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I’m happy to welcome Sara Marks back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of Phi Alpha Pi, the second book in the 21st Century Austen Series. Sara is here to share her inspiration for Phi Alpha Pi and an excerpt. Please give her a warm welcome!

I first read Pride and Prejudice at sixteen years old.  It feels like forever ago, but Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy have remained a favorite couple.  I love themes around second chances and recognizing mistakes.  I always loved how the Bennet sisters are all so different from each other. I’m not alone in my love for this book.  It’s the most popular book and characters for Austen variations, retellings, prequels, sequels, and mashups.  In fact, it was reading Pride & Prejudice & Zombies that got me turning the idea in my head for my own Pride & Prejudice variation.  

As friends discovered how much I enjoyed P&P&Z, they started suggesting other variations.  There are some I love and some I could have lived without, but what I noticed was that they all took place in the Regency period.  I didn’t dislike the period, but I loved seeing them translated into modern situations.  As I found those books, the germ of an idea got stronger.  Many modernizations keep the family unit intact.  For example, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries made changes (Mary is a cousin; Collins and Charlotte depart for professional collaboration), but the Bennet sisters remained a family. The LDB series remains my favorite modernization to this day. 

By 2013 my germ of an idea was taking firmer shape.  I was playing with one idea: what if they aren’t biological sisters?!  What if this isn’t about a family by blood, but a family by choice? The root of this idea is in my life experiences.  My parents, both from the Northeast, moved our family to Miami, FL when I was about three and a half. My sister and I grew up away from nearly all our biological family.  We saw them, maybe, once a year.  The people we spent holidays with were friends my parents had made.  We had a family of choice, not a family of blood. Even now, after I moved back to New England, I have my own family of choice.  I simply never got close to my cousins the way they got close to each other.   

I also spent four years at Florida State University in a co-ed Fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega).  Many of my friends were in sororities and fraternities.  I now work at a university with a very small Greek community.  My knowledge of the community wasn’t vast, but I had a network of people to use for research.  I knew this is one way college age adults make close groups of friends.  Women join sororities for different reasons.  Yes, one of the primary ones is to party and socialize.  Others do it because their mothers or sisters were members before them.  I have friends who joined specifically for future professional connections.  I joined Alpha Phi Omega because my other friends were joining and it seemed fun.  You have so many different types of women looking for very different things within one group.  

From there the story built itself.  Setting the story at a university, even the story outside of the sorority, allowed me to change relationships.  There are no Bennet sisters, so what roles could their unnecessary parents play? School breaks allowed them to leave campus.  I had to really brainstorm with some characters, but I watched the students around me, talked to those I had access to, and found solutions that I think worked. I sat down to finally write it in April 2104 and by the end of the month the first draft was complete and Phi Alpha Pi was born.

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An Excerpt from Phi Alpha Pi

As one of the largest and oldest sororities on campus, there was usually someone in the Phi Alpha Pi two-story Greek revival style mansion. Members were eating, studying, or simply enjoying each other’s company. Today there were twenty women moving into their rooms and unpacking for the start of the school year. Lizbeth, as chapter president, had been one of the first sisters to arrive, but still hadn’t unpacked. She and the other officers were too busy helping their sisters move in. Lizbeth had already put out a small, literal fire from a fallen candle. Then she put out figurative fires of roommate mix-ups and fights about who got which bed. Now Lizbeth sat alone in her room, exhausted and anxious to get out of the house, if only for a few hours.

Lizbeth had never been this involved in the sorority. She had agreed to the position, for her senior year, to help keep the sorority off academic probation for low grades. This had been a looming threat in the past. Lizbeth had helped by teaching the sorority sisters ways to get organized, creating study schedules, and helping create an atmosphere that turned studying into social events. She was glad her best friend Jane, who was Membership VP, was helping with the move in. There were sisters that Lizbeth didn’t know and relationships she didn’t understand. Jane was good at soothing hurt feelings and mediating fights. She had to run a membership meeting later in the day. Rush Week, the week before classes started so potential new members could attend all events, launched tomorrow.

