Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Interview With Christopher Stratakis, Author of Appointment with Yesterday

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author?

Since I was a teenager, I loved writing; I wanted to communicate my emotions with the outside world in print. This inner urging was expressed in various forms, i.e. by writing short stories, essays, articles and an occasional poem.

What led you to create a story line that was partially inspired by your life?

Again, writing this novel was the culmination of those inner urgings to share with the outside world, fictionalized life experiences of lonliness, abandonment, terror, dashed dreams and eventual redemption.

What percentage of this story is taken directly from your experiences growing up on a Greek Island?How many of the characters were created from memories of friends and relatives you grew up around?

I would say half of the story portrays my early and teen years, growing up in a remote Aegean island. Most of the characters appearing in the book during those adventurous and painful years, were inextricably intertwined with my childhood and teenage memories.

This is your first full novel? How did your previous writing experience help as you worked on a longer manuscript for the first time?

Indeed, this is my first novel. My writings over the years, however, honed my skills for storytelling and also served as a prelude to my ultimate goal to pen a full length novel. It was the natural evolution to a life-long series of writings.

How did you approach writing this book – scheduled writing time, writing when the inspiration hit or? Research? Marketing?

Review - HERE
I never approached writing on a time schedule basis. My urge to write appears unannounced. I knew I had a story to tell. I wrote my first manuscript, on and off, over a period of several years – perhaps as many as 10. It was based strictly on my memories and imagination. Then I redrafted, edited, refined and structured into groups and chapters the entire story, with the assistance of professional writers.

As an author – what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

I enjoy the experience of reviewing and providing meaning and structure to an original manuscript; i.e. the evolving process of editing, redrafting and re-editing, until I come up with a final version that satisfies my self-imposed standards. Writing the original manuscript may, sometimes, feel like a chore.

What would you most like readers to know about you?

That I am just another face in the crowd, with no pretentions. One who tries to give, rather than take; in essence, doing my best to pay the rent for the room of life given to me from Above.

Any advice for young authors wanting to write books in this genre?

Giving advice is trite and cheap, particularly when unsolicited. If a young boy or girl asked me, however, I’d just tell them to be themselves and to trust their feelings.

What comes next? Do you have any new book ideas in development?

I have no specific plans for the immediate future. I’d just leave my instincts and inner urgings drive my future actions. Nevertheless, considering my restless emotions and exploring mind, I might find myself writing another story again.

Appointment with Yesterday by Christopher Stratakis

A poignant and compelling first novel. 

Synposis - 

Appointment with Yesterday tells the story of Yanni, a cheeky and delightful Greek boy growing up in a small town on an island in the eastern Aegean. Left in the care of his loving grandparents, Yanni endures the deprivation and terror of the German occupation during World War II and finally leaves his beloved homeland and family to rejoin the parents who had left him behind to make a better life for themselves in America.

Filled with heartbreaking and heartwarming stories of love, devotion, disenchantment, and dashed dreams, Appointment with Yesterday is, ultimately, the story of hardships overcome and a determined boy’s journey toward finding his destiny.

Review - 

Appointment with Yesterday is a wonderful example of an author taking past memories and using them as a foundation for a beautiful story line. Creating from personal memories brings an emotional depth to the book as well as offering places and people so real you can see them in your mind's eye.

In this, the author's first full length novel, we begin with the musing of an old man as he thinks back over his life. While most of the story dwells in previous times, we occasionally surface to today and reconnect with the story's narrator.

The book's main character is Yanni, a young Greek lad, living on a small island full of relatives and friends. His parents are far away in North America making a new life. Although he is curious about them, he is happy as he is surrounded by love. Then war brings Nazis to his beautiful island and everything changes. We see the fear, deprivation and loss through his eyes. We feel the hardship through his experiences.

Finally in his late teens Yanna heads off to reunite with his parents. Here the story takes us through what is it truly like to arrive in a country where you don't know the language, understand the culture or know how to fit in. Jobs are limited. It is a tough road with many twists and turns.

