So You Think You Can Decorate

babetteIt seems easy but it’s not. We just got a new couch, Babette. That’s her name and she looks like her name, kind of sexy and saucy. She’s got a lot of style, nice rounded shoulders, makes her resemble some Victorian model, one of Asti’s nudes maybe. She’s chocolate brown but not at all plain. She’s adorned with beautiful jeweled pillows as soft as anything you ever felt. Roxie, my little mutt, loves them. She perches herself on them and looks like a little regal fox holding court. Since Babette likes dogs she doesn’t mind the attention. Lucky Roxie. You’ll notice that Carly and Peanut are sitting on her when the picture was taken, but she prefers Roxie, likes her color. Oh, Babette has nail heads too, French neutral I think they’re called.

The couch I threw out was about fifteen years old or close to it. I could have had her reupholstered for the same price but I wanted to move on, find new horizons from which to view my living room, my sanctuary. It’s a very lovely room, one of those prewar rooms with high ceilings and stately molding. You can’t go too contemporary in it but I mix. That’s kind of a reflection of me, I think. I’ve got a lot of old style but a very youthful energy, or so I’ve been told. My living room is more Ella Fitzgerald than Beyonce. Don’t get me wrong, I love Beyonce but what Babette calls for is Ella, no question, though she does seem to tolerate my Norah Jones music quite well. She likes Natalie Merchant too.

The only problem now is that once Babette graced our living room the old round chair had to go. I loved that chair but she never worked the way she should have. She definitely didn’t work with Babette. I hope someone picked her up off the street and gave her a home. She deserves at least that. So now we have to go out and get a new chair that will compliment Babette. We found him, King, he’s called, or Elvis, however you want to look at it. He’s got a great spice seat, can’t wait to sit in him. My two cats, Sassy and Sweetie Pie are going to fall in love.

Problem is that now we also have to get rid of the mirror above Babette. It has too many peaks, peaks that conflict with Babette’s peaks. So the mirror has to go. I’m hoping my handyman, Marius, has good taste and will want it. It’s a very beautiful mirror but too formal. Babette needs to be surrounded by humor and gaiety. We used to have a handyman named Gus who gave his wife everything we threw out, the crystal lamp, the flying pig, a wicker table. Now every time Gus comes to our apartment he scopes it out for his better half. Since Gus doesn’t work here anymore I’m hoping Marius has a wife that digs our style.

We’re painting to compliment Babette. She needs warm tones, golden tones. Our French deco chairs will have to be redone. We’re shopping fabric now. They’re pretty sensational chairs but Babette must approve and she doesn’t. They have to be redone in earth tones, Babette’s tones. Oh, Babette, you are demanding but we love you. You make us smile.

Marybeth, Hollister & Jane is Vera Jane’s sixth novel published with Musa. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater was Vera Jane’s second southern fiction novel and was a finalist in the ForeWord book of the Year Awards for 2012 and received a five star ForeWord Clarion review, as well as an Eric Hoffer honorable mention for ebook fiction in 2013. Dancing Backward in Paradise also received a 5 Star Clarion ForeWord review and an Eric Hoffer notable new fiction award in 2007, as well as the Indie Excellence Award in 2007. Also by Vera Jane Cook: Lies a River Deep, Where the Wildflowers Grow and Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem.. Vera jane’s next novel, Pleasant Day, will be published by Moonshine Cove Press.


Jane’s Review: The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller

I got into this book from the first page. I was mesmerized by the senator’s wife as much as the character of Meri was. I wanted to talk to her, invite her for white wine in the back yard overlooking some beautiful purple flowers. I wanted to stare at her beautiful features and wonder at her secrets. I don’t know if I would have invaded her privacy as Meri did. I hated Meri for doing that but I was thrilled to be privy to the deeply emotional love affair between the senator’s wife and the senator. I must say that I find it weak to contemplate remaining with a man who cheats but I might chose that over never knowing how to love through so much pain, how to forgive through so much rage.

I found that there was a great dichotomy between the couples and their understanding of love, their experience of marriage. In Meri’s predictable universe she desires to be more like Deidre, to know what Deidre knows, and to feel what Delia feels. She doesn’t truly understand the relationship Deidre has with Tom but she’s envious of it. In the end, she has exactly what Delia would have wanted, what the unattainable Tom kept at arms length.

I didn’t like the characters at times but I understood the deeply rooted flaws of the female characters. I understood Meri’s desire and need to feel sexual again. I felt Delia’s horrible defeat at the end of the book and the absolute sorrow she felt when she realized that she could never have Tom the way she wanted him, not even at the end of his life, in his illness. I also felt the joyous freedom of Delia’s life, of living in Paris, of gaining a sense of space and distance only to give it up, but then gain it again in a bitter sweet way.

I found myself envying Delia though I’d never want to be in her shoes. What we all want is what Meri has. I think Meri finally came to realize that mundane is better than complex.

Sue Miller is a wonderful writer and she gets into her characters psyches, their weaknesses and their insecurities with so much delicate compassion. She makes us wonder if any of us ever really feels fulfilled when there are so many people to envy, to envy in our fantasy about them. But in the end, nothing is more real than our own life.

I would recommend this book because it angers you, because it tears at your heart strings, because it’s about how we heal and how we ache. It was a very human story. Go out and read it!