“Lizbeth, did you see the shirts she got the board members?” Marie said, entering her room.

Marie, the sorority treasurer, was holding a hot pink T-shirt up to her body. At twenty years old, she was petite and wore her black hair long with bangs that nearly covered her eyes. When she pulled them back she revealed bright hazel eyes and a nose just a bit too big for her face. Marie was Lizbeth’s “little sister,” a bond between sorority sisters that often lasted the rest of their lives. As their resident gadget geek, she always had the latest technology toy. She had the first Fitbit, the first GoPro, was also the first to adopt new social media, and had happily taken over the sorority’s web presence.

Lizbeth had seen the shirt Marie was holding in the gift basket their housemother had given each officer as they moved in. Mrs. C, as they were instructed to call her, was brand new this year and a bit over-eager. She had welcomed each of the officers with a huge hug and said basket, which had also included tons of candy, candles, and school supplies. She gave each sister a candle as she moved in. It was one of these very candles that Lizbeth had put out when it fell and burned the carpet. Their previous housemother had never been this excited to see them.

“Yes, I saw it,” Lizbeth said with a sigh.

“Lizbeth, it says, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.'”

“Well, she is up on her Austen,” Lizbeth said with a shrug.

Lizbeth sat down on her bed and let herself fall back on the bare mattress.

Marie put her hands on her hips and sighed before responding.

“You know that’s not the point. Some of us aren’t here to find rich husbands.”

“I believe it was the goal for many sisters in her day. She is new and excited. She will learn some of us aren’t like this anymore.”

“She asked me to wear it tonight.”

“No, you’ll wear an official sorority shirt; it’s tradition.”

Marie huffed irritably.

“Are we paying for this stuff? She hasn’t handed me receipts, but I’m worried she will.”

“Let me know if she does. I think this is her gift to us. She made these herself. I mean, the font is comic sans.”

Marie left the room and Lizbeth heard her door bang. All the bedrooms were on the second floor of the house, but the two officer bedrooms were adjacent, so they could all work together. Lizbeth lay back on her bed wishing she wasn’t living this close to Marie and her roommate Lydia. She closed her eyes for a few moments, hoping to catch a quick nap.

“I think we have everyone settled and don’t need to worry about anything until the meeting starts.”

Lizbeth opened her eyes to see Jane come into their room. The only good thing about having to live at the sorority house, as far as Lizbeth was concerned, was rooming with Jane. She had only joined Phi Alpha Pi so she and Jane could be together their freshman year. Last year, when the sorority had just come off an academic probation for low grades, Jane and a few graduates had begged Lizzie to run for president. The year had been difficult for some of the sisters, but Lizbeth had emerged as a leader. There was only one other candidate for president: Lydia. Lydia was the de-facto leader of the un-academic sisters and the worst of the lot. In the end, Lydia had taken on the Programming VP role, something she was very good at. Lydia had already planned so many mixers that Lizbeth had forced her to cancel some.

“Is it true there is a party tonight after the meeting?” Lizbeth asked Jane.

“Yes, Lydia planned with the guys at Alpha Pi. They have a few new brothers who transferred from another school and they want to make them feel welcome before Rush Week starts. Do you remember Caroline? Her older brother Charlie is one of those members,” Jane added.

Lizbeth nodded, vaguely recalling the woman who had transferred to the university and wanted to get involved at this chapter of Phi Alpha Pi.

“Mrs. C is all abuzz about them because they are so rich.”

“Exactly. She thinks Caroline’s brother could be a boyfriend for one of us. It is so sweet of her to want to help us.”

Lizbeth wished that Jane was being sarcastic, but she knew otherwise. Jane was the kindest person in the world. Jane liked almost everyone, so Lizbeth knew there was something wrong with you if you were the rare person Jane didn’t like (and vice versa).

“You’re too sweet,” Lizbeth said.

“Lizbeth, she’s recently widowed. Her children are all off living their own lives. She wants to take care of someone and we need someone looking out for us.”

