Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Birth of the Bewitching Mysteries...

Where do I get my ideas? When it comes to Maggie, the truth is, I'm not quite sure.

Maggie, you see, came to me herself.

I've always thought of muses as beings of light and air, wispy, feminine, fluttering in and out of a person's subconscious as they please to bestow their gifts of inspiration.

The day Maggie was born, my muse came at me with a sledgehammer.

I had been working all morning, alone in my busy office. Doing a million things other than writing: answering the phone, placing purchase orders, solving problems. Suddenly I was slammed with a cavalcade of words, compelling me, no, demanding that I let them out. I opened a Word document, set my fingers on the keyboard, and started typing.


Within just a few minutes I had three pages of something that completely mystified me.

Three pages of first person dialogue set in modern times. Three pages filled with paranormal references. Three pages that obviously did not belong in any kind of romance novel that I knew of. And at the time, I had always written straight historical romance, told in a third person point of view.

Huh, I thought as I stared at what I had written. I have no idea where THAT came from.

I had no idea what I could do with it, so I did what I always do with story ideas that come to me at odd times while I'm working on something else: I saved it under my Ideas folder, giving it the terribly descriptive name of 'Mystery, Maybe.' And then I went back to work and promptly forgot about the whole thing.

But Maggie wasn't ready or willing to be forgotten. Those three pages had ended with the words: "My name is Margaret Mary-Catherine O'Neill, and this is my story." And Maggie, it seems, was pretty determined that her story would be told.

Several months later, I was driving on the highway toward town for lunch, and wouldn't you know, it happened again? All of a sudden, images flew at me from left and right, so strong and adamant that I actually pulled my minivan off the road onto the shoulder in order to grab a moment to capture them. {Honestly, this is a rare thing for me! ::weak grin:: } The only paper I could find was in a pile my son had "cleaned out" from his bookbag and left in the middle seat, and the only thing I could find to write with was the unsharpened end of a broken green crayon. I had no choice, and at the time I didn't care. The only thing that mattered was jotting down the images that had come to me.

What I saw that day were people, places, attitudes, and simmering amongst them, conflict. I knew immediately that they belonged with the strange visitation I'd had months before, an idea I had until just that moment forgotten. In one brief moment of providence and serendipity {well, two, technically-speaking}, I was given the basis for the Bewitching series, a broad enough glimpse that I could see the direction things would be unfolding.

I've always believed there was more than a bit of magic in the creative process. =)

Happy Holidays, all...

Mad {madly!}

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It's out, it's out, it's out, it's out, it's out!!!!!!!

Not that I'm excited or anything...

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#2 in the Bewitching Mystery series
Available December 5th, 2006 {yes, today!!} at a bookstore near you.

All sighting reports welcome!!!!!!

And check out this new and exclusive interview: Spotlight Feature Interview

I had a lot of fun answering these thought-provoking questions for's Ransom Notes newsletter. Reviewer Paul Goat Allen says this about A CHARMED DEATH:

"Mystery fans who seek out "feel-good" reads for their literary escapism (books by authors like Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Kyra Davis, et al.) should definitely check out Alt's Bewitching Mystery saga, which is powered by her Everywoman heroine O'Neill. A small-town girl struggling to find her place in the world, she has an optimistic and idealistic outlook on an oftentimes malevolent and depressing reality -- as well an addiction to old episodes of Magnum P.I. -- that makes her one of the most refreshing and endearing protagonists to grace the amateur sleuth genre in years. Alt certainly picked the right name for this series. It's a bewitching saga by a positively witchy chick. Highly recommended."

Isn't that just the most amazing thing? I cannot begin to explain how blessed and honored I am feeling right now.

Love to all on this fantabulous day,

Mad {madly!} Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Friday, December 01, 2006

What I love about the holiday season...

In a word {well, actually, three words}:

Chocolate. Cherry. Cordials.

I don't know who first invented these little lovelies, and quite frankly, I don't care. He or she deserves a place in the annals of history just as much as Genghis Khan. Probably more.

I mean, what could be better? Firm chocolate encasing a juicy red maraschino cherry, surrounded by some gloopy, gloppy thick, sugary syrup.

It is the stuff of the gods.

Not only that, but now someone has decided to make dark chocolate cherry cordials. Be still my heart.

Dark chocolate is good for you, you know. I use it for medicinal purposes.

And the cool thing about Dark Chocolate Cherry Cordials is that there's no need for a brown bag.

Feel free to indulge at will. In public, even.

Love to all,

Mad {madly!}

P.S. Countdown to A CHARMED DEATH: 4 days... {woot! woot!}

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sightings countdown!!!

All right, step right up, ladies and gents! The countdown for the publication of A CHARMED DEATH, #2 in the Bewitching series, commences today!