OMG! I’m Aging!

liesariverdeep-100I can’t believe this, my skin is changing. It’s got crinkles of some kind. I always thought of myself as a bit of a Dorian Gray. That was my favorite book when I was younger; I wonder why. I had this friend when I was in my late twenties and she was an artist who did a rather nice painting of me. Every day I said to the painting, “Oh, if the picture could only grow old and I could stay young, for that I would give my soul.”

I’ve still got my soul so I guess I’m ageing. Oh, Lord, I never thought it would happen to me. When I look at myself in the mirror I see a very young face but then someone takes a picture of me and I say, “oh, is that me?” Truth be told, I look older than I used to look. That so and so should learn to take better pictures. Then, there was that cute little boy in a classroom I visited not long ago who looked up at me and said, “you remind me of my grandmother, but prettier.” Well, half a compliment.

A lot of my books involve young girls who get older, and hopefully wiser, but I seem to include an older woman now in the books I write. My present unpublished novel is about a girl of fifteen and her sixty year old friend. One of my published titles, Lies a River Deep, is about an older woman looking back. My God, I’ve become an older woman looking back. I see all these old rockers like Mick Jagger and I think, God, he looks old. I mean, how dare I? But then again, I don’t think I look old. I look interesting. Can older people look interesting? Of course, I look like an aging interesting chick, don’t I?

Just the other day I saw a clip on my computer from the Britain’s Got Talent television show and lo and behold, there was a seventy-nine year old woman with some young guy and she danced up a storm, showing off her lovely legs and not even breathing heavy when the song came to a close. Now, that’s an inspiration. I can boogey real well so maybe I’ll go on the show, So You Think You Can Dance when I’m seventy-nine. But then again, I don’t want to be referred to as cute. That’s the way old people are usually referred to when they do something spectacular in old age: isn’t she cute? We regress to being children again, we’re cute. Well, I for one think Helen Mirren and Jane Fonda are more than cute, not that they’re seventy-nine but they are crawling up there. Anyway, they’re both beautiful, just like that seventy- nine year old that danced her ass off and had wrinkles on her skin she could have gotten plastic surgery to remove but didn’t. Personally, I think I’ll remove my wrinkles, when I get them where they can be seen, that is. But I’m not as brave as that spunky little dancer either.

I guess what I’m saying is once you get over the shock of realizing that you’re aging you can still be glamorous, and yes, even interesting. To tell you the truth, I never think of myself as ‘older’ – it’s only when I go out into the world and remind little boys of their grandmother and men my own age of themselves.

Most of my friends are much younger than me, like my main character in Lies a River Deep. I don’t think people my age keep up with me that well. They are getting older and me? I’m just getting better looking. Hey, maybe it worked and my soul belongs to the devil. Nah, I’ve still got crinkles and a bit of turkey gobble but don’t put me out to pasture yet, I can still dance!

Like Minded People or Jane’s Advice on Rejection

I’ve got a real problem with people who think that they know more about everything than you do. They know more about the sixties even though you lived through it and they didn’t. They know more about being gay even though you are and they aren’t. They even know more about human behavior, motive, fear, shame, domination. Why, they even know more about the theater even though they were never in it and you were.

Whew! Makes my blood boil. I think it’s called arrogance. These are people who are tolerated because they are aggressive enough to set themselves up as experts on just about everything – even the life you lived and they didn’t. These people make broad strokes when it comes to their opinions, they drown you in their half assed assumptions that you are ignorant, foolish and totally without insight or talent. These people are not nurturing or gracious or even smart, they are simply supercilious when it comes to their high opinion versus yours.

I was a teacher so I believe in giving criticism as a means of growth, as a way of making something better, not annihilating it because it doesn’t conform to the standards of excellence of the one judging it. A good artist always has the potential to achieve excellence. I believe that a person’s art, which could mean their book, their painting, their musical composition, whatever, has merit and criticism must be given as a way of taking the seed and knowing how much water it needs to grow into something beautiful.

What really goads me is when people think they are better than they are, when you read their books or observe their painting or listen to their composition and you say to yourself, no Anita Shreve here, no Monet, no Carol King and they’re judging me? But of course, in their self over bloated opinion of themselves, they are better than they are, they know everything. They wear arrogance like the apricot scarf in Carly Simon’s song, You’re So Vain.

I know people like this, people to whom the world is a reflection of them. Everywhere they look they see themselves and in their mirrors they are not mediocre, they are grand. Oh, they make me angry, so much so that when I look at them I can’t laugh, when that’s really what I should be doing. But how hard it is to shrug off the negative opinions of others, especially when they lack an offer of value. When they are empty, and often over inflated muckety-muck. They sit in the back of your mind like the irritating memories of the nasty little boy in high school that made fun of the way you dressed. It makes you forget about that sweet boy with all the curly hair that thought you were beautiful.

Ah, well, I think my point is this. Don’t be afraid to seek like minded people. You will grow more from the people who respect you, than the ones who don’t. Do not accept rejection from people who do not know how to be teachers or publishers, editors or agents or simply, good friends. Those titles come with a certain responsibility. The bad ones only know how to annihilate, not nurture, not recognize talent and guide it or support it. Look for people who see your glow and like being in it. All those other barracudas out there belong in the ocean where sight is misty, hearing is lost and vanity is king.