I love hearing people's life stories. Although only part of this book is based on the author's life, Stratakis did a wonderful job of crafting a story that rings true from first page to last. I hope to see more from this truly talented writer.

Meet the Author -

Fab author interview HERE!

Christopher Stratakis was born and raised in Greece. After moving to America, he graduated from Drexel University in 1951 and New York University School of Law in 1955. Shortly after joining the law firm of Poles, Tublin & Patestides in 1960, he became a partner, specializing in admiralty and corporate law.

He has written and published several articles, lectured on professional and historical subjects, served as Legal Advisor to several non-profits (pro bono), and was an arbitrator in maritime disputes. He is the author of Mnimes “Memories” (2010), a book of essays, short stories, and poems that he wrote as a teenager. In 2015, he co-edited Chains on Parallel Roads, a book published by Panchiaki “Korais” Society of New York. In recognition of his extensive community involvement, he has been the recipient of several awards from religious, governmental, and educational institutions.

Mr. Stratakis lives with his wife in New York City. He is the proud father of three and grandfather of three. This is his first novel.

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Thai Chicken Flatbread Pizza

Image by Life Made Sweeter
I decided to sign up for Yummly notices a few years ago. Honestly, it's often overwhelming getting their emails several times a week, each filled with links to recipes they are highlighting for various reasons. BUT, I keep seeing new, mouth watering ideas. Just wish I had more time to try them out.

The credits on this recipe requires a little more explaining. The image and the recipe as it stands are from a blog call Life Made Sweeter. In checking out the site, I saw a ton of great recipes, so I would give it a look.

However, the author notes that the basis for this recipe was adapted and reprinted with permission from a new cookbook by Trish from Mom On Timeout called 100 Creative Ways to Use Rotisserie Chicken in Everyday Meals, so I wanted to fully credit both.

The fillings really pile high on the naan bread, making each of the four pizzas super filling. My big eating men only had one each with a side of cut fresh veggies and a few bing cherries and were full. That in itself is incredible.

While I loved this recipe and would make it again, I found it didn't have as strong of a Thai peanut flavour as I expected. I'm going to try using the creamy peanut butter option next time to see if that ups the flavour. I also used a shy 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes as my husband doesn't like things spicy, but I could have easily used more as it didn't add more than a touch of heat.

Super easy to make, lots of fresh ingredients, only 10 minutes in the oven and super filling. Just what I needed to end a sunny, hot June day.  Kudos to both Life Made Sweeter and Mom on Timeout on their creativity.  And I'm going to have to check out that cookbook!

= = = =

1/2 C          Creamy or crunchy peanut butter (I used crunchy. Loved the extra texture,
                                but a little hard to spread)
1/3 C           Teriyaki sauce
1/2 - 1 tsp    Crushed red pepper chili flakes, optional
2 to 4           Pieces of flatbread or naan (I used 4 round Naan and is was perfect)
1-1/2 C        Diced rotisserie or leftover chicken
8 oz             Shredded mozzarella cheese
1                  Pre-shredded carrots (or 1 carrot cut into slivers)
1/2               Red bell pepper, cut into slivers or diced
3                  Green onions, sliced
1/2 C           Fresh pineapples, diced
1 C              Baby spinach (I chopped it a bit smaller)

Optional Toppings
Chopped peanuts
Fresh cilantro

Serves 4.
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine peanut butter, teriyaki sauce, and red pepper chili flakes in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 20-30 seconds and stir until completely combined. Spread half of the peanut butter mixture onto the flatbreads. Then, set aside.

Add the chicken to the bowl with the remaining peanut butter mixture and stir evenly to coat.
Top the flatbreads with about 5 ounces of the cheese. Divide the chicken, carrot, bell pepper, green onions, pineapple, and spinach evenly among the pizzas. Top with the remaining cheese and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if using.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with additional peanuts and fresh cilantro, if you'd like.