A Wicked Welcome to Molly MacRae **plus a giveaway**

by Julie, springing in Somerville

I am delighted to welcome Molly MacRae to the blog today. The first time I met Molly was when she was doing a Malice-Go-Round, pitching her book Last Wool and Testament: A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery. She made me laugh, which not only sold me her book, but added a person I’m always happy to see at conferences online and at conferences. I also love hearing about her new books, and am delighted she’s back on the blog today so that we can celebrate Argyles and Arsenic.

Where Do Your Ideas Go?

Writers are often asked where their ideas come from. The answers vary, but ideas tend to come from newspapers, conversations, eavesdropping, and out of thin air. Some of my favorite ideas are the ones friends bring me. These ideas are like the shiny trinkets a crow might bring, or like the mouse a cat leaves on your pillow (fun, and possibly endearing, but not always useful).

I’m enjoying an unusual break, between the end of one manuscript and the start of another, so I cleaned my writing space this weekend. My desk feels ten pounds lighter. As I sorted through clutter, it occurred to me that another question for writers might be where do our ideas go?

Boxes of stashed ideas

The best place for them, when they’re shiny and new, is straight into our stories. For instance, a friend at the library told me about The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning; How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, by Margareta Magnusson. She knew I’d get a kick out of the book. I did, and I combined its premise with a tidbit from another friend about downsizing. From those two ideas came the setup for my latest book, Argyles and Arsenic.

But what about the ideas that don’t immediately find their place in a story? Tell me, do you know a single quilter or knitter who doesn’t have a stash of fabric or yarn? A painter who doesn’t have canvasses in every corner and boatloads of brushes and paints? I bet most writers have their stash of ideas, too. Depending on how long they’ve been writing and how they’ve recorded their ideas, they might have quite a few stashes.

Notebooks and blank books stash.

I have notebooks and blank books (no longer blank) full of them. Shoeboxes. Old stationary boxes. There’s usually a note in my pants pocket. My bathrobe pocket, too. And that’s just the tip of the idea-berg. My computer files bristle with ideas. Ideas for stories, characters, titles, ways to kill someone and ways to discover who killed someone.

The great thing about having a big stash of ideas is that the ones toward the bottom of your archaeological midden heap are new all over again when you excavate.

And that’s why you have a stash. You write your ideas down because your brain—my brain—won’t retain all of them. Some leak out your ears and others just wither away because you had to remember to buy bread. It’s heartbreaking. What scintillating, fabulous ideas are gone?

Ideas are still gone, though, if you don’t take an occasional expedition into your stash.* That’s how I came across four gems when I was cleaning. For some reason, between January and August in 2008, there was a spate of international rat articles in the local paper, and for some other reason I cut each one out. I haven’t used them. Yet.

Now, here’s my present to you—if four articles about rats spark an idea and you can’t live without these articles in your stash, let me know and I’ll send you scans.

*Sad to say, some ideas are gone even if you did stash them. You scribbled them in the middle of the night or they’re too cryptic to make sense five years (or two weeks) later. That’s okay. Don’t fret. You’ll have more.

Writers, what’s your favorite way to stash ideas? Readers, what do you stash? I’ll send one US commenter a signed copy of Argyles and Arsenic.

About the Book

About Argyles and Arsenic – book 5 in the Highland Bookshop Mysteries:

After 93 well-lived years, Violet MacAskill is ready to simplify her life. Her eccentric solution? She’ll throw a decanting and decluttering party at her family home—a Scottish Baronial manor near the seaside town of Inversgail, Scotland. Violet sets aside everything she wants or needs, then invites her many friends in to sip sherry and help themselves to whatever they want from all that’s left.

But a murder during Violet’s party leads to a poisonous game of cat and mouse—with the women of Yon Bonnie Books playing to win.

Argyles and Arsenic is available at your locally owned, independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or ask for it at your public library.

About Molly MacRae

Molly MacRae

The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” She’s the author of the Highland Bookshop and Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries. Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and she won the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction. Find Molly at mollymacrae.com.

67 Thoughts

  1. Welcome, Molly. I love the post, but now I’m afraid I’m way behind in my idea stash. I am NOT organized about it. My whiteboard has a heading called Story Ideas, and I still have a clipping about an Indiana student who got locked in a cave for a couple of days. Otherwise I guess I rely on the trusty hyperactive imagination to come up with stuff! Now let me show you my cloth stash…

    1. Locked in a cave – that’s a great clipping to keep. And oh, the cloth stash. I have a thread stash, too, that includes wooden spools of silk thread that belonged to my grandmother. They don’t take up too much room (I tell myself).

  2. My husband is retired military and he attacks stashes lol! An estate decluttering in Scotland sounds like a massive endeavor, your book sounds intriguing!

