It sickens me to see a con-artist take advantage of trusting individuals. Yet, I was prevented from sounding a broad alarm. In this case it involved a rogue “publisher” who left a bad taste in the mouths of various authors and a trail of deception in his wake.

Back in January I received an invitation to work on a short story compilation with a fellow writer. As usual, I researched the publisher’s background and ran across some major red flags. The official website had none of the books I expected, and this other alleged publisher’s name was overtly missing.

I continued digging. On a writers forum, several authors stated that this publisher was using a pseudonym. In addition they charged him with using stolen graphics for their covers. This made huge waves that reached all the way to Hollywood. (For some reason, using graphics taken off a poster from a blockbuster movie made quite a stink).  The moniker for this alleged publisher? The Ice Cream Man taken from his apparent false name: Giovanni Gelati — Joe Ice Cream.

I smelled a con-job. I’ve done investigative journalism in my younger years, so, I decided to do a bit more digging before  warning the writing community at large. I wrote the publisher in question at the email address my fellow writer had given me.

“I have been trying to research your publishing company Helping Hand Press, however, the only company website I was able to locate is a Christian publisher Helping Hands Press, established in the 1980s, that specializes in black authors. So, I’d like more information about your company. When was Helping Hand Press established and what is its mission statement?

What is your vision for the —— series? Who is the editor who will be working with the authors on the series? Is this an in-house editor, or a contracted editor? How will the series be marketed? What is the deadline for the project? How are the authors being selected?  What percentage of royalties can the authors expect?”

Publishers who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. They don’t have a problem answering questions from potential authors. This guy? He started out with “Gee you don’t hold back do you?” then posted two links to his website and gave no legitimate answers.

By-the-way, at the end of his email he had posted this pseudo-legal notice:

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTE: The information transmitted, including attachments, is intended only for the person(s) or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged material. Any review, retransmission, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon this information by persons or entities other than the intended recipient is prohibited. If you received this in error, please contact the sender and destroy any copies of this information.

This is rather laughable in light of what else I discovered.

The Helping Hands Press website he sent me to looked dodgy at best.  I contacted the legitimate Helping Hands Press and spoke to the CEO. No, they’d never heard of Giovanni Gelati, and no, he wasn’t associated with them at all. In fact, she was shocked that he was using their registered publishing name.

So, Trestle Press Publishing had ripped off another publishers name?  Yet another strike against Giovanni Gelati’s integrity in my book. Still, I needed to know more.  I conducted an internet search for Giovanni Gelati and Helping Hands Press. Yep, he was still operating through Trestle Press Publishing, though now he had put a “Christian” facade on his dealings. But was Giovanni Gelati his real name?

Using a reputable service I searched some more. Nothing. Giovanni Gelati did not exist, so it seemed. So, I tried again using the name that one of the burned authors had posted on the forum as one of Giovanni’s aliases. Bingo! Michael Brachelli’s record revealed that one of his mailing addresses matched that of Trestle Press Publishing. Now, I needed some more information on how this guy operated.

It didn’t take me long to directly contact a few of the authors who had been burned by the Trestle Press Publishing debacle. One former client contacted me with some devastating information: Giovanni Gelati had ignored legal papers demanding that he return the rights of an author’s manuscript. I waited for a copy of the court documents.

On January 31, 2013, I made a few phone calls to see if Trestle Press Publishing or Helping Hands Press were even registered in “Gelati’s” home state of Pennsylvania. The woman at the state government office told me that there were no businesses registered by those names. The woman said that the business MUST be registered in the state of Pennsylvania in order for him to legally do business. In addition, someone tried to register Trestle Press Publishing in October 2012, but that application was rejected, and the person did not try again. The name of that person? Michael Brachelli.

Hmmm, so, during the major graphics scandal back in 2011, Trestle Press Publishing wasn’t even doing business legally in Pennsylvania. Interesting…

I contacted an agent who had signed some clients with this guy and passed on the info I had found. The response: The information I discovered was not true. Michael Brachelli was Giovanni Gelati’s business partner, and the problem regarding the covers was just ignorance on Giovanni Gelati’s part. All of that had been taken care of long ago.