Lizbeth rolled her eyes.

“I understand, and I feel horrible for her. I mean, you saw the shirts. God forbid we learn to take care of ourselves rather than hunt for rich men to marry.”

“Some members actually want to meet their future husband. Let her get used to us and learn what we need. I’m sure she’ll calm down. If not, well… you’ll certainly be a good balance for her. That is one of the strengths we value in you.”

Lizbeth tossed a stuffed bear at her best friend before getting up and organizing her half of the room.

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This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 14 till 28 May. See the tour schedule here.

Phi Alpha PiPhi Alpha Pi (21st Century Austen #2)
by Sara Marks
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age category: New Adult, Adult
Release Date: May 28, 2018

Blurb:
Phi Alpha Pi is the oldest and largest sorority on campus and new president Lizbeth has a busy senior year ahead of her. She’s determined to keep her sorority in good standing on campus after a year on academic probation. She’s trying to manage the new sorority house manager, Mrs. C, who has her own ideas about how to support the sorority sisters. All while trying to find balance with her own academic goals to complete an honors thesis, graduate, and decide her future plans.

The last thing Lizbeth expects is her anger when Wil, a new member of the Alpha Pi fraternity, pushes every one of her buttons. Lizbeth finds Wil, a new transfer to the university with his best friend, to be rude, snobby, and judgmental. Even though she tries to avoid him, he seems to be everywhere, scowling with displeasure when he sees her. That is, until his Thanksgiving proclamation of love. That causes Lizbeth to reconsider how she sees the world.

You can find Phi Alpha Pi on Goodreads

You can buy Phi Alpha Pi here:
Amazon
B&N
Kobo

Check out the first book in this series!
Modern Persuasion
Which would you pick: the person you love or your own dreams?

What would you do if given a second chance at that decision?

Eight years ago Emma Shaw picked her career and family over the man she loved, Fredrick Wentworth. Since then she has built a career in publishing and spends her free time making sure her father and sisters are taken care of. Fredrick has spent the same years building his career as a screenwriter under increasing public scrutiny as a celebrity. When the editor of Fredrick’s first book is injured, Emma is forced to travel with Fredrick on his book tour.

Tension builds for the two former lovers over the course of the tour. Emma and Fredrick must face their emotional baggage and their misunderstanding about how their break-up impacted the other. Will they be able to find their way back together for a second chance at love?
Goodreads
Amazon
B&N
Kobo

Sara MarksAbout the Author:
Born in Boston, MA and raised in Miami, FL, Sara Marks has two masters degrees and plans to never stop getting over educated. She likes the idea of having all the academic regalia she can ever possess and winning with the most degrees in her family. By day she’s an academic librarian. In what little free time she has, she also knits and plays with her dog Cedric Doggory.

You can find and contact Sara Marks here:
Website
Facebook
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Goodreads
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Mailing List

Giveaways
There are two tour wide giveaways during the blog tour of Phi Alpha Pi! There is a U.S. Only Giveaway for a prize pack and an international giveaway for 14 e-copies and a print copy of Phi Alpha Pi!
U.S. Only Giveaway
One winner will win a Prize Pack containing:
– Mrs. C’s homemade officers shirt in Comic Sans (you pick XL or XXL)
– A Phi Alpha Pi sorority sticker, candle, and bracelet (some of the items mentioned in the story).
– An illustration by cover designer Risa Rodil
– A rooster dishtowel (so you can make cock jokes with Lizbeth and Wil)
– Autographed printed copies of Modern Persuasion, A Little More Modern Persuasion, and Phi Alpha Pi (not pictured)
Phi Alpha Pi Prize Pack GiveawayFor a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Open for all Giveaway
These are the prizes you can win:
– 14 winners will each win an e-copy of Phi Alpha Pi by Sara Marks
– 1 winner will win a print copy of Phi Alpha Pi by Sara Marks
For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Source:: Author
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Frederick sat there for a moment, thinking. “You know, I have to say the number one barrier in a lasting relationship with me is weakness of character. If a woman can easily be persuaded by her friends and family to do something she doesn’t really want, then she and I won’t make a good pair.”

