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What Circle Dance Means to Me by Lynne & Valerie Constantine

When my sister and I first agreed to collaborate on a story, we constructed one similar to what we loved to read at the time—stories about women, their emotional lives, and the choices they make in life.  Our first characters were three sisters—beautiful, blonde, rich, and American.  The story was a struggle and we realized that we were not writing about what we knew or even about what spoke to us—but rather to what was popular and interesting at the time.

We talked about the fact that there were very few stories about the Greek American experience.  While similar to other ethnic stories—there are unique aspects to being Greek that we felt needed to be shared.  Growing up in a close, tight-knit, community, surrounded by families that had been friends for generations, there was much to be enjoyed about the experience.  Being second generation Greek Americans, our loyalties were very much in the American camp.  There was a sense of rebellion and wrestling against the tight constraints our grandmother, and to a lesser extent our mother, tried to put on us.  The admonition to marry inside the Greek community fell on deaf ears for all three of my siblings as well as myself.  We all married wonderful people who brought their own unique heritage and traditions into the tapestry of our lives.  Circle Dance is a reminder to them as well—to embrace their beginnings and to never forget that we all come from someplace else.  Before writing Circle Dance,  we didn’t give much thought to what our grandparents and their own parents had sacrificed in order to improve their lives in a new country.  Sophia, the wise grandmother, reflects on this fact during a time of crisis in the lives of the Parsenis family:

Sophia was proud of her family in this time of uncertainty and apprehension.  They had drawn together around Nick and Eleni, supporting them with their prayers and their presence.  She was thankful to be alive to see the fruits of the teaching she and Andreas had tried to instill in their children and grandchildren.  Sophia’s own mother, Vasiliki, had not been so fortunate.  By the time Sophia and Andreas could afford to make the long voyage back to Greece, Vasiliki was dead.  She never saw her daughter’s children.  It was only now that her own children and grandchildren were grown that Sophia fully appreciated just how much her mother had missed.  Perhaps she was too busy as a young woman to give it much thought or perhaps it was too painful to dwell upon in those days when there was nothing she could do to remedy it anyway.  But now she realized the emptiness that she and all the other immigrants left in the souls of parents who knew they would very likely never again set eyes on their offspring, their parenting abruptly terminated and ended forever.  Her mother had never challenged her decision to leave for America and never, she now realized, allowed her to see the sorrow she felt at her departure.  They were brave, these parents who were left behind alone and childless, and they were openhanded in their unstinting generosity to let go.

Looking back to my childhood I now realize that I took for granted the privilege of knowing first-hand my grandmother—fresh from the Greek soil—her Greek accent and customs intact.  It tied me closely to my roots and cemented forever my connection to Greece and things Greek.  My own children,  only half Greek feel no such connection.  I have to build for them, layer by layer, an understanding of the importance of knowing your heritage and of being tied to something that came before.  Circle Dance is my legacy to them—a view into a world they will never literally enter—but one in which they can vicariously enjoy.  May they taste the home-baked bread my Yiayia so lovingly prepared—the butter melting into its warm folds—sugar sprinkled on top.   It is my hope that in these pages, they will one day discover the wonderful traditions and customs that are rooted in their genetic makeup—that they will hear the voices of their ancestors.  I hope they might one day desire to return to the country of their origin and appreciate its beauty and splendor.  Whatever their response— of one thing they can be assured—Circle Dance was a true labor of love for my sister and me.  I hope they will pass it along to their children one day and that the legacy will continue.

Lynne Constantine is a coffee drinking, twitter addicted, fiction writer always working on her next book. She is the co-author of CIRCLE DANCE, a family saga written with her sister, as well as the author of several short stories. She is the managing partner of a social media consulting firm & gives talks on the role of social media in publishing. She is a contributing editor to The Big Thrill magazine published by International Thriller Writers (ITW). She likes to run her plots by Tucker, her golden retriever, who rarely disagrees with her.

She recently finished her first thriller, and a second book with her sister. Lynne is now working on a third women’s fiction collaboration with her sister. In her spare time the loves going to the beach, spending time with her family, and reading, reading, reading.

