Today’s the big day, and it’s not even an April Fool’s joke!

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All officially releases today.  I’m so excited for this third installment in my adventures with Jane Austen and her legacy.  Discover how sisterhood hasn’t changed that much since Jane Austen’s time, either in real life or in fiction.

In this book, the main characters, Ellen and Mimi Dodge, embark on a walking tour of Jane Austen country and visit many of the major sites related to Austen and her family. The book was inspired by my own walking tour of Hampshire, and over the coming days, I’ll be sharing photos and memories from the experience that inspired the book.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy discovering Jane Austen Country through the eyes of the Dodge sisters.  Intrigue, drama, and romance abound, along with the return of your favorite Formidable, Mrs. Parrot!

Enjoy!

One month from today, The Dashwood Sisters Tell All hits bookstore shelves or your nearest e-book reader!  To celebrate, I’m holding a contest for an advance copy of the book.  Leave a comment here on the blog to enter.  Drawing will be March 15.  Good luck!

My London Favorites

I’m heading off to England in a few weeks for a research trip, so I thought I’d write about my favorite places in London. It’s always a quandary when I go – revisit my favorites or try something new? This time, I’ll be spending a week in London with a good college friend who’s never been there, so I think I’ll be leaning heavily toward the beloved places/experiences. Below are some of my favorites. Post a comment to share some of yours!

Open Air Theater in Regent’s Park

What better place to watch a performance of Shakespeare, a timeless drama, or a classic musical than under the stars in beautiful Regent’s Park? The Open Air Theater in Regent’s Park runs through the summer months. Bring a jacket, because even in summer it can get chilly once the sun goes down. Order your drinks for the interval ahead of time. Early arrivals can bring/order a picnic and enjoy the beauty of the stunning rose gardens.

A Sunday in Hampstead

I was fortunate to do my semester of study abroad in Hampstead, so I’m well acquainted with its charms – and there are many! Lunch at The Flask is always a treat, from classic fish and chips to bangers and mash served with panache.

If you’re looking for a lighter option, try the cream tea at the Louis Patisserie or discover why the line is always so long at the Hampstead Creperie.

If your taste runs more toward a pub crawl, the Flask is a great start. Then head up the hidden walkway on Heath Street to the top of Holly Mount for a pint at The Holly Bush, my favorite London pub. If you’re up for a walk on the Heath, make your way to The Spaniard’s Inn. And if you don’t mind stretching your legs a bit more, make your way to Kenwood House, the ancestral home of the Earl Iveagh. (You may recognize this house from the movie Notting Hill.) The expansive lawn is the perfect place for an ice cream on a lazy Sunday afternoon or for a heartier picnic.

Neal’s Yard Dairy, Covent Garden

Who would want to live in a world without cheese? Not me! Neal’s Yard Dairy, just a street or two away from Covent Garden, carries my absolute favorite – Appleby’s Double Gloucester. You can sample to your heart’s content, stock up on bread, cheese and olives, and you’re ready to picnic anywhere in London.

The Regency Rooms, The National Portrait Gallery

Besides serving as the home to Cassandra Austen’s watercolor portrait of her famous sister, the Regency Rooms present the early nineteenth century English experience in all its glory. Loads of Turners, Gainsboroughs, and Reynolds showcase the great thinkers, politicians, and artists of the day. Well worth a visit, as is dinner at Portrait, the restaurant on the top floor that provides a Peter Pan-in-flight view of London. Go in the evening, if you can.

St. James Park

This park between Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace may not be as well known as Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, but it has the most gorgeous beds of flowers and a plethora of birds. ☺ It also affords a breathtaking view of the Horse Guards and the London Eye from the bridge over the water. Sting lives one block over, so maybe you’ll see him out for a jog. Inn the Park offers food and drink. Sit on the terrace and watch the people. Or feed a very friendly squirrel.

So now I’ve shared some of my favorite London places with you. It’s your turn to tell me some of yours!

While most of you know by now that I’m an English Literature major at Belmont University, you probably don’t know that I’m actually double majoring; English Literature, of course, and Religion & the Arts with a concentration in photography. From the beginning of high school on, I’ve always had an interest in religion and I chose Belmont because of its unique School of Religion. After taking a British Literature class my sophomore year (of course it was British literature), I knew I had to be a literature major so I officially added it right before junior year and I haven’t looked back.

