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How I Write Even Though I Have Aphantasia and 8 Other Questions You Asked

·2155 words·11 mins
Update Writing

Hey folks,

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who picked up a copy of Psychic City, the first book in a new series, the Psychic State mysteries. And an extra special thank you to everyone who left a review afterwards (seriously, it helps other people find the book).

It’s been awesome hearing from those of you who have read it. I tried really, really hard to write the best novel I possibly could, but I didn’t expect that so many people would be clamoring for a sequel. I’m a little overwhelmed by it, in a good way.

I did get some questions from y’all, some of them many times, so I thought I’d tackle all 9 at once in today’s post.

1. “How Do You Write So Vividly With Aphantasia?”

As I’ve written in the past, I don’t have a visual imagination. This was part of why I didn’t think it was realistic for me to _ever _write a novel. I can’t see things in my mind’s eye that aren’t there. I don’t really have a mind’s eye to speak of. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I knew it even had a name: aphantasia.

As I mention in that post, whenever I write physical descriptions, I use reference photos. The good news is that those are fairly easy to find in the Internet age.

But even aside from that, I tend to focus more on writing dialogue and emotions — because I imagine both of those quite easily. My audial sense is actually my most pronounced. I was a working musician for many years and also worked as a reporter and a medical transcriptionist. All of these jobs require extensive use of audial memory.

I rely on an emotional imagination too — this is harder to explain, but coupled with my audial imagination/memory, it’s how I do it.

It’s been interesting whenever I’ve spent time with other writers. I tend to find things easy that they think are harder — and vice versa. I struggle with aspects of writing that are easy to most other writers.

Anyway, because of being so audial, the other hack I use aside from reference pictures is carefully constructing playlists for each book I write. It’s basically the music that would play in the background if the book were a movie. The correct music is key; it helps set the mood and helps me really get the emotional flow of scenes locked down.

Here’s a link to the music I listened to while I wrote Psychic City. And here’s what I listened to when I wrote Psychic Inferno (Psychic State #2). And here’s the one for  Minerva the Liar (Psychic State #3).

2. “What’s Your Writing Process?”

I got a lot of questions about writing process, too. Other than having to work around my aphantasia, my process is fairly standard. I come up with an outline, and then I doggedly work on the book until it’s done. I never outlined before I started writing books a few years back, and I’ve found I’ve had to relearn to do it when doing it on fiction projects (vs my non-fiction book process). Psychic City took a few years, even so, because I had to come up with the entire setting. But writing these novels is getting progressively faster with each installment.

Every week, I sit down and do all my articles for Poly Land and any freelance work I have on my plate, and then once those are done, I switch to the book words until the week ends. On Psychic Inferno, I often worked weekends, too, because I had so much momentum on the project.

Writing as a job _can _be fairly asynchronous. Theoretically, I could write whenever, but I get up like a normal first shift job because my partner works one, and it’s just easier if we’re on the same schedule (since we eat meals together and we like to see each other). For me, this is often 7:30 am to 5 pm on weekdays. It does help that my partner often works overtime and volunteers a lot because it gives me more time to write and research in the evenings and weekends.

I also try to make sure I’m actively reading _something _written by someone else at all times — whether that’s fiction in the genres I’m working in or non-fiction that’s research for a book. That’s an important part of the writing process, always learning what I can.

(If you’re curious what I’ve been reading, here’s a link to my Goodreads profile. I leave star ratings for every book I finish. You can follow me there if you want.)

3. “Who’s Your Favorite Detective in Psychic City?”

I can’t choose. I love them all. Viv is the least like me in personality, but I respect her for that. Sure, she can be brash, but she has strengths I don’t. (Shit, she is an eideticist so she has an amazing visual imagination and photographic memory, in addition to the differences in personality).

I think Penny is the closest in terms of women I tend to admire and have historically fallen in love with. I’ve had close friends tell me I come off like Penny — that she’s the one who reminds them of me.

This is funny to me because I feel like I’m the most like Karen. It makes her really uncomfortable to write sometimes. And really intense.

4. “Who’s Your Favorite Character in Psychic City?”

Change, the disillusioned shapeshifter. I know he isn’t in the first book all that much, but I adore him — partly because I know his long-term story arc and what role he’s going to play in the series. (Incidentally, he is the only character that will appear in every single book. Yes, the only constant is Change. Feel free to boo, but it’s true.)

After Change, probably Amarynth, the Connections agent. I know a lot of amazing, very frustrated, perceptive people that I adore who are very much like Amarynth.  She’s also going to be featured more in coming books (more on that below in “What’s Next?”).

5. “What’s YOUR Favorite Scene in Psychic City?”

Hmm… tough question. Two leap out, and I’ll try to tell you which ones without spoiling things too much.

I’d have to say probably the one with Penny and all the pomegranates, although I did cry after I finished writing the scene in which strange visitors come to see Karen at the ranch.

