Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Murder, Simply Stitched: Publisher’s Punch List {+ Giveaways}

9780451413642_medium_Murder,_Simply_StitchedI’d delighted today to welcome author Isabella Alan to Thoughts in Progress as she makes a stop on her virtual book tour for her latest release, MURDER, SIMPLY STITCHED, the second installment in her Amish Quilt Shop Mystery series.

To celebrate the release, I have a print copy of MURDER, SIMPLY STITCHED to giveaway to a lucky visitor and Isabella has a very special giveaway she’s hosting. Please see the end of the post for more details on both giveaways.

First, here’s a brief synopsis of MURDER, SIMPLY STITCHED and then Isabella joins us to talk about a ‘Publisher’s Punch List.’

When Angela Braddock enters her quilts in an Amish auction, she never expects one of her neighbors to end up going, going, gone....         
        Angie is finding her niche as the new owner of her late aunt’s Amish quilt shop, Running Stitch. But as the summer is winding down, so is business. To bolster support for the shop, Angie decides to sell her quilts in the Rolling Brook Amish Auction, including some of her aunt’s most prized works.
        The quilts promise to be a hit—but the gavel comes down on the lively event when Angie stumbles upon the body of township trustee Wanda Hunt behind a canning shed. The cause of death: a poisoned blueberry fry pie from Rachel Miller’s bakery table. Now Angie’s closest friend is a murder suspect. With Angie taking the lead, she and the other women of her aunt’s quilting circle set out to patch together the clues and stop a killer set on shredding the simple peace of Rolling Brook.
        Includes Quilting Tips!

Please join me in welcoming Isabella as she talks about a ‘Publisher’s Punch List.’

Way back in 2011, I received a call from my literary agent. “Penguin is looking for an established cozy mystery author to write a series about an Amish Quilt Shop. There are some requirements. They want the author to know Amish people and be from Ohio. You are the only option.”

It turns out, she was right. If the publisher wanted to fill its punch list for the perfect author of the series, it was me. I had already published cozies under my real name “Amanda Flower,” I’m an Ohioana, and I know Amish people. In 2011, I was the only author who hit all the criteria. I drafted a writing sample, it passed the muster, and I got the series.

I appreciated the publisher was specific as to what it wanted. Not just because it gave me another opportunity to write but because it showed me they cared about their books being authentic. They wanted
the author to know Ohio. I know Ohio. I’ve lived in the state my entire life and have no intention of moving. One constant that can be found in all my series—beside someone dying, they are mysteries after all—is they are set in the Buckeye State. I probably know Ohio better than many of my fellow Ohioans. I find its history fascinating and even worked at a living history museum one summer. Part of the job was being well versed in Ohio history. I had to study it, so I could “convincingly” spout off facts to visitors. No, I did not wear period dress… all the time.

The publisher wanted the Amish elements in the story to be true, not just to the general Amish culture, but to Ohio’s Amish culture, which is different than the Amish found in different parts of the country. I could do that. In addition to being an author, I am a college librarian. Right after graduate school, I searched and searched for a librarian job. It wasn’t easy. Finally, I got one offer. It was to be a cataloger for a small university library in the middle of Ohio’s Amish country about two hours from where I grew up. I took it. While I lived in the small town, I saw and interacted with Amish on a regular basis, but it never occurred to me that I would write a mystery someday based around Amish characters.

Thankfully, Penguin didn’t include the ability to hand quilt as one of the criteria for the perfect author because I would have failed that test. I have made a few quilts on a sewing machine but never by hand. However, since I’m a librarian and want to research everything to death, I took hand quilting lessons before I wrote the first book in the series, Murder, Plain and Simple. My teacher said I wasn’t “naturally gifted” in quilting, and a few of my sad attempts at hand quilting are best tucked away in my closet. Shhh, don’t tell my publisher.

Isabella (aka Amanda), thanks for stopping by today and giving us this look at what publishers sometimes want. I think it’s great that they care that much about the details of their books. It makes it more realistic for us readers.

Now let me tell you a bit more about Isabella.

Isabella Alan is the pseudonym for Amanda Flower. Amanda Flower, an Agatha-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. 

Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, was an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel, and her children’s mystery, Andi Unexpected, was an Agatha Award Nominee for Best Children’s/YA. 

Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland.
For more on Isabella/Amanda, visit her website and connect with her on
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


First up, the special giveaway.
Isabella/Amanda is celebrating the release of her second Amish Quilt Shop Mystery – MURDER, SIMPLY STITCHED - by giving away two Amish Charm Bracelets! There will be two winners!

To enter this contest to win an Amish Charm Bracelet, just Click here and follow the instructions to enter!

The second giveaway – a print copy of MURDER, SIMPLY STITCHED to a lucky visitor to Thoughts in Progress.
This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end Tuesday, June 24. To enter, just click on the Gleam widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Isabella Alan’s Tour’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks for dropping by today and visiting. Have you ever visited an Amish community? What are your thoughts on the publisher’s punch list?

*This post contains affiliate links.
  One print copy of Murder, Simply Stitched by Isabella Alan


  1. Wow, they were really wanting someone specific! I know another author with a cozy quilting series, but I don't think the requirements were that specific. And Ohio is a great state.
    Congratulations, Amanda!

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Amanda.

    Amanda - Thanks for sharing how this series came to be. I'm not Amish, but grew up not far from the Amish country of Pennsylvania. Such beautifully done and durable handwork! It makes for a great context. I wish you success.

  3. Amanda, thanks again for sharing this look at how your new series came to be. Wishing you much success.

    Hi all!

  4. every police station needs a quilting team of grannies :)

  5. Sounds like an awesome read, Amanda. That cover is cute and so are the necklaces. I wish you much success with your book!

    I live in the midst of a Mennonite AND Amish community. They are wonderful people.

    Hi, Mason!

  6. Cool bracelets.

    It's wonderful that a publisher was looking for a particular book and someone answered the call for it.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.