Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Meet Beverly Allen & Giveaway

Beverly Allen joins the blog today. Her first mystery, Bloom and Doom, will be published April 1st. It's the first in the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery series.
Kathy: Flowers are great subject matter, bringing light into this unrelenting winter. Although I love many different kinds of flowers, my favorite has to be the violet. What's your favorite flower?

BA: I've always been a sucker for a good rose. My wedding bouquet was mainly white roses with ivy, which I was pleased to later learn the meanings of. (White rose is innocence and ivy is fidelity.) But after delving into the language of flowers as research for the books, choosing a favorite becomes more difficult. It's like choosing a favorite word. I love lily of the valley, both for its delicate white flowers, but also its meaning: happiness restored. It's hard to look at flowers the same way.

Kathy: I've always been interested in the language of flowers and so was pleased to see you using it...especially with bridal bouquets. How did you discover the hidden messages of flowers?

BA: The language of flowers can be a little tricky to navigate, in part because there's no universal agreement on what certain flowers mean. To complicate matters, modern florists have redefined most of the flowers to their advantage. For example, how many orange lilies can they sell if people think they mean, "I hate you"? So they change it to something like, "I burn for you." But I found a lovely reprint of an old Victorian guide and try to use that as often as I can. (I think Audrey Bloom might have found a tattered copy of the original, but she'll use the reprint when working with customers.)

Kathy: We're both Western New Yorkers. What made you decide to set your series in Virginia?

BA: That started out as the publisher's idea. I think it has to do with cozies being extremely popular in the South. That's not to say I don't have a connection with the area. I do get down there a bit. My husband has regular business in Chantilly, Virginia, and all my in-laws live in North Carolina. When I was drafting the first book, I really wanted to find and visit a small town about the size of my fictional town of Ramble, VA. To save money, I could combine it with my husband's business trip and just drive there for a day. That was the plan, anyway. Only the trip kept getting delayed, so I researched the best I could online, created the rest, and kept writing. About two weeks before the book was due I was finally able to make the trip. In Berryville, Virginia, I drove slowly down an almost idyllic Main Street, then parked in the lot of their new municipal building. I dropped unannounced into the police station, where they proceeded to give me a tour and answer a bunch of questions. (Ramble's building is much older, by the way. Probably before the upgrade!) The next building over was the county visitor's center. Talked there for over an hour about the culture and history of the area. A block away (through a park with a gazebo eerily similar to the one I'd already written into the book) was the flower shop. I'm still friends on Facebook with the florist I talked with. I had lunch at a delightful little cafe and walked up and down Main Street, taking pictures. It was amazing how close I'd come, for example, in the number of employees in the flower shop and police officers for a town that size. I only changed a few details, mainly because the police don't house their own prisoners (Andy Griffith style). They're all kept at a larger regional facility. But it was a fabulous trip. While Ramble isn't Berryville, I think it has the same small-town Virginia feel.

Kathy: Authors are required to do a lot of their own marketing, especially for a new release. What's your favorite part of marketing your work? What do you dislike about marketing?

BA: In a lot of ways, authors are the least well-equipped to market well. We're an introverted lot. But I have discovered that I love to talk about writing. Even more about my own, so that's not really a problem.

The one thing I'm dreading, however, are the negative reviews cozies sometimes generate. I'm not talking about honest reviews--they're fair game. (Not everybody likes every book.) But I've read enough cozy reviews to notice that some mystery readers are extremely bad at picking out books. And some don't have a clue what a cozy is. So they pick up a book with a punny title and teacups and kittens on the cover, and then rant because they're not getting James Patterson, saying things like "the whole idea of an amateur sleuth is ridiculous" or "how many murders can you have in the same small town"? I won't respond to those, of course. Publically, that is. But it does illustrate how important reviews are to writers.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

BA: Loved Nancy Drew. Graduated to Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers back in junior high and high school. But that was back in the 80s before the modern cozy really erupted onto the scene. So when I looked for mysteries beyond those, they were darker and grittier. And then when two high school classmates were murdered, I lost my interest in reading about murder. For a long time. I read biographies and classics. When my daughter was growing up, I read quite a bit of award-winning middle grade and YA. It might have been Monk that pulled me back to the cozy--that juxtaposition of mystery and humor. Even when cozies are overtly funny, there's something inherently humorous about an amateur solving mysteries.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

BA: I started writing inspirational. In fact, the first thing I wrote that was published was released as an inspirational romance. But people kept dying. (It was really a cozy mystery with a romance arc.) I tried romantic suspense, but it kept becoming a cozy. I think I'm a one-trick pony.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

BA: Audrey Bloom is the wedding coordinator for the Rose in Bloom, the flower shop she owns with her cousin Liv. Audrey loves creating custom bouquets for her customers, based on the language of flowers, and all of the brides who have carried her bouquets down the aisle are still living happily-ever-after with their spouses. It remains to be seen if everyone will survive the wedding...