    1. Stash Attack sounds like a good title for a mystery, Kathy. Hmm, a new idea for my stash.

  3. I stash recipes. I have a box, a binder, an envelope, and some are just cut out and stashed in a drawer. Will I ever use them, doubtful. Will I continue to cut out and stash them, yes.

    1. A recipe stash is a must! Yup, I have my grandmother’s stash of recipes, too. Clippings cut from papers over a hundred years ago. I can’t let them go.

    1. Hi, Dru! Fabric stashes are as pretty as quilts. They represent so many possibilities. Looking forward to seeing you at Malice!

    1. Smart! I use OneNote, too. So many ideas and so many places to squirrel them away.

  4. I have a stash of yarn ready for multiple projects (and some that I bought with no plan, I just liked the color), and of course a stash of books that I’m working my way through.
    I’ve picked up the first few Haunted Yarn Shop and been enjoying them. Have to read these next!

    1. Not to mention the recipes/cookbooks! More than I’ll ever be able to make but lots of fun to look for something new.

    2. I have a small stash of yarn even though I rarely get around to knitting. It’s there, though, in case of knitting emergencies. Glad you like the Haunted Yarn Shop books!

  5. I stash books and cross-stitch patterns. I have a lot of books that I can’t bear to get rid of, and patterns for the same reason. I have read them or done them, but I have fond memories of doing both and want to keep them around!

    1. I know what you mean about patterns. I can’t make myself get rid of cross-stitch patterns I’ve had since the 80s.

  6. From a household where both husband and wife love to cook/bake, for me it’s recipes. You know the ones where your mouth waters just reading them, but due to lack of ingredients or time, they end up in the stash. Some or retrieved and made eventually where they are added to the tried and true pile or tossed as not again. Some seem to move around and remain in the pile even when due to space there is the annual (or monthly) de-cluttering spells. After moving and downsizing with less drawers and closets, it happens more often and I have to be more selective, but the stash still manages to grow.

    We are both also photographers so photos, albums and camera disk also have their stash. Thank goodness for the electronic age where most are taking up space on my computer now instead of a physical space. We all have made those albums, but honestly how often do you actually take them out and look at them?

    “Argyles and Arsenic” sounds absolutely amazing! I love Violet ‘s solution. No boxing up and carting off, no sales – just have a fun party and let others deal with it. I think it would be fun to see who took what. Then adding a dead body to mix and a good idea sounds like a marvelous book that I’m dying to read. (Yes, I said dying. LOL)

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy of this book on my TBR list. Shared and hoping to be the fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Hi Kay! I always love reading your comments on blogs. They’re like notes from a good friend. Thanks for stopping by today.

  7. Three cheers to you for your latest book, Molly! When I get a new idea, I book idea, I jot it down on a piece of paper. My intent is to transfer that note to a file on my computer that has all my new ideas. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. LOL

    1. Thanks, J.C.! There’s something about notes on pieces of paper, isn’t there? I love them.

  8. Welcome, Molly! When I first read Julie’s intro I thought it said you were dancing at Malice-Go-Round! I have folders with ideas and a box of old notes from conferences that also has unpublished manuscripts in it.

    1. Dancing at Malice-Go-Round – ha! I love that image. That’s what it feels like – the dance of the whirling dervishes. I always have great plans for typing up conference notes so they’re searchable. I wonder when I actually will? Maybe after the dance . . .

  9. Thanks for visiting today, Molly! I love your stah of ideas! And I confess, I have notebooks filled with them too! And a cuttings file. I have often toyed with the idea of challenging myself to grab a handful of cuttings from it without looking and then writing a novel based upon them. It might be a fun thing to do with those idea notebooks too! A novel could be written from ideas pointed at with the eyes closed!

    1. If anybody could make a fascinating book this way, it would be you! Go for it. 😁

    2. A novel based on random ideas from a stash – wouldn’t that be fun? It could be a fun challenge for a short story, too. A caper story! Ooh, fun, a new idea!

  10. Book number five in the Highland Bookshop Mysteries — excellent, Molly! It’s no fun storing away ideas and notes if you can’t find them later. Evernote works, but the cost of the paid version adds up. I gravitated to free Apple Notes, and my writer’s database currently holds over 3,000 searchable tidbits of information gleaned over the last decade.

    1. Fantastic, Grant! Searchable is the way to go, for sure. I’ll take a look at Apple Notes. Thanks!

  11. Congratulations on your latest Molly. Love the premise – who wouldn’t want to attend Violet’s party!

    Idea files – oh, my. forty years of journals (some of which I actually took the time to annotate – idea, plot, character notes abound. Then there’s three separate idea files in Onenote. My phone, of course, but I suffered a disaster when my iPhone melted down – literally – so now I transfer the ideas to a word file titled, ideas – so clever. There are multiple blank books and note books, and numerous file folders stuffed with clippings. Someday I may have the idea to consolidate all of these and resurrect long forgotten ideas.