Connect with Lynne via her Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Valerie Constantine was born in Baltimore, Maryland.  She has always loved books and spent too many nights reading by the light of her bedside lamp until 3 a.m.  (Those were the days when she was able to stay up that late.)  She graduated from Nancy Drew to Shakespeare and went on to study at the University of Maryland where she received a degree in English Literature. She is a contributing editor to The Big Thrill magazine and has also worked with St. John’s College as chair of their Meet The Authors Program. She is an active community volunteer working with a Washington, D.C. organization that fights human trafficking and also as president of Assistance League of the Chesapeake, a philanthropic organization that helps and supports children in need. In her spare time she reads, kayaks and travels.  Valerie lives in Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and Zorba, their brilliant King Charles Cavalier.

Connect with Valeria via her Website | Facebook | Twitter

About the Book

Young, smart and beautiful with everything figured out – or so they thought. Born into a prosperous Greek American family, sisters Nicole and Theodora have achieved the perfect balance between the old world rich in Greek tradition and the freedom of life in America. 

Nicole’s world spins out of control when she falls for a married senator who shares her heritage and her dreams. The decisions she makes will affect the happiness of those closest to her and will define the woman she is to become. 

As Theodora struggles to succeed at her marriage, she seeks the wisdom and council of her beloved Greek grandmother who has been happily married for over half a century. Ultimately she must come to terms with the reality of her own life and take responsibility for the role she has played in deceiving herself. 

As the dramatic plot unfolds, the two young women must confront deceit and betrayal and their own shortcomings—while they struggle to preserve the values they cherish. 

Set in Baltimore, Annapolis and the tiny island of Ikaria, Greece, Circle Dance provides a view into the lives of a dynamic family that has successfully achieved the American dream without abandoning the customs and traditions handed down through their Greek heritage.

Book Excerpt

A black casket, shiny and ornate, sat upon the altar, and pallbearers in dark suits quietly led the mourners to their seats as the church continued to fill.  The chanter’s hypnotic singing droned on.  It was a muggy one hundred and five degrees, but inside the dark sanctuary, cut off and remote from the outside world, it was cool and still.  The air in the Annunciation Cathedral was heavily mingled with the sweet scent of carnations and the burning sting of incense.  Rays of sunlight, muted by tall stained glass windows, cast uneven shadows on the walls of the church.  From the huge pipe organ flowed the somber strains of a Byzantine lament.

"Kyrie Eleison, Kyrie Eleison.”  In automatic response, Sophia Zaharis, seated in the front pew, crossed herself.  He was too young, she thought sadly, her eyes never leaving the coffin.  An accident, they said—unexpected, tragic.  She reflected on another funeral, which had taken place more than sixty years ago on the small island of Ikaria in Greece where she grew up.  She could still see the smiling face of her father as he held her little brother’s hand and waved to them from the fishing boat.  She unconsciously reached into the small pocket on the inside of her purse and fingered the frayed and worn photograph.  Her father had been just thirty-six years old; her brother, with dark curls spilling over his collar and smiling eyes, a mere seven.  And then the accident.  She shuddered, flooded with feelings of grief and pain that were undiminished with time.  It was a blow from which her mother never recovered and Sophia understood that she, too, was affected by the double loss in ways more profound than she knew.  She had married Andreas and left Greece a few short years later to come to America.  Perhaps that was the hardest thing of all—to leave her mother an ocean away, alone and mourning.  There is something wrong in the order of nature when a parent buries a child, even if that child is an adult, she thought, lifting her eyes to the casket once again.  

Andreas, as if reading her mind, put his arm around her shoulder, holding her close to his side, and she felt a warm suffusion of gratitude move through her body.  She was thankful for this kind, strong man who had never let her down, whose love she trusted implicitly.  They had begun a new life in America and the years had been good to them, long years filled with memorable times and children of their own.  Today, however, they were paying their last respects to a man whose life was cut short.  He would miss so much.  She thought about all the family milestones and celebrations still to come.  If it were up to her, no sorrow would ever touch her children, but no matter how hard she tried to protect them, in the end, all she could do was be there to comfort them, just as her mother had been there for her.

The Greek Orthodox priest appeared from behind the lattice-carved wooden screen dressed in his vestments, and, carrying a large gold-encrusted Bible, turned to face the congregation. She still couldn't believe he was dead.  So much had happened in one short year.  She closed her eyes and thought back to that perfect last summer in Ikaria.

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