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

BA: That's a tough one. Audrey Bloom is probably the one who's most like me, but I have to say I've fallen in love with her memories of her beloved Grandma Mae. She really had an impact on the kind of person Audrey became. And Audrey's cat, Chester, is a live wire.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

BA: For parts of it. For example, Audrey Bloom grew up spending summers with her Grandma Mae and her cousin Liv. I grew up in a rich extended family, with my Grandma Bea and my cousin Lisa. Like Audrey, I have fond memories of that time to draw from.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

BA: I'd be delusional (and probably very disappointed) if I said I became a writer to become rich and famous. Somewhere along the line, I fell in love with the craft of writing. For a lot of years, I gave it away, mostly writing puppet shows and church programs. Then I tried my hand at fan fiction. (I had fans in the literal dozens.) During that time I read a blog post, very disapproving of fan fiction, suggesting that if writers thought they were so good, they should try to write something original. I'd never considered doing that. But somehow the idea stuck--almost became a challenge. Publishing to me is a lot like galleries must be to artists--an chance to get their work seen and enjoyed (and criticized). It's really a scary thing. But scary like a roller coaster.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

BA: Ugh. That's a tough one. Well, I'd have to invite the dead ones, since it's not often that I get that opportunity, right? Agatha Christie would be good. Maybe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, if he promises to come sober. Mark Twain (ditto), to liven things up a bit. Then I'm not sure. I'm waffling between Dickens, Hawthorne, Poe, and John Bunyan.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

BA: I'm currently reading the Agatha nominees. Right now it's Kneading to Die, by Liz Mugavero.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

BA: Too many of them. I used to do a lot of needlework--cross stitch and embroidery, but carpel tunnel kind of killed that. I enjoy cooking and baking. I've made a few wedding cakes and planned (and catered) more than one church dinner. I like crafts of all kinds and garden, although sporadically. I've decided I really don't like gardening. I just like having one. I'm also very fond of board games and word games, and I'm a complete Disneyholic. True confessions: I've only done a little flower arranging, mainly because of severe allergies--which kind of inspired a character for the book.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

BA: Sugary kids' cereal, chocolate, coffee, milk.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

BA: Bloom and Doom is the first book. The second, For Whom the Bluebell Tolls is with the copyeditor. In it, Audrey Bloom designs a special bouquet for a bride participating in a reality TV show. I had a lot of fun writing it and it will be out next January. The third, Floral Depravity will come out later in 2015. That book centers around a murder at a medieval-themed wedding.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

BA: I get a thrill thinking about people reading and hopefully enjoying what I wrote. I also love conferences. I'll be at Malice Domestic this year, and Bouchercon. I love meeting other writers and readers. At this point, I hope to earn enough to cover my conference habit.

Thanks to the generosity of the author one lucky person will receive an autographed copy of Bloom and Doom. In order to qualify, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite flower. I'll use random.org to pick a winner from those that comment before midnight next Monday, March 31st EST. Be sure to leave me your e-mail address so that I'm able to contact you, should you win!

80 comments:

  1. This book sounds delightful, and Barbara and I seem to have much in common, including being DisNerds.

    My favorite flower? Violets. They are so delocate and pretty. Of course, I do have pollen allergies, so that's an issue for me.

    carstairs38@gmail.com

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  2. Good morning, Mark! Yes, I see you online blogging about Castle and OUaT, too, so I dare say there's some commonality there.

    In the language of flowers, violets vary in meaning by color. The blue violet represents faithfulness. The purple violet says, "You occupy my thoughts." The sweet violet symbolizes modesty. The white violet carries the meaning of innocence, modesty and purity. And the yellow violet stand for rural happiness.

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  3. Love this interview and I have read ths book already and love love love it!! I look forward to meeting you Beverly!

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  4. Good morning, Shelley! Great to see you here! I'm so glad you loved it, and looking forward to meeting you, too!

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  5. This series sounds great! My favorite flower would be the rose. My email is dnrocker@yahoo.com. Thanks for the chance to win!

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  6. This was one of the best interviews I've read! Thank you. I really enjoyed it. My favorite flower us the lilac. I miss it here in Florida.

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    1. Good morning, Terri! Yes, the lilacs are pretty. I'd love to be seeing some right around now. The purple lilac represents the first emotions of love, while the white lilac can stand for purity, modesty, or youthful innocence.