Although literature is and always will be dear to my heart, the study of religion has always been “my thing.” As a person who comes from the Christian tradition, I have always been interested in the ways Christianity defined God and his nature. Most recently I have been taking a class titled “Spirituality in World Religions,” and during the class we visit the sacred spaces of the five main world religions. It is amazing to discover the depth and richness of other religious traditions, and the beauty found in other religions’ worship of God is astonishing. Religion and spirituality are two aspects of life that bring all people together, although they are certainly not always seen this way.

Religion was important to Jane Austen as well. Although she only directly references religion in Mansfield Park, choosing instead to leave her own religious opinions out of her work, she was a member of the Church of England and her own religious tradition was quite important to her. While she was steadfast in her faith, Austen was wary of Evangelicals and believed religion to be a more private affair.

While many could successfully argue that Austen never writes religiously, I tend to disagree. She is known for her realism and social commentary, both of which are important to the understanding of humanity then and now. To write about the society around her was to explore the very nature of life as she knew it, which can speak to many on a spiritual level.

My favorite theologian, Frederick Buechner, wrote, “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

I believe that Jane Austen truly listened to her life and the lives of the people around her. She questioned the social practices of her time and wrote about the things in life that interested, confused, excited, and bothered her. This attitude towards literature might not be explicitly religious, but I am convinced that it is just as important to know and understand the nature of life as it is to “preach” the truth.

I didn’t mean to get that tremendously high score on Bejeweled Blitz. In the weekly scores, I consistently run second to my friend Lori B., so usually I’m just trying to beat her score. But this time, by some freak of nature or coincidence, I scored just a tad over 500,000. Wow.

Which made me very happy for about a day. And then I realized two things. One, I would likely never match that score again, and, two, for the rest of the week, the person who I would be trying to beat every time I played the game was…me.

That’s the problem with accomplishing something extraordinary. What do you do to top it?

I can think of authors (not me!) who have faced this dilemma. Charles Frasier and Cold Mountain. Any number of Oprah authors. Or Harper Lee and To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s hard to be phenomenal twice in a row.

But, then, maybe that’s the problem, thinking that we have to be phenomenal all the time. That a tremendous success takes away the significance of smaller ones. This week, I scored over 300K several times in Bejewleed Blitz. Until now, those would have been amazing scores. Now I look at them and yawn politely. That, though, is my mistake.

The real secret to Bejeweled Blitz (and to writing) is to keep on playing (or writing) no matter what. Whether our successes are small or large, whether we’re on the upswing or tanking, the point is to keep on doing what we’re doing. Because the point of it is the doing, not the score or the published book.

So I’m back to playing Bejeweled Blitz. On Tuesday, they’ll wipe out the weekly scores and it will be like my 500K never happened. On the book front, my books (and almost everyone else’s) will eventually be remaindered and disappear from the shelves. While it’s a comfort to know that ebook versions will remain, for the most part, those books will disappear from the market.

The results of our work can be amazing or less than what we hoped for. But whatever they are, eventually the results will disappear. The only thing we’ll have left is what we’ve learned and enjoyed along the way. So I’ll keep playing Bejeweled Blitz because it helps to ease my stress. I’ll also keep writing, whether my books hit the NY Times bestseller list or (tank).

It’s the process, silly. I forget that sometimes.

It’s been my pleasure and privilege to have a fabulous intern from Belmont University this spring semester. Stephanie has done wondrous things for my online presence (hence her official title of The Wondrous Intern). She’s going to be guest blogging from time to time, so here’s an intro post. Everyone make her feel welcome!

From the Wondrous Intern….

Every college student needs an internship, right? As my professors were pressuring me to find an internship and threatening my life, my career, and my future happiness if I did not, I desperately began meeting with my internship advisor and contacting potential internships. A whole lot of nothing was happening when an internship with Beth Pattillo practically fell into my lap. While I was relieved to have finally found something, I was also ecstatic at the prospect of working with a successful author, especially an author who loves Jane Austen as much as I do.

I’ve been working with Beth for a few months now and it has been such a rewarding experience. Not only am I learning the ins and outs of the writing and publishing worlds, but I’ve also been perfecting my blogging skills through the management of her Twitter, Facebook fan page, and upcoming newsletters (and who doesn’t love to blog?).

