I am pleased to introduce to you today Nick Iuppa and John P. Mendoza, co-authors of the Carlos Mann series. I recently read the first book in the series, Alicia’s Ghost, and was, I’ll admit, somewhat surprised to find I enjoyed it, paranormal anything not normally being my thing. Nick has written a very interesting post on “unearthing” the history of their main character, Carlos, which, as a “pantser” rather than a “plotter” I found a quite intriguing method of character development. You’ll also find below an excerpt from Iuppa and Mendoza’s new novel Alicia Bewitched, which was just released on April 13th. I also urge you to check out Nick’s bio at the end of this post – I think you’ll find it as impressive as I did!
UNEARTHING ALICIA BEWITCHED
When John and I write books, we don’t invent stories; we discover them.
Stephen King compares writing novels to digging up a dinosaur skeleton. You have evidence that there’s something down there, but you have to keep chipping away very carefully and hope you can bring up the whole thing intact.
A lot of Alicia’s readers have asked us to tell them more about the history of Alicia’s husband, Carlos Mann. They are happy with their knowledge of Alicia and her background (after all, she explains everything to the ghost of Dr. Sigmund Freud in Alicia’s Sin), but what about Carlos?
Well, we know that he’s three-quarters Mexican and one-quarter Polish. That he’s handsome, brilliant, extremely logical, noble, and quite heroic at times. Where does all that come from, we asked ourselves? It was time to start digging.
We started looking for the spine of Carlos’s genealogy and discovered that his grandfather (Conrad Mankowski) probably came to the Americas about the time of World War Two. That meant that Conrad could have been in Poland when the Nazis invaded his country. It’s well known that thousands of Polish nationals were sent to concentration camps soon after that. And, if Conrad Mankowski was a patriot who tried to organize his countrymen against the conquerors, he might have become a special target of the SS.
That’s the heroic lineage we decided to reveal in Alicia Bewitched.
We knew how our new novel had to start. At the end of the previous book, the FBI captured Carlos’s archenemy: gorgeous, sex-obsessed, flesh-trafficker Tiger Joy, and sent her to prison in a place that became more like a luxury hotel than a place of incarceration. Carlos was so disillusioned with the prospects of her punishment that he vowed to kill the evil woman himself. Of course, killing Tiger in the presence of all her protectors and boy-toys wasn’t easy, and, instead of being the victim, Tiger turned the tables, captured Carlos, and sent him off to be imprisoned in the cave of the great witch, La Bruja.
The witch gave Carlos a mirror, which came to life and showed him some of the key events in his grandfather’s life. Carlos saw how Conrad escaped from the Nazis and led them on a dangerous chase across Europe before managing to stow away on an ocean liner headed for Mexico. On board, a cool, clever, and beautiful Mexican aristocrat, with a crazy parrot and a ghostly grandmother, saved Conrad from would-be assassins. Then, one night when things got just a little too dangerous, Grandma’s ghost spirited Conrad away to the Yucatan where he fell in with the locals and married a shy, sweet young woman named Ixchel (sounds like seashell). Ixchel, it turned out, could trace her own ancestry back to the early days of the Mayan Empire.
As we dug up the skeleton, John and I saw most of the bones, but there was one section that was buried so deep that we just couldn’t figure it out.
When Carlos was captured, Alicia went to a curandera (good witch) and asked her to help save Carlos. The good witch refused. “What’s in it for me?” she asked. Turned out that the evil witch (La Bruja) was her sister. Since the two sisters were witches (good and bad), they’d survived for nearly a thousand years hating each other because, as girls in a great Mayan city-state, they were both in love with the same man.
Why would the witches ever want to save Carlos? (We asked ourselves.) Well, what if Carlos’s grandmother Ixchel was a direct descendant of the two witches? That would make him their descendant too… their great, great, great, great grandson. More importantly (and when we started to see this, the digging got so intense that we threw caution to the wind and started plowing through the debris with all our energy) Carlos could be a witch himself.
The witches knew it, we decided. The good witch suddenly became motivated to save Carlos. La Bruja (evil as she was) decided she wanted to kill him all the more. And, in the end, Carlos had to use Logic to escape and discover his own magic. Then and only then could he return to San Francisco, face the evil Tiger Joy, and hope to see that justice was done.