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    2. I'm so glad you loved the interview. I hope you continue to visit the blog! I love lilacs too and have a few varieties around my house!

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  7. Good morning, Dawn! The rose in general represents love, but there many other meanings for the various shades and varieties, even the stage. Rosebuds, for example, carry a different meaning than a fully blooming rose.

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  8. Wonderful interview! My favorite flowers have always been carnations. I love how long they can last once they've been cut. Another favorite is calla lillies. My mother loved lily of the valley.

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    1. Hi, Lisa! I think carnations are lovely, too.They also carry a number of meanings: bonds of affection, fascination, pure and deep love. Calla lilies are magnificent beauty. (They play a big part in the second book in the series, For Whom the Bluebell Tolls.) And lily of the valley are one of my favorites for their meanings: the return of happiness.

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  9. hi there, my favorite flower is the Daisy , so simple yet so beautiful

    debbiec1313@yahoo.com

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    1. Hi, Debbie! Daisies mean cheerfulness and innocence in the language of flowers. Almost intuitive. Is there anything more cheery than a daisy? Thanks for entering!

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  10. I really enjoyed the interview. Picking a favorite flower is hard, I have many I had tiger lilies in my wedding bouquet, I also love hyacinth, gardenia, lilacs and carnations. I have a confession, I am also a Disneyaholic, I'm 54 and still get excited going to Disney World, I call it my rejuvenation time, lol.
    momzillasteel@gmail.com

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    1. Lilies are an odd flower for meanings. The general meaning is modesty and purity, but the orange ones...Let's move on to the other ones. Hyacinth generally refers to a game, play or sport. And gardenias represent peace and refinement. You'e got quite and eclectic mix there. Thanks for entering!

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  11. Oh this sounds like a wonderful book. I can't wait to read it. My favorite flowers are daffodils. I just love those pretty bright yellow flowers after months of cold weather.

    angiey1974@hotmail.com

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    1. Hi, Angie! The daffodil represents good taste. As does your choice of reading material. ;) Thanks for entering

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  12. Oh my gosh. Now I want to read this book.

    I love tulips. Now I'm going to have to find out what a tulip means.

    kvmatlock(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Hi, Kim! Tulips in general represent fame, although various colors mean entirely different things. A red tulip is a declaration of love. A variegated tulip means beautiful eyes. A yellow tulip, on the other hand stands for hopeless love--which modern florists have updated to hopelessly in love, probably to sell more yellow tulips!

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    2. Awesome. I'm all about love. Red and yellow are my favorites.

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  13. Wonderful. I love pansies, the colors and beauty are captivating. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Good morning, traveler. Pansies say, "You occupy my thoughts." What a lovely meaning. Thanks for entering!

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  14. A great interview. Thanks for this giveaway. I enjoy all flowers but geraniums are a favorite. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Hi, "petite." The geranium in general represents gentility. Nice meaning. I used the red geranium in the first book, I think. That shade can represent either comfort or stupidity (or silliness).

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  15. If I could fill my vase with only one kind of bud
    The Red Rose is never a dud
    After 35 years of wedded bliss
    My husband knows bringing them gets a kiss.
    For a special occasion or just a nice day
    I adore those flowers that come my way.
    Cheers@MarjimManor.com

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    1. For Margo, then, a fine red rose.
      The meaning's love, as I'm sure she knows.
      May this year many red roses bring--
      And the contest? Thanks for entering!

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    2. Thank you both for your clever poems!

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  16. Replies
    1. The day lilies represent coquetry, at least in the old guide that I use. Or flirting, as we say today. Could be good or bad, depending on how it's used, I guess. They are pretty, though!

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  17. Adore all flowers, even those which are considered weeds. Color adds so much to our life. Red roses or white and yellow plumeria are favorites, but all are welcome.

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    1. Hi, Barbara-- Well, we can always call those weeds wildflowers, right? Those red roses mean love, but plumeria is a tough one. It's not in the guide. But it is in the dogbane family. Unfortunately, the dogbanes could stand for deceit and falsehood. But I don't believe it. Since it's a popular Hawaiian flower, it stands to reason the meaning would come from there. A Hawaiian site listed the meanings as perfection, spring time, and new beginnings. Much better suited to such a lovely flower. (And I've bookmarked the site in case Audrey should ever go to Hawaii!)

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  18. I love flowers in general - the variety, the smell, the color. My favorite is peonies.