I sat there looking at the television and I realized I was never going to be able to fix the mistake I had made. This next month was going to be torture.

(from Modern Persuasion)

Modern Persuasion by Sara Marks takes Jane Austen’s Persuasion into the present day. Emma Shaw (Anne Elliot) is an editor at the publishing house run by family friend Karen Russell, who is grooming Emma to take over the imprint run by her father, Walter Shaw. Somehow Emma manages to sort out her father’s and sister Elizabeth’s financial troubles, cater to her needy sister Mary, and get everything in order for PubCon. She’s hit hard by the appearance of Frederick Wentworth, who is there to promote his new book before going on tour.

Circumstances conspire to put Emma in charge of Frederick’s book tour, which makes for some awkward situations given that they haven’t been in touch since she turned down his marriage proposal eight years ago. Emma holds it together the best she can as she and Frederick, accompanied by his friend Patrick and her assistant Louisa, go from city to city barely speaking to one another, and definitely not addressing their unresolved feelings.

Marks’ knowledge and appreciation of Austen’s novel shines through in her retelling. I recognized Anne and Captain Wentworth in her Emma and Frederick (though I wonder why her name was changed to Emma). I liked the setting of the novel, the various cities on the book tour and then in Cape Cod, and how Marks translated the obstacles faced by the characters into modern times and made them feel real and relevant. However, some of the scenes could’ve been fleshed out with some dialogue, and some of the repetitive elements at the end could have been eliminated.

Even so, I enjoyed Modern Persuasion. It was fresh and fun, a fast-paced read, and I always enjoy when authors are inspired by an Austen novel other than Pride and Prejudice.

Disclosure: I received Modern Persuasion from the author for review.

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Today I am delighted to welcome Sara Marks to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time to celebrate the release of her new novel, Modern Persuasion, a novel inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I asked Sara if she would be kind enough to share her story of coming to love Jane Austen. Please give her a warm welcome:

High School Overachievement in Reading

I knew very little in High School, but one thing I did know was that I was going to have to read Pride and Prejudice in my senior year.  I have always been a voracious reader and I wanted, at the time, to be ready for the book when it was time to read it.  That how I ended up reading P&P on my own as a Junior.  I still have the copy they gave us when we read it my senior year.  There were so many things I missed as a teenager, but the more often I read Austen books, the more comfortable I got with them.  Over the years I would read more books, stopping and starting as my irritation at characters ebbed and flowed.  I stopped reading for a few years when I tried Sense & Sensibility.  I felt annoyed with characters in this book, especially Marianne.  I enjoyed Northanger Abbey years later, but Mansfield Park felt like it just never ended.  Persuasion was the last of her books that I read and has been firmly locked in my heart ever since.

Movies, Mini-Series, and More

I spent most of my adult reading life as a fan of fantasy and science fiction more than classics.  I re-read a few favorite Austen book (P&P, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion), but, like for many others, it was the movies and adaptations that I found most enjoyable.  I remember the first time I saw Clueless, just as I was starting to read Emma for the first time and realizing they were one and the same.  I remember watching the BBC P&P miniseries and realizing Mr. Darcy SHOULD have lovely curls…he should ALWAYS HAVE CURLS!  I love Colin Firth, but I had to cast my own Mr. Darcy and, alas, he will never play the role… The modern movies and mini-series have more of a place in my heart than the classic ones.  I prefer McFayden’s Emo-Darcy or Matthew Ryhs’ coy and playful interpretation.

I Gave Myself Permission to Write

The shift in my obsession stems from Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.  I know it’s not for everyone, but it brought me back to Austen in a way nothing else had.  For me, it was the introduction to the idea that I could write fan fiction of Austen and tell an original story.  It got me interested in reading the Jane Austen Fan Fiction (some I loved and some made me cringe…most I loved).  Seeing other authors try to modernize, re-interpret, extend, or look back in time on Jane’s stories was thrilling as a reader and writer.  Then came the Lizzy Bennet Diaries and it was like I had permission to write the fantasies inside my head.  I had always played around with trying to understand who a character would be if he or she was alive today.