We had unearthed the skeleton of the story. There were a few more twists and turns that we came up with as we approached the very end. We think, all in all, it makes for a great tale with an amazing conclusion. See what you think.
Get a copy of our new novel, Alicia Bewitched, and read it for yourself.
Excerpt from Alicia Bewitched:
I wake up, and the first thing that comes crashing down on me is that I’ve failed… botched the entire job. I set out to rid the world of Tiger Joy, and instead she’s gotten rid of me!
I had it all planned out before hand, all the way down to the snapping of Tiger’s neck. I just never realized that Tiger could win over the guards so completely. Never realized that she would see me coming and be ready.
Amy warned me, told me exactly the kind of lifestyle Tiger had set up for herself in prison: the Executive Suite at the Chowchilla Correctional Facility. So now I’m M.I.A., probably so far out of sight that….
There’s a wicked hissing coming from a corner of whatever hole Tiger’s buried me in. Truth is, I haven’t even raised my eyes to look around.
My head pounds with the fact that I’ve failed, didn’t get the job done, and in the process got myself captured. I may never see Alicia again.
It slithers into my consciousness like some overzealous python.
My eyes jump to the far corner of the room, barely regis- tering the slimy bars of the cage that holds me. I’m looking out over the muddy floor in some kind of cave, over pools of blood and what look like the stubs of fingers hacked off and scattered everywhere in the slime.
The vision is terrible and there’s a deadly sick smell to go with it, but it’s mixed somehow with the sweetness of flowers.
In the far corner of the room there’s an archway that leads to a tunnel… a way out. But filling it completely is a churning tangle of enormous black water snakes.
I reach forward and take hold of the slimy cell bars and try to figure how long this cage has been here. Centuries? Even longer? Is this where Tiger’s decided to have me executed?
I’m not much for talking to myself, but it seems that this is the time for some kind of pow-wow. Tiger has sent me here to be punished for trying to murder her. She wants me worked over by whatever sick fuck inhabits this place. Something tells me it’s a tall, death-faced woman who looks just like Mictecacihuatl, that eight-foot monster outside my cell.
I think about Alicia and immediately realize that I have to escape, if only to be able to see her again.
Something tells me that if I die down here, I won’t see her in the next life either… not for planning a murder. That’s as big a sin as doing it. But I do have a chance, I realize. If I can stay alive, Alicia will find me and rescue me again. She’s done it before. Of course, she always takes her own sweet time about it. I know that. But it’s still well worth it when she does come through.
So, I have to stay strong, be willing to put up with a lot of nasty shit, survive no matter what until Alicia finds me.
My wife is nothing if not resourceful. And she’s got the whole damn ghost network to help her. The thought gives me new confidence. Get tough, survive, and be ready for the big getaway.
I look through the cell bars, at the tangle of water snakes, at the stoner tough guys Tiger has sent to keep an eye on me, at the terrifying statues surrounded by pools of blood. In spite of all that, I start to think, “Yes, I can handle this. I can make it.”
And then I hear humming…
You can view the trailer for the Carlos Mann trilogy here.
About Nick Iuppa:
I started out as an apprentice writer with Road Runner creator Chuck Jones and children’s author Dr. Seuss. I worked on How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and even drew some of the in-betweens for it. (In the scenes where the Grinch and Max are racing down the hill to Whoville, every other drawing is mine.) Later, I became a staff writer for the Wonderful World of Disney.
I worked my way up to VP Creative Director at Paramount Pictures where I did experimental work in interactive television and story-based simulations for the US Army. I also served as an executive at Bank of America and Apple computer. I’m the author of Management by Guilt (Fawcett Books 1984 – a Fortune Book Club selection) and eight books on interactive media published by Focal Press.
But while all that was going on, I wrote novels. And, when I was finally able to drop out of the business world, I turned my full attention to novel writing. I’ve written seven novels since then. My first solo horror novel, Bloody Bess and the Doomsday Games will be available in the end of May 2014. Meanwhile two other novels (Alicia’s Ghost and Alicia’s Sin) are currently on Amazon. The third book in the trilogy (Alicia Bewitched) will be out in the fall of 2014.
I live in the San Francisco Bay area with my wife, Ginny. My favorite thing to do when not writing is exploring the mountains of California and the rest of the world.