Seven... count them, SEVen days! { woot woot! }

And I've had two sightings already from readers, yay, so hie thee to the bookstores... you just never know!


In other news, I have accepted an offer with Berkley Prime Crime to continue writing the Bewitching mystery series. This new contract will take us out through book 6 in the series, which hopefully will go on for a very long time.

Snoopy dancing, one and all!

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Mad {madly!}

December 5th.
Be there, or be square.
Bring a friend. {heh}

Monday, November 13, 2006

All the time in the world...

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Glynda. You know, the Good Witch of the North? All of my friends lusted after Dorothy's red shoes, but me? I never quite got past Glynda's sparkling dress, jeweled crown, and fairy wand. But most of all, I wanted her magic.

No one, but no one, wanted to be the Wicked Witch of the West.

I think it was the monkeys.

And then there was Samantha Stephens. Oh, to have the power to do magick with a little twitch of the lips. Instantaneous magick, where situations and people and things morph at the will of the witch in question. Now, I believe in magic and miracles. I do. But real life magic is quite the opposite of the Bewitched-style smirky-quirky-twitch. Slooooooow and requiring effort and greath strength of will and skill.

Instant gratification has its advantages.

And then there is Harry Potter and his wizarding friends, who point a carved stick at something, say a word of power or two, and BOOM. Flashes of light ricochet off the walls, impressive sounds come out of nowhere, and voila! Magical things happen. Coolness personified.

So, what supernatural powers would I choose? Faery glamours might come in handy -- I'd love to have the ability to change my appearance and demeanor at will to suit the occasion, or even to become invisible on the rare occasion I might make a Wal-Mart run sans makeup and run into someone I know. I'd love to be able to write 30 pages in six hours, heh -- that seems a bit like magic from where I'm sitting. Teleportation, yeah baby. Verrrrrrry handy, that. But the one thing I'd like best to be able to do is to manipulate time. As in, to make more of it, or to make something dull but necessary {can you say WORK? I thought you could...} pass faster.

Sign me up for Mistress of Time, please. I promise I'll be gentle.

Love to all,

Mad {madly!}

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

On Acceptance of Things We May Not See...

Otherworldly beings . . .

For the longest time, I was the Queen of Denial, a product of our oh-so-sophisticated {heh} world. Faeries were a whimsical dream better left behind in childhood. Witches and their magick? Delusional they might be, but not supernatural. A good dose of Prozac might help. Ghosts, goblins, shadow creatures? Please.

Like Maggie, I was too skeptical for that.

I felt things, sure, but didn't everyone? There was a perfectly rational explanation for the things I experienced.

Perfectly. Rational.

I'm happy to say I've come a long way since then. Open to the experiences that are all around us, if we but open our eyes and really see. But it's taken time. It's taken courage. It's taken a hefty dose of my good friend, What If.

What if magic actually did exist? What if I could affect my reality, my perceptions, and bring change into my life by imagining it into being and believing not only that it is possible, but that it must be true? What if the dreams I have always had of other places, other times, other people, other me's, were also true? What if I hadn't misplaced the pencil I had in my hand a moment ago and later found in the kitchen, even though I was alone in the house and had not moved from the desk? Pixies, faeries, imps, sprites, poltergeists . . . what if they actually did cause some of the strange dislocations of objects?

My acceptance of these things and my own abilities as something beyond mythology and imagination was the first step of many toward Maggie's existence.

Welcome to my world. Come on in, the water's fine.

Love to all,

Mad {madly!}

Monday, September 11, 2006


You know, this kind of blows my mind, but ...

A reader emailed me to let me know that an advanced reading copy of A CHARMED DEATH was being sold on Ebay. This is your standard no-name author ARC, without a color copy of the cover. Bound with plain color card stock. Curiouser and curiouser, it ended up going for $16.27 plus shipping/handling. That, I guess, is what surprised me the most. On a paperback book that is coming out in a little under three months? I guess all I can do is hope that the book lives up to the expectations of the reader who bought it.

Although I must say... bless ALL of the readers who thought enough of me to bid. Over and over and over again.

Mad {madly!}

Friday, September 01, 2006

It's raining men . . . Hallelujah, it's raining men!

Not that it's all that shocking, and most of my readers have probably guessed as much by now, but I hereby admit freely to the world at large:

I like men.

A lot.

Some more than others, of course, and it has nothing to do with how a guy looks, but rather his attitude, his sense of humor and intelligence {they go hand in hand, doncha know}, his sense of ethics and honor. And yes, I'm fairly certain this affinity for the male half of the population spills over into my writing. Kind of in the same way a really good kiss has the ability to stay with you throughout the day.

Some authors enjoy writing ambiguous heroes. Others like their boys baaaaad. Still more want their men non-wimpy, who, despite that inclination, still let the heroine be in charge.

As for me? I like the unexpected.