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    1. Hi, Sharon! I love peonies, too. And they're truly lovely in bridal bouquets, if you can get all the ants away. The flower has three distinct meanings, which I think come from the fact that many peonies are bright pink. I think it's the blushing of the face that gives the the meanings of anger, bashfulness, and shame. Let's go with bashfulness.

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  19. I know Kathy is at work today, and I'm happy to field comments. Seriously, I'm having fun reading about your favorite flowers! But please remember, if you are entering the contest, she's asked if you could leave your email address so she can contact you if you win! (If you forgot, no problem. Feel free to add it as a reply to your comment.) Thanks for the warm welcome!

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  20. I've always liked zinnias. Different, isn't it? My mother used to plant them when I was a kid. Plumeria bath items smell good. I like to look at pictures of flowers but never keep any flowers in the house. I have cats and cats and flowers don't mix. I don't have a green thumb. I once killed an African Violet because I didn't water it from the bottom.

    I love cozies and read lots of them so I know what to expect from them. Maybe people should look at the excerpt first so they'll know what they're getting.

    catbooks72(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Hi, Michelle! I love zinnias, too. They have a lovely meaning: thoughts of absent friends.

      I have four cats. (Used to be three, but we just took in another), so I've learned to be careful with them and flowers. All of the flowers in my house right now are silk.

      Thanks for entering!

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  21. How do you pick just one? I love forsythia, lilacs, orchids, lilies, lavender, heather, queen anne's lace ... Flowers make me happy, they make the world a more beautiful place.

    harcourtcarson@gmail.com

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    1. Hi, "redcat"! I saw a bouquet with Queen Anne's Lace in it and fell in love. Meanings vary. Some say protection. Others say sanctuary (related to protection) and delicate femininity. Forsythia means anticipation. Orchids: beauty. Thanks for entering!

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  22. I love peonies, I love the smell and lush big blossum. I have loved them since I was a little child and picked them for my mother,

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)con

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    1. Hi, Carol--I'm going to have to put in some peonies. We had them at our old house but not here and I miss them. In BLOOM AND DOOM Audrey recollects picking flowers with her cousin Liv for their beloved Grandma Mae. The peony, probably because of it's pink color, can represent things that make the face turn red: anger, bashfulness, and shame. Still a lovely flower.

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  23. Good interview!! My favorite flowers are lilies of the valley and violets.
    penelope223(at)yahoo(dot)com
    Carol Smith

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    1. Hi, Carol. Lovely flowers and a fantastic combination. Lily of the valley means happiness restored and violets say "you occupy my thoughts."

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  24. Great interview! I know what you mean about people not understanding the 'cozy' genre. I've found myself explaining it many times!

    My favorite flower is the stargazer lily. The gorgeous pink just pops and I love their sweet scent.

    brookeb811 at gmail dot com

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    1. Hi, Brooke--

      The stargazers are lovely, aren't they? They're not going to be in my old guide since they didn't hit the scene until the 1970s. New guides suggest they mean wealth or prosperity.

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  25. Really--I can only pick one?!?!? Right now, in the middle of spring snows, I pick pansies because those pretty little multicolored blooms are still fighting their way through this hard winter and giving me blooms outside of my front door!! Ask me another day and my answer will change. Can't say that there is a flower that I don 't like! Your book sounds like just the thing for is winter bound folks, though it's going into the 60 's here at the end of the week!! Ronnalord ( at) msn (dot) com

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    1. Hi,Ronna-- Pansies have a lovely meaning. They express thought,either "Think of me" or "You occupy my thoughts." And yes, thinking of all these lovely flowers is almost enough to shake off those winter doldrums. Thanks for entering!

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  26. Christina Girdner-BlevinsMarch 25, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    I can't wait to read this. I love reading cozy mysteries and this book looks awesome. My favorite flowers have always been roses and iris's.
    proudindian.2006@yahoo.com

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    1. Hi, Christina-- Roses represent love, and the iris says "a message" or "I have a message for you." If you put them together, it could mean,"A message of love."

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  27. Daisies - so neat and sweet and they don't set off my allergies! (Love the statement in the interview: I don't like gardening, I just like to have one. Me, too!)

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    1. Hi, Nanci-- Yes, the daisies represent cheerfulness or innocence. Truly lovely.

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  28. I love all sorts of flowers--but I think the daisy is my favorite. The are just so nice and simple and clean. The Alaska daisy so pure and white and prolific is a particular favorite of mine.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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    1. Hi, Sue. A lot of daisy fans today. I had to look up the Alaska daisy. Very pretty! Thanks for entering!

