What I’m Reading: Salsa Nocturna

I finally got around to reading a book I’ve had for a while: Salsa Nocturna by Daniel Jose Older.

This is Older’s debut collection of short stories (published in 2012), and the jump-off of his first full-length novel, Half-Resurrection Blues. While I perceived Salsa Nocturna to be the precursor to HRB, Older said that the events in SN took place after HRB instead of before. He’s the author, so he should know, though I beg to differ. 🙂

Anyway, having read some of his other short stories published here and there (and also here); his contributions to the anthologies Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond and Long Hidden; and his debut young adult novel Shadowshaper (more on that in a later post), I was not disappointed with Salsa Nocturna. At all. Set in Older’s preferred boroughs of New York City, Salsa Nocturna introduces the eclectic plethora of supernatural and supernatural-affiliated characters that populate HRB.  The social commentary alone was great (“Protected Entity” was everything) and the characters were so rich and varied that it was like reading a paint palette. The characters meet and bond throughout an array of otherworldly situations that are sometimes as amusing and engaging as the characters themselves (Riley and Gordo quickly emerged as two of my favorites). Older is also one of the relative few Latino authors who does not sugarcoat the mezcla of African and Latino bloodlines and cultures in his writing, and for that alone he gets props from me. I wasn’t really digging HRB based on the excerpt I read (and the character Carlos even less) but after reading Salsa Nocturna, I’m more inclined to plunk down some cash for Half-Resurrection Blues. His character Kia, in the linked stories above, has me anticipating her own upcoming novel, Midnight Taxi Tango.

Salsa Nocturna is, in my humble opinion, Older’s strongest full-length work to date. Short stories are where Older’s talent shines brightest and I would love to see him pen another collection, even with different characters. Do yourself a favor and pick up Salsa Nocturna. Thank me later.

And thanks for stopping by.

The Creative Flow: How I Figure Out What to Write

For the past couple of weeks, you’ve graciously listened to my brain droppings about various aspects of the publishing industry (thank you!), and books I’ve read. It hit me the other day that, since my blog is primarily about my writing life, then perhaps I should actually write about my writing life.

One of the questions I get the most is, “How do you think up these things?” In addition to having an extremely vivid imagination (a must for fiction writers) and a slightly cynical view of the world, it’s not hard to come up with plots.

(Writing them is the hard part…but that’s another post for another day. :D)

Seriously: I get my inspiration from the news, random comments from people, Facebook memes…whatever works. I also dig in the crates for classics, and think about how they would be refashioned in this modern age (I’m a fan of Shakespeare, so he provides endless fodder). Then I start kicking around the “what ifs”. Once I hit upon a theme that resonates within, I start plotting it out. Characters, their backstories, how I want the story to end, is it a one-off novel or a series…things like that.

Oh, I also figure out the genre. Some stories are very obvious in how they should be written; others can go different ways, so I need to figure out the best way. Depending on my mood, I may go for the sure shot (a genre in which I’m strong, like fiction or thrillers) or try to challenge myself in a genre in which I’m not (science fiction/speculative fiction).

The format is important too. The late, great Octavia Butler once said in an interview that some stories are meant to be books, and some are meant to be short stories. I didn’t realize that until I started revisiting some earlier, half-done stuff and figured out that I was blocked on some of them because of this very principle: some novels should have been short stories, and some short stories should become novels. Since I like to write and expound upon a broad canvas, it’s easy for me to write a novel. Writing a short story, however, takes a talent I have not yet mastered.

Finally, I start writing the first draft. More on that in an upcoming post.

Thanks for stopping by.