled out of the building without stopping to allow himself a lingering departing glance at Tyrell, no matter how much he wanted to do so. Sighing in relief at making good on his escape, he headed for the sidewalk that fronted the Academic and Arts building and turned east toward Halsted Avenue. No point risking Tyrell catching up with him at the bus stop closest to school. Besides, the four-block walk had become his usual after-school routine, one he planned to maintain until the inevitable change in the weather as winter’s approach prompted him to abandon it.
Several figures loitered on the grass next to the path leading from the building to the sidewalk, and Jeremy recognized the blond football player he’d seen the other day. Once again, he was standing with some of his teammates, though this time Ryan wasn’t among them. Lost in his private concerns, Jeremy didn’t think much of them until a nasty voice broke through his reverie.
“Hey, pussy boy. Does it hurt when you take it up the ass?” The sound of laughter quickly followed.
For about half a second, Jeremy pretended the speaker wasn’t talking to him. Then he made the mistake of glancing toward the football players only to lock gazes with the large blond. His pale blue eyes were filled with malice, and his smirk caused a shiver to race down Jeremy’s spine. Fucking fantastic. Jeremy looked away hastily and picked up his pace as he passed them. Fortunately, the jocks didn’t seem inclined to follow him.
Jeremy groaned once he was safely beyond the bullies’ radius. To be honest, Jeremy was more disappointed than scared. He’d hoped that by transferring out of River Vista, he could finally get away from all the homophobic assholes. He knew now that he’d been hopelessly naive. Of course not every teenaged bigot in Chicago went to that one school. It was just his luck to find the ones who attended Winton Yowell within the first couple weeks of classes. All the more reason to bury his nascent feelings for Tyrell in the deepest, darkest part of his mind. The last thing he needed was a repeat of the events that had driven him away from his old school.
Jeremy wasn’t sure where he was when he finally shook off his trip down depressing-memory lane, but Chicago’s ubiquitous use of street signs quickly set him to rights. He was two blocks away from Halsted, and he crossed over to the north side of the street once he reached Peoria. The hour was early for the corporate types to be out, so the street was fairly quiet. On his left was a series of tiny parks, which partially obscured the parking lots behind them. Right before the large building on the corner of Halsted and Madison, a small alley that had somehow earned a name jutted off toward the north. Jeremy imagined that the side street might be creepy at night, but in the full light of day when he was usually walking past it, it was completely innocuous.
He was still distracted by the emotional whirlwind that had characterized what should have been an uneventful couple of days, so he didn’t immediately notice when the now familiar itch started at the back of his neck. He broke his step when he felt the chain of his pendant suddenly dig painfully into his skin.
“Not this again,” he groaned in dismay.
He turned around to look behind him, but this time he didn’t see a single person. Unconsciously, he wrapped his hand around the stone, only to pull it away with a yelp when it nearly burned him.
Jeremy stared down at the pendant, his steps faltering until he came to a complete stop. After a moment he realized he was listening for his brother’s voice. Disgusted with himself, he reached back to hitch the straps of his book bag higher on his shoulders. He resumed his route toward Halsted, only to veer off down the alley without having had any intention of doing so. The rational part of his brain shouted at him to go back the other way, but he simply couldn’t. Something was pulling him, and he couldn’t stop until he’d found out what it was.
The pendant continued to glow, the heat emanating from the lapis lazuli reaching through his shirt to sear his chest. But he continued on, moving cautiously down the narrow street as he reconsidered its level of creepiness even in the brightness of midafternoon. The sensation only increased when he suddenly felt like he was being watched.
“Hello,” he called out. “Is anyone there?”
He heard nothing except for the sound of cars, though the traffic noise was far more distant than it should have been, considering how close he was to several major streets. Although he was only a few hundred yards from Washington Street at the far end, he could barely see it, as if something was obscuring his view. As he eased farther down the alley, he shivered with a sudden chill.
“Hello?” he asked again.
This time, Jeremy thought he heard something, but the sound was more like a growl, so foreign and alien that he instantly broke out in a cold terror sweat. He gasped and realized his heart was pounding like he’d been running for hours. The air in front of him grew hazy and indistinct, hiding the buildings to either side of him, which, moments before, he’d been able to see with no problem.
“Ugh,” Jeremy groaned as the rank odor of sulfur or rotten eggs hit his nose. He gagged, and his stomach began to twist and roil with acute discomfort, making him worry he might puke right there on the street. The pendant flashed, and Jeremy saw a pulse of light fly out of the stone before it became too bright and he had to close his eyes against the pain. He heard a high-pitched tone, as pure and clear as a note struck from fine crystal. It was unlike anything he’d ever heard before, and it wasn’t until the note faded that he realized the growling had stopped. Jeremy opened his eyes a moment later, but the eerie fog was gone. The scene around him was as mundane as anything one might see on a downtown city street in midafternoon.
Jeremy stood there for a long moment, trying to accept what he’d just experienced, but in the end he simply couldn’t. He’d read somewhere that schizophrenia often manifested during the sufferer’s teen years. Maybe that explained it, because he was obviously experiencing some sort of psychotic break.
Great, Jeremy thought. If nothing else, this new problem would distract him from Tyrell. He could hear the hollow panic in his laugh as he turned his back on his recent bout of insanity and headed toward Madison Avenue.
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About the author:
Writing Manly Romance From The Heart! Pearl Love has been writing since she was a kid, but it was the pretty boys who frolic around in her head who finally convinced her to pursue it seriously. She’s a mid-west transplant who current thrives in the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital. She enjoys any type of story so long as the boy gets the boy. Pearl is a Marvel fan girl and owns a ridiculous stash of knitting supplies.
You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Promotional post. Materials provided by the author.