What Comes Next?

I have taken a break from most JAFF at the moment because I am writing it.  I read it with a range of emotions from “I would have done this instead” or “well, all my writing is crap compared to this!” I have a list of Persuasion JAFF books that I am going to finally read once Modern Persuasion comes out!  I am also re-reading Austen’s books on my blog.  I have done Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.  This fall will be Emma and winter 2018 I will do Pride and Prejudice.  It helps me get back into the frame of the story as I write my modernizations.  I love having my readers leave comments through the readings!

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About Modern Persuasion:

Which would you pick: the person you love or your own dreams? What would you do if given a second chance at that decision? Eight years ago Emma Shaw picked her career and family over the man she loved, Fredrick Wentworth. Since then she has built a career in publishing and spends her free time making sure her father and sisters are taken care of. Fredrick has spent the same years building his career as a screenwriter under increasing public scrutiny as a celebrity. When the editor of Fredrick s first book is injured, Emma is forced to travel with Fredrick on his book tour. Tension builds for the two former lovers over the course of the tour. Emma and Fredrick must face their emotional baggage and their misunderstanding about how their break-up impacted the other. Will they be able to find their way back together for a second chance at love?

Check out Modern Persuasion on Goodreads | Amazon

Read a sample chapter here.

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About the Author

Sara Marks

Sara Marks is an author, knitter, Wikipedian, and librarian from Massachusetts. Born in Boston, her family moved to Miami, Florida, when she was 3.  There she spent the next 14 years of her life. She attended Florida State University for 3 years, but graduated with an A.A from Miami-Dade College and a B.A. from Florida International University before moving back to Boston for graduate school.  She hasn’t left Massachusetts since (except to visit people and places in the world).  Now, over fifteen years later and over 10 years of participating in National Novel Writing Month, she is releasing her first novel, Modern Persuasion, with Illuminated Myth Publishing.  Sara works with local writing group Mill Pages, which creates an annual anthology of short stories, poems, and art work.  She is a member of the Society of Independent Publishers and Authors (SIPA), a group supporting writers in the Merrimack Valley.

When she isn’t writing, Sara is an academic librarian at University of Massachusetts Lowell.  She has a masters degree in library science and another in Communications.  She is an active Wikipedian who has been editing Wikipedia for over 10 years.  She is a member of Toastmasters International where she has twice earned the status of Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest status members can achieve.  She is one of the local organizers for National Novel Writing Month.  She is an avid knitter who designs and publishes her own patterns.  She love unicorns, Paris, and the color purple.

Connect with Sara via email | website | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

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Giveaways

#1: Sara is generously offering an ebook copy of Modern Persuasion to one lucky reader! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell us what most excites you about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, June 4, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post.

#2: She is also offering a special giveaway to U.S. readers. Since part of the story happens on Frederick’s book tour, she is offering touristy knick-knacks from each of the cities they visit (the NYC item will be a surprise!). The winner will receive the entire collection of knick-knacks and an autographed paperback copy of the book. To enter, you need to sign up for her mailing list, and you can do so and enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter link. Everyone who signs up for the mailing list is added to the raffle and also will receive a short story related to Modern Persuasion: “Mary and the Anti-Feminist.” This giveaway ends on June 5.

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5/22 My Jane Austen Bookclub

5/22 More Agreeably Engaged

5/23 Half Agony, Half Hope

5/24 JustJane 1813

5/24 The Ardent Reader

5/25 From Pemberly to Milton

5/26 Diary of an Eccentric

5/26 My Love for Jane Austen

5/27 Babblings of a Bookworm

5/28 Musings from the Yellow Kitchen

5/29 vvb32 Reads

5/29 Austenesque Reviews

Thank you, Sara, for being my guest today!

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