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  29. I love just about all flowers. However, I'm alergic to most of them, which means they have to stay outside. My favorite flower is the red rose, with pink roses comeing up second. However, when I walk around our farm, I can enjoy the forsynthia, violets, daffadills, pienes, lialacs, lillies, surprise lillies, a butterfly bush and many rose of sharons..

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    1. Hi, Nancy. You and me both, as far as the allergies go. But I promise the book is non-allergenic. :)

      I wasn't sure what a surprise lily was. I looked it up, and it's also called the resurrection lily and the magic lily. I couldn't find a language of flowers meaning, per se. But I'm sure resurrection, magic, or surprise would probably be the best renderings. The butterfly bush...I couldn't find it in my old guide, but a newer guide suggests it means transformation and rebirth (maybe from the butterfly itself?). Rose of Sharon, which I love, but unfortunately the voles love the roots, I guess is a type of hibiscus, which would carry the meanings of change and delicate beauty. Very interesting.

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  30. hey
    My favorite flower is the water lily coz i love swimming and it look so pretty and peaceful floating on the water. my e-mail mimilovefox@yahoo.com

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    1. Hi, Mimi? Never can tell with those email addys. :)

      The water lily can either be an invocation or stand for purity of heart. I've never had a water garden, but I've admired them at garden shows.

      Thanks for entering!

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  31. Really looking forward to this series. I had a Grandma May so that makes even more special.
    Favorite flower would have to be gardenia. Thanks for the giveaway! Fingers crossed. :)

    Scouts579 (at) aol (dot) com

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  32. Hi, Stacie--

    The gardenia represents peace or refinement, which sounds like something any Grandma Mae (or May) would approve of! I put a lot of memories of my own grandmother into Grandma Mae. I hope you like her as much as I do!

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  33. Looking forward to this book! My favorite flower is the plain old daisy. Have loved them since I was a kid!

    meledstick@aol.com

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    1. Hi, Melodie--Lots of daisy fans here today. Cheerful and innocent. Thanks for entering!

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  34. Thanks everyone for all of the wonderful comments! All this talk of flowers is letting me believe that Spring will be here soon...hopefully...maybe. My favorite flowers are violets. I have wild ones growing on my lawn and the scent is amazing! I have some old lilacs and have planted more. I also planted roses of sharon and daylilies among others.

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    1. Now wild violets might be good flowers for a reader. The wild violet means love in idleness, which might actually be a good picture for reading!

      Thanks, Kathy, for the insightful interview and the chance to meet your readers and talk about flowers. It's been fun!

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    2. Thank you for spending time here today and giving us some wonderful insight about flowers and their special language. You're always welcome at Cozy Up With Kathy.

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  35. Lilacs and violets have to be at the top of my list.

    kaye,killgore@comcast.net

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    1. I've already given the meanings for these, so I'll share a childhood story. When I was a kid, I thought lilacs just grew wild, and therefore belonged to everybody. So I'd pick them at will, irritating all our neighbors, for sure.

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  36. Definitely an iris! Love the colors. Emily at ginder1@verizon.net.

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    1. Hi, Emily. The iris: a message. Very insightful flower. And they actually feature early on in BLOOM AND DOOM.

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  37. I have 2 favorite flowers, daffodils & tulips.....my Dad planted them in our frontyard & every year, it's like they pop up to say 'hello' to me........

    thank you for the giveaway!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

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    1. Hi, Cyn. Amazing, isn't it, how flowers can bring memories? Thanks for entering!

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  38. What a fun interview! My favorite flowers are tulips and daffodils!
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

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    1. Hi, Carolsue. Lovely spring flower choices. Hope spring is on its way where you are!

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  39. I love hydrangeas, gardenias, and tulips....thanks for the opportunity.
    Dmskrug3@hotmail.com

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    1. Hi, Dani--

      I believe you're the first one to bring up hydrangeas. Such a lovely, large bloom. (Which might have worked against it when they were doling out meanings. It means boastfulness!) Thanks for entering!

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  40. It sounds like a fun book. My favorite flowers are irises.... in all colors.

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    1. Irises are really beginning to grow on me. For some reason, I have yellow irises that grow in our ditch. I suspect the previous owner dug them up and threw the bulbs there. I might have to dig them up and put them somewhere nicer!

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  41. I like the simple, cheerful daisy myself. When I graduated from college many years ago, my mother gave me the most lovely wicker basket filled with daisies. Loved them then, and still do now.

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    1. What a lovely gift, Stephanie! I can almost picture it.

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  42. Nice interview; like lilies
    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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  43. Tulips! They're beautiful in their simplicity and come in so many lovely colors.

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  44. Congratulations to the lover of Zinnias-Michelle F! You're the winner! I will be e-mailing you with more details.

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