We live in a world where things are not always what they seem. It's a theme that fascinates me, which I suppose is why it shows up in every aspect of the Bewitching series. Including the men -- but why should they be any different? Whether it's a businessman who dresses like a million bucks but wears his socks until they develop holes at the toe and heel, or a hard-nosed biker who demands that a lady be treated with all due respect. Or how about a male witch who loves old churches, an Amish furniture-maker who dowses for spirits, or a pig farmer with a degree in psychology who likes talking to his animals more than he does other people . . . They're all as diverse and quirky and real to me as the people I know in real life.

Not all of them are heroes, of course . . .

Currently my Maggie is finding herself attracted to two very different men for very different reasons. Tom is a straight-arrow cop, someone who sees the world we live in as being black and white. No shades of gray for this guy -- you play by the rules, always, and you'll come out ahead. It's the people who don't fit into those neatly labeled niches who give Tom fits. Like Felicity Dow, Maggie's boss, who by all outward appearances seems to be nothing more than a beautiful woman who is aging with elegance and dignity, but whose religious practices fall far outside Tom's comfort zone. Or, perhaps more importantly, like Marcus Quinn, Tom's antithesis and secret rival for Maggie's affection. A male witch with a penchant for black leather and snug denim, Marcus is edgy, a little dangerous, a lot mysterious, and he and Tom are like oil and water -- never the 'twain shall meet. The two hard-headed males are just fine with that, thankyouverymuch, to Maggie's constant bemusement. In fact, Marcus could not be more unlike Tom in Maggie's eyes. At least on the surface. Deep down, both hold dear the importance of justice, and both have great respect for Truth with a capital T. It's just that Tom's notion of truth tends to follow a worldly path, while Marcus is drawn to truth on a more cosmic level.

Which one will Maggie choose? Tom? Marcus? Or neither?

Ah, but my dears, that I cannot say. For me, part of the delight in the storytelling is the element of surprise and discovery.

Trust me . . . when Maggie makes up her mind, you'll be the first to know.

Love to all,

Mad {madly!}

Friday, August 18, 2006

Help... I need somebody, help... not just anybody...

I've come to a decision...

I've decided I'm not cut out for the writing world.

Well, I've decided that same thing several times in the last ten years, and every time I'm absolutely serious when I say it . . . so why doesn't it stick?

I'm a busy woman. Too busy. I have a husband, four active sons {two who will be on their way to college this upcoming week while my dh detours to Thailand, and two who just started their new school year today}, three perfect cats, an adorable dog who nevertheless is the most gleefully disobedient dog on the planet. I have a more than full-time job {necessary if I want to have a house to live in and food on the table}, a hubby who travels, and all of the bills, errands, and chores everyone else has -- although perhaps magnified just a bit, since I do live with five, count them, FIVE males, four of whom are between 6 foot 1 and 6 foot 5, which makes laundry a nightmare. {And did you know that our male counterparts don't see the messes that we do? It's genetic code, I'm told. By them. I don't know that I believe them.} I keep track of daily/weekly/monthly schedules for five other people. I have parents and inlaws who aren't always in the best of health, friends who drop hints about never having the time to get together, relatives whose feelings are hurt if we don't make Every Single Cookout held Every Single Holiday Weekend. Like everyone, I have vehicles that break down, home repairs that never seem to get done, yard work that I might enjoy if it didn't have the chance to get out of hand so darned quickly, doctor and dentist appointments, insurance claims to follow up on, paperwork for college financial aid . . . and on and on, ad nauseum.

Oh, and I write. I think.

So, you can probably see why I would come to this decision every now and again. I think it's probably a pathetic grasp toward regaining sanity in an out-of-control life.

How do you combat this? How do you find the joy in things you love when they become Gottas? And Fasters? The love is there, but it doesn't bubble up to the surface the way it usually does.

Methinks I need my Muse, or at least a fairy with an attitude, to chase the You Need Tos away.

All that being said, I do love the book I'm working on right now. Book 3 in the Bewitching series, with a never-before-used title I thought of all by my little lonesome, which WILL resonate with the Marketing Department, I do believe. But we'll see. No hints as yet, other than the fact that it features an Amish Lothario {yes, you heard that right}, folk magic, and good old-fashioned human failings that drive the plot to the bitter end.

Wishing you all a bit of fairy dust of your very own,

Mad {madly!}

Friday, June 30, 2006

Paranormal Heroines, or why my Maggie jumps when things go bump in the night...

Anyone who has been writing genre fiction for long is bound to encounter The Rules. You know, the ones that other writers toss around with great abandon, like: "Your hero/heroine must be strong. They have to always be active-slash-aggressive, take charge of the situations they find themselves in, and be in command of their lives. You can't write cross-genre -- no one will buy it. Better to stick with one in order to sell. You can't mix humor with darkness -- again, you have to choose to be either funny or dramatic."