6. “Will There Be a Sequel?”

I was surprised how many of you asked me if there would be a sequel. This was the question that really turned me into Shocked Pikachu (a nickname my friend gave me because I was surprised that Psychic City is doing well). I’m thrilled that folks who have read it are excited for the next one.

The answer is yes. It’s going to be a fairly long series. At the current moment, I have planned and plotted and outlined for the first 12 books.

Psychic City came out the end of August. I just finished Psychic Inferno (#2) on September 29 and now it’s off to the editor. Minerva the Liar (#3) was finished on July 15. Yes, I wrote the third book before the second one. Minerva the Liar takes place before the events of Psychic City and Psychic Inferno and provides a lot of backstory/explanation for how the Psychic State came to be and introduces a form of powerful intuitives called truthshapers as well as a secret society of matriarchal bureaucrats. After I wrote Minerva the Liar, however, I realized it would be cruel to leave people hanging at the end of Psychic City and that it made sense for Minerva the Liar to come out third, after Psychic Inferno (as Inferno provides the answers to a lot of immediate questions raised by Psychic City).

Anyway, the good news is that the first three books are written. The second and third installments are going through the editing process, and I’ll let you know more information about when they’re coming out as we get closer to the release dates.

Update: Psychic Inferno came out since I originally wrote this post. Here’s a link to the Psychic State series that should propagate whatever new books are out by the time you read this.  (There will be a lot of them eventually.)

7. “What’s Next? What Are You Working On?”

As I write this Q&A post, I’m starting to work on the fourth book in the series — The Ecumenopolis. Ecu-what? What the heck is that word? Good question. Here’s the answer:

Ecumenopolis (from Greek: οἰκουμένη oecumene, meaning “world”, and πόλις polis “city”, thus “a world city”) is the hypothetical concept of a planetwide city.

Not to go too far into spoilertown, but The Ecumenopolis focuses primarily on Amarynth, a.k.a. “the Cassandra of PsyOps,” the long-suffering introverted Connections Agent with an uncanny knack for knowing things she shouldn’t. Unfortunately, because she’s not good at explaining how she knows what she does, other people underestimate her abilities and rarely believe her, to their own detriment.

Amarynth is in both Psychic City and Psychic Inferno but never as the main character. She is extremely fun to write, so it’s gonna be great spending a lot of time with her while I write The Ecumenopolis and giving a better look into her backstory and why she is the way she is.

At this very moment, I have a great detailed outline and a few thousand words (a very typical start for me when I begin working on a new novel). We’ll see how it goes when I start getting deep into it, but for now, I’m excited.

But no, I’m not sitting around waiting. I’m hard at work.

8. “You’re Not Going to Take a Hiatus from Poly.Land, Are You?”

I even heard from a few of you who wanted to make sure that my writing these novels doesn’t mean I’m going to take a hiatus from maintaining the popular Poly.Land Facebook page.

Rest assured, I have no plans to do that! It hadn’t even occurred to me. I’ve been posting daily free content for four years, and I plan to continue that. I’m finding I am balancing both projects quite well. It really isn’t all that different than when I put out my three non-fiction books.

This site/blog has been an incredibly important project to me, and that’s not changing anytime soon.

9. “How Can I Help?”

Finally, I was bowled over by how many of you asked me how you could help spread the word about Psychic City. Honestly, everything you do helps — picking up a copy for yourself and telling other people about the book and recommending it to friends obviously is awesome.

But there are other ways, too. Leaving honest reviews after you’ve read it is also a _huge _help! It really does help other people find the book. Thank you to everyone who has done that.

I heard from one reader who was disappointed their public library didn’t carry it. A lot of library Overdrive systems have a feature where you can recommend books your library doesn’t carry to the librarian. That’s another way you can help the book reach more readers, by recommending the book to your librarian.

In any event, I was extremely touched that so many of you asked.


That’s where everything is! I’ve said it a few times already, but I do want to thank you all again for all the kind words and for your patience as I’ve talked about the book release. I am well aware it’s not necessarily everyone’s favorite thing when a writer announces that their new book is out or does the meta updates, but it is _really _difficult to spread the word about new releases. Even folks with large platforms are artificially suppressed by algorithms, and everyone’s awfully busy (especially now as we’re living through bizarre historical times).

I’m _still _having readers pop up who are surprised that I have a new book out and are wondering how they didn’t know about it yet.

So I really appreciate your bearing with me as I do the shouting from the rooftops thing.

Anyway, I mean it. I really do have the best readers in the world. And I think of you folks every time I sit down to write. I push myself really hard because I don’t want to let you down.

Okay! Back to the word mines with me.




Have a question about a post? Maybe need some advice about a relationship or situation? Write me. I love getting messages from you.

Your letter and my answer might be featured in Advice Friend. I regularly change identifying details and/or completely rewrite letters to preserve anonymity.



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