The experiences I’m having and lessons I’m learning while working with Beth are so beneficial to my studies and my future as a writer. More than that, however, I also find myself falling in love with literature all over again, an event I certainly did not foresee. I spend an hour or two every day looking through the latest news concerning Jane Austen, the Regency period, and various quotes from her novels and letters. Every day I become more and more interested in the woman who wrote Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, two of my all-time favorite novels. Through learning about her life and interacting with Beth, who uses her stories and life to create new literature that so many people adore, I’m learning to appreciate the power of fiction even more. I think Austen says it best in one of my favorite passages of hers in Northanger Abbey:

“‘Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. ‘It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”

Even in the days before iTunes and iPod, I listened to a specific movie soundtrack while working on a book. My first novel, Princess Charming, was written to the gorgeous music from Shakespeare in Love. My little Signet Regency, Her Perfect Earl, benefited from the wonderful soundtrack to Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility. For some books, instrumental music works better. For others, I need some vocals. :)

Here are some of my other pairings:

Heavens To Betsy written to the soundtrack from Love Actually
Earth To Betsy and the Bridget Jones’ Diary soundtracks, 1 and 2.
The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society and Rachel Portman’s Because of Winn-Dixie
The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love and Kindred Spirits, a score from one of the Anne of Green Gables series

For Jane Austen Ruined My Life, I latched on to the soundtrack from Becoming Jane. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart combined the score from Last Chance Harvey and P.S. I Love You.

In the early days, I was more limited to what was on a given CD. Now I use my iPod to mix and match, so I can shake things up a little more. For my current work-in-progress, I have a mash-up of mellow singles and James Horner’s score from the movie Iris.

For me, ‘scoring’ a book provides a kind of Pavlovian conditioning. When I hear the music, I get the impulse to write that book. Even now, whenever I hear a snippet of the score from Shakespeare in Love as I’m channel surfing, I still get the urge to write about Nick and Lucy and their adventures!

What about you? For the writers out there, do you use music to help you write? Any recommendations?

Congratulations to Iris, Kate, and Pam! You’ve each won a copy of My Mr. Darcys by the wonderful artist, Laura Davidson. I’ll be contacting you by email to arrange delivery of your prize. :)

The most popular question lately seems to be whether there will be a third book in the Sweetgum series. I certainly plan to return to Sweetgum but chose to write only one book this year (Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart) so that I could have more time with my family. All of your kind emails have certainly made me turn my thoughts back to Sweetgum. I can’t promise any news soon, but I will keep you posted.

Another popular question I’ve been receiving lately is whether the Formidables will be back for a third installment. I certainly hope so, although the plans haven’t been finalized. Stay tuned!

Finally, a number of you have been wondering when ebook versions of Jane Austen Ruined My Life and Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart would be available. I’m delighted to say that both are now available to purchase. Check your e-reader’s website. And I’m thrilled to announce that Heavens To Betsy, my 2006 RITA winner for Best Inspirational Romance, is now available on Kindle and Mobipocket. I suspect it will be available for other readers soon, too!

To celebrate my new and improved website, I’m announcing a contest for all of you Mr. Darcy fans out there. Can’t decide which Mr. Darcy of tv and film is your favorite? Now they can all be yours in one convenient location. Check it out here.

My friend Teri gave me this book, and I loved it so much that now I’m sharing copies with three lucky winners! Just sign up for my mailing list here by completing the contact form. If you’ve already signed up for my mailing list, then just leave a comment below to enter. Deadline to enter is March 10.

Laurence Olivier? Colin Firth? Matthew Macfayden? Martin Henderson from Bride and Prejudice? Elliot Cowan from Lost in Austen? Spend your day pleasantly contemplating the advantages of each.

Beth

Welcome to my new and improved website, made even better, of course, by the launch of this blog. :) My previous blog was written from the point of view of one of my characters, Betsy Blessing, but this time, it’s all me! Reading, writing, Jane Austen, knitting, motherhood, kids, college basketball, more reading, more writing…. I think you get the picture.

Here’s the handy guide to my social networking/web stuff:

Twitter — All things Jane Austen with a smattering of books and romance
Facebook Fan Page — Updates and info on my books and works-in-progress
Blog — Everything else

I’ve got a couple of other things in the works, but I’m also on deadline. At some point, I have to take a break from social networking and actually write a book! I’m turning my attention from Jane Austen to Charlotte Bronte. The two are as different as two gals can be in some ways, but their rich intellectual lives and literary aspirations connect them, too.

Blessings,

Beth

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