So . . . What’s a “Singularity Wheel”? (Or, a Title Finally Emerges)

Ideas are funny things.  Sometimes they strike with no warning, no foreshadowing, completely unasked for and unplanned.  Other times, you might be searching doggedly for the resolution of the next scene, the next chapter, the next story, and you peek around every corner, under every stone, every nook and cranny, hoping to find the missing piece–only to be rebuffed each time.  Sometimes ideas come complete, a gift from the muse, a fully developed story just waiting to come alive, one keystroke at a time.  And sometimes they tantalize, tease, coyly offering a hint or a lead, providing a glimpse but not revealing the whole.



When I wrote The Eye-Dancers, I experienced all of this and more, and in fact the genesis of the story began two decades before the first word was even written.  When I was in high school, I had a dream one night, a taut affair where I saw a ghost outside my bedroom window–or, at least, I thought it was a ghost.  She was a little girl, no more than seven years old, and as I peered through the window, I saw her standing in the road, beneath the streetlamp that stood beside our mailbox.  The light from the streetlamp filtered right through her; she seemed more spirit than flesh-and-blood girl.  This “ghost girl” signaled for me to come outside and join her, and I was sure she wanted to lead me somewhere from which I would never return–perhaps the cemetery across town; perhaps a hidden hollow deep within the woods where boy-eating wolves or nameless, sharp-fanged creatures roamed; or maybe some ethereal phantom world, a far-away limbo on the other side of tomorrow.



I felt myself fighting hard to resist, not wanting to leave the security of my room.  But there was an inevitability to it all, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I succumbed.

That’s when I woke up, sweating, my sheets a crumpled mess at my feet.  It took a moment for me to gather myself, but when I did, I knew this “ghost girl” from my dream was someone I needed to write about.  In the days that followed, excited, fired up, eager to launch into a new adventure, I tried putting her in various short stories, tried to begin a novel with her as the focal point.  I even tried writing a poem about her, and I am no poet!  Nothing worked.  Frustrated, I jotted down a few notes about the dream, making sure I wouldn’t forget, and filed them in a literary to-do pile, hoping one day a story would emerge.



It took twenty years.  Then one night, I had the very same dream, taken back to the house where I grew up, seeing the same specter standing out there in the street.  Only this time, upon waking, I had the germ of an idea.  Over the next few days, the idea sprouted, watered by the suddenly giving and generous gifts of a capricious muse, fueled by enthusiasm and a drive to write the story.  And when I wrote the first words, the first scene–in which Mitchell Brant has the same dream of the same “ghost girl” I did–I believed this time would be different.  This time, the tale would be told, the story brought to its completion.



The key word being “story”–singular.  I never thought or intended that The Eye-Dancers would be continued.  At the time, I had a fully developed single-story idea, not the beginning of a series.  I had no reason to believe there would ever be a sequel.

But again, ideas are funny things, and one late-winter day, three years ago, a dramatic visual formed in my mind’s eye.  I wasn’t thinking about any of the Eye-Dancers characters, wasn’t thinking of the novel at all.  I was merely out taking a walk, enjoying the crisp New England air, the sunshine, relishing the first, shy, almost indistinguishable signs of the coming spring.  And then, from out of nowhere, it seemed, I saw it.



As if by magic, the image took shape.  There were Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski–slightly older versions than what we see in The Eye-Dancers–standing before an impossibly large structure.  The building was easily the width of ten football fields, and it rose countless stories into a sky the color of ash.  And above the structure, in that ash-colored sky, were Monica Tisdale’s (the “ghost girl’s”) swirling blue eyes.  They dominated the scene, growing, expanding, overtaking the sky.  Her eyes glared down at the boys, as if challenging them to a duel.



What was most striking about this image was the absence of color.  Aside from the “ghost girl’s” blue eyes, everything, including the giant building, was gray, a monochrome world of black-and-white. What could such an image mean?  On that day, taking that walk (I nearly collided into a tree, distracted as I was with this scene-from-nowhere!), I didn’t know.  I just knew something was stirring, a seed had been planted, the first kernels of a new idea were cracking open and waiting to grow.



And grow they did until I realized–I had a sequel to write, after all.  Other scenes seared themselves into my mind:  Ryan, now a card shark, shuffling a deck of playing cards as if his life depended on it–and maybe, just maybe, it did.  A blue queen of spades, with eyes as blue as the “ghost girl’s,” staring out of the deck, her expression so real as if to be animate.  What did a blue queen of spades signify?  I didn’t know yet, but somehow I knew she was to be called The Singularity Queen and that she was the only blue card in the deck (all the other spades were the customary black).  The “ghost girl” herself splitting into a million versions of herself, a foot in each world, somehow in tune with an infinite number of universes.  Marc and Mitchell and Ryan and Joe vanishing from view, first a finger disappearing, then a foot, then an entire leg, and . . . ?  What did all these scenes signify?



The ideas came in bunches, the story evolved, fleshed out, expanded tenfold.  The boys were older now, seventeen, on the verge of their senior year in high school.  And the “ghost girl” was older, too–no longer a girl of seven, but twelve now, on the precipice of the teen years.  What struggles would they all have now, five years removed from the conclusion of The Eye-Dancers?  As I started to write, the answers came, and the journey took off.



It’s been a long, oftentimes challenging journey at that.  Several times throughout, I became stuck, at a crossroads or what sometimes felt like a dead end.  There have been gaps in the writing, periods of intense distraction or busy-ness where the next chapter had to wait.  But through it all, I’ve kept going.  It’s taken longer than I’d hoped, and the end has still not been reached.  Four more chapters remain.  The aim is to finish the first draft by the New Year, then edit the manuscript over the winter, and have it ready for release next spring.  As I near closer and closer to the finish line, I will post more about the story, the events, the challenges the characters will face.



But one thing I can do right now is offer a title.  Titles are just as temperamental as ideas.  For me, sometimes titles come at the start, before I write the first word.  Often, though, when I sit down to start a story, I leave the title page blank.  “What’s this going to be called?” I wonder.  And I have no clue.



It remained this way for two-and-a-half years with this sequel to The Eye-Dancers.  And believe me, I tried.  I spent hours trying to come up with a title.  Nothing came.  Then, one day this past summer, it did.  At first, I hesitated.  Would it work?  Or was it too confusing?  Too obscure, too odd?

I wasn’t sure, but it felt right.

The fourth definition of the word “singularity” in Webster’s dictionary reads:  “a point or region of infinite mass density at which space and time are infinitely distorted by gravitational forces and which is held to be the final state of matter falling into a black hole.”



This coincided with another visual from the story–the blue queen of spades in the center of a circle of playing cards.  In the “ghost girl’s” alternate world, the card game in question is called The Singularity Wheel.

As it turns out, the sequel to The Eye-Dancers is called that, too.



Thanks so much for reading!


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