    1. Thanks, Kait! Wouldn’t it be fun at Violet’s party? You and I sound like stash twins. I like OneNote a lot. I should be better about organizing my notes there, but don’t you love being able to take screen clippings?

  12. Molly, congrats on the new book! I love this series and look forward to reading this new title. Re: stashes, I keep writing ideas in notebooks and on scraps of paper stored with the notebooks, admittedly, not the most organized system! I also keep recipes in binders (slightly more organized). Of course there are so many I have no hope of making them all, but at least they provide inspiration on occasion.

    1. Thanks, Tanya! Yeah, organizing all the notes can be a problem. My recipes are better organized, too, but it seems like there’s always room for improvement. Not today, though. Some other day. Maybe.

  13. It’s a good thing I’m not a writer. I’m normally very organized, but little tidbits tend to get written on scraps of paper and stacked up. Not good for retrieval. 🙄

    1. You’re right, Ginny. Being able to retrieve the information in any kind of notes is important.

  14. I need to get better about making notes of things. I’ll remember stuff when it’s not needed. Like while in the shower or falling asleep, but not when I really need it, like when I’m at work.

    1. I feel your pain, Mark. The shower can be a black hole for ideas!

  15. I stash pens, especially those that have my favorite restaurant logo on it.

    1. Yes! It’s fun when pens last a long time, too, and bring back good memories.

  16. Thanks so much for having me on the blog today! The Wickeds always give a wonderfully warm welcome.

  17. I’m an avid reader but like to write books for fun as well as short stories, poems, etc…
    My ideas are all up in my brain so when I go to write, all I need to do is work with my ideas putting them how I want them on my computer.

    1. Brains are amazing, aren’t they? So much goes on up there – whole worlds are created.

  18. I’m not a writer (yet) but I have tons of ideas for stories. Every time an idea pops in my head I immediately put it in ‘notes’ on my phone. I’ve been meaning to transfer everything to blank books (which I have a ton of) but haven’t had a chance to do it yet.

    1. In the meantime your ideas are in one place and safe. Best of luck with your writing!

  19. Recipes for sure! Many pages ripped out of magazines from the past few years they were still around! But I love finding old recipe clippings in old cookbooks, someone else’s stash as it were!

    1. Finding random clippings in old cookbooks is like finding treasure – or clues to a mystery. Fun!

  20. I have a stash of beading supplies and I haven’t been making bracelets lately. My sister is a knitter and she has quite a stash of yarn. She makes the best felted slippers.

    1. Beads and yarn – both are beautiful! I haven’t tried making felted slippers but I love the idea.

  21. Hi, your book sounds like a great read! I have stashes of construction paper, card stock paper and all kinds of things for different crafts, stashes of markers too, I am always prepared for different crafts. Thank you for sharing your post, I really enjoyed reading it. Have a great Weeknd and stay safe.

  22. Hi, I always have stashes of construction paper, card stock, markers and all kinds of things for all kinds of crafts!. I enjoyed reading your post, thank you for sharing it. Your book sounds like a great read. Have a great weekend and stay safe.

    1. I love paper! I have a stash of pretty pieces (large) under the sofa so they stay flat.

  23. I stash way too much of too many things! Yarn, fabric, books, beads, scrap booking supplies (I haven’t scrapped since my daughter was 5. She’s nearly 22), recipes, pens. I worked at a Big Box office supply store for a while, it was dangerous, though not nearly as dangerous as when I worked part time at JoAnn….

    1. Jobs like that are definitely dangerous to stashers. I managed a bookstore for several years. Danger! Danger!

  24. As a reader I have huge stashes of bookmarks and I love to try new recipes so I have huge stashes of cookbooks.

  25. I stash books. Lots and lots of books. I need more bookcases and shelves so I can find what I want to read. Thank you for the opportunity. God bless you.

  26. I keep stacks and stacks of notes of all of my brilliant ideas and insights. Naturally, they are *very* extensive….

  27. Congratulations on the latest in this fabulous series! I hope it will continue for a long time! Thank you for the chance to win. I got behind on this series, but would love to read this one. It sounds so intriguing!

    As a reader, I love tonstash books. Since finding things when I want them can be a challenge, I stash notes in my Bible study note books, and I have a stash of index cards awaiting the new verses I want to have handy, and some well-loved cards. I even have a yarn stash, even though I haven’t been able to crochet for a long time. One can hope!

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