My primary goal when I started the Bewitching series was to flush the rules down the toilet and write what felt right.

My Maggie is not a kickass heroine. {Which is not to say I don't love to read them -- I do. I just can't seem to write 'em!} She is a little on the neurotic side, knows enough to question her reactions when the situation warrants it, and is basically feeling her way through life. She isn't drop-dead gorgeous, she isn't model thin, and she doesn't have a smile that drops men to their knees. Her hair frizzes when the humidity is high, she gets sunburned way too easily, and when she doesn't like what she's doing, she tends to procrastinate. She has an acerbic sense of humor that sometimes comes out wrong, but would bite her tongue before purposely hurting anyone's feelings... especially her mother, who drives her crazy. And as she speeds toward her 30th birthday, she has a tendency to wonder if she ever will meet that certain someone.

In other words, she's normal. A person I can relate to.

She's also an intuitive empath. That's another thing I can relate to.

Psychic heroines are a lot of fun, but I wanted to give Maggie something a little bit different. It's always difficult to come up with someone who is fresh and new and yet as familiar to us as our own sisters, but to me that's what Maggie is. She's your average, everyday kind of girl who is still struggling to get somewhere in life when from out of nowhere she finds herself in some paranormally charged circumstances that throw her neat and tidy world view for a loop. But while the discovery of a shadow world hitherto unsuspected knocks her a bit off-balance, it also empowers her. She's always known she was different from everyone around her, but this is the first time she's felt... special. Suddenly things click into place. The kinds of experiences she has always had but used to dismiss as imagination or coincidence have turned out to be real. Otherworldly and a bit magical, yes, but real. And as Maggie is beginning to discover, she's a lot stronger at her core than she ever realized.

This contrast between inner and outer, light and dark, myth and reality, is what keeps me intrigued and keeps me writing. All I can do is hope readers will find it as compelling as I do.

Love to all,

Mad {madly!}

Friday, March 17, 2006

My Maaaad, Mad Little World

In addition to writing, I also work full-time. Things can get a little crazy in my corner of the world. I'm sure you've all been there. We also just took in a dog in the last month, and while he is the most adorable pup in the world, he has, shall we say, a stubborn streak. Anyway, I thought I might share a little about what goes on from day to day:

6:09 a.m. Wake up. Take dog out.
6:12 a.m. Jiggle doggie at the end of the leash, trying to make him hurry. Shiver uncontrollably.
6:18 a.m. Doggie still has not gone. Sh*t!
6:20 a.m. Give up. Drag doggie inside, as he's now discovered what fun romping in the snow can be.
6:21 a.m. Clean up dog mess. Silly dog will romp in snow, but not GO in snow. Sigh.

6:30 a.m. The morning rush to get ready for work and get everyone else out of the house to get wherever they need to get to on time. Because of all of this, you:

8:05 a.m. Enter building, late. Again.
8:07 a.m. Check email. Grumble to self over CERTAIN STUPID people who shall remain nameless, but it shall not reduce the impact of their INCREDIBLE STUPIDITY.
8:09 a.m. Distract self with thoughts of Scottish Hunks. In Kilts.
9:09 a.m. Force self to get to work.
9:15 a.m. Work is simply too much... work. Drift into daydreams. Again.
12:00 p.m. What was I supposed to be doing? Force self to go into panic mode.
2:22 p.m. Check email. Oh, look, some kind soul has sent me a picture.
2:23 p.m. Drool incessantly into keyboard.
3:33 p.m. Wasn't I supposed to be doing something? Oh, yeah. Work. Hard. Very, very hard.
4:33 p.m. Allow self a moment of respite in a new daydream involving Shirtless Scottish Hunks. In Kilts. On Breezy Days.

4:45 p.m. Wow, my workday is done. So soon!

***Mindless driving, errand-running, more driving, and home again...***

6 p.m. How can one little animal make this much of a mess? I think he may be related to beavers--there is not a single piece of wooden furniture that has not been gnawed. And did I mention his toilet paper fetish? Big Sigh. Start sweeping, making dinner, helping with homework, chasing the boys away from the video games. More doggie messes, more kid messes, more video games, good grief!


Decide a bubble bath would be a very good thing.

Drift down into a mountain of bubbles {I'm sure I need not mention the kilted Scotsmen}, steadfastly ignoring the dog, who is now standing on his hind legs trying to drink the bath water.

Love to all,

Mad {madly!}

P.S. Anyone from work who is reading this post -- I'm not talking about you. Honest. And I really do work a lot harder than this probably suggests, as the pile of papers daily being marked 'DONE' and transferred to my filing cabinet will attest.

P.P.S. For my editor -- I really do insert writing into the schedule, whenever and wherever possible. Heh.