My email notification went off. There in all its 29 pages was the legal complaint against Michael Brachelli a/k/a Giovanni Gelati d/b/a Trestle Press in Pennsylvania. Yikes! These were really serious charges. I got permission to share the complaint with the agent and a few other key people who needed to know what was going on.

Then we waited….

I watched the Ice Cream Man’s “Christian” publishing venture take off.  Michael Brachelli finally registered Trestle Press Publishing with the state of Pennsylvania in February 2013. He signed several clients and got coverage on various web media sites promoting the publishing industry. It was as if nothing had happened.

I could only give vague warnings, not wanting to jeopardize the ongoing legal process. He’d have his day in court and be able to answer the charges himself.

This morning I received a copy of the final judgment against Michael Brachelli and Trestle Press Publishing. According to my source, Michael Brachelli a/k/a Giovani Gelati d/b/a Trestle Press never responded to the law suit. Yep, folks, he DEFAULTED, refusing to acknowledge the lawsuit on any level.


That raises even more questions regarding Trestle Press Publishing. If Michael Brachelli has no regard for the United States legal system, what makes anyone think he’s going to honor any other contracts he makes with authors and agents?

So, as a service to the writing community at large, I am publishing the public court documents for all to see. Here are both the final judgment and the complete legal complaint.  Draw your own conclusions.

Final Judgment
Full legal complaint against Giovanni Gelati

Something’s not right. I sat up in bed and listened for noises. Nothing. Still, I couldn’t shake the nagging sense of trouble.  Hubby was out of town on business, so that left just me and three-year-old Jason. I padded down the dark hallway into the kitchen. Had I left something plugged in?

A tiny sliver of light glowed in the second hallway leading to Jason’s room.  What was he doing this late at night? I pushed open his door. The overhead light flooded the room and now the hallway. There, with his back against the wall, sat my son. His stuffed animals surrounded him, all facing outward.

“Hey, Bud. What’s going on?”

I noticed Jason’s  terror-filled eyes. “Dere are monsters in da house.”

Monsters? I knelt beside him. “Honey, the only monsters allowed in our house are the Sesame Street monsters. And they’re all friends.”

It took a bit of coaxing, but Jason finally agreed to get back into his bed. I helped him get his stuffed animal collection resettled back into their own spaces. As I sat his giant Pooh Bear onto the toy box, a muffled voice spoke. The hairs on my arms stood on end. Jason froze, his eyes wide. “I told ya. Dere are monsters in da house,” he whispered.

There had to be a logical explanation. I moved Pooh and lifted the toy box lid. The voice got louder. “Let’s go for a ride,” it shouted. After a moment of rummaging through the toys, I located the offender–a seemingly innocent tugboat that had been a gift from a pastor’s wife just a few days before. Why hadn’t I noticed the battery compartment?  I held it up. “Here’s your monster, Jason.”

I grabbed a screwdriver from the kitchen drawer and removed the power source from the tugboat.

“Bad toy,” Jason scolded. “Dat will teach ya.”

We made sure the tugboat’s little airplane companion also lost its batteries. Who would have thought two innocent gifts would cause so much trouble? Sanity returned to our home, or so I thought. However, the incident had awakened an intellectual monster that would take over our lives.

Jason developed an insatiable appetite for more time to do stuff.  He had discovered the fascinating aspects of the night world. The fireflies outside of his window blinked invitations to adventure. (Thanks God for childproof door blocks.)  My son also began crafting an imaginary world–one that would both bless and haunt us for years.

One evening, several months later, Jason vented some frustration. “Why do I have to go to sleep anyway? It’s a waste of a perfectly good eight hours. I could be doing experiments.”

Oh, LORD, would I never sleep again? I took a deep breath and shot up a prayer arrow for wisdom. “Bud, you said you wanted to get big. Well, you have to sleep because that’s when your body grows. That’s the way God designed things.”

Jason’s disgruntled expression hid the whirring wheels inside his head. Over the ensuing months and years, my son became obsessed with rigid routine. If we had to change anything in the daily schedule, he’d have major meltdowns. He became defiant and oppositional. I was at a total loss.

When Jason turned eight,  our family doctor referred him to a neurosurgeon. I related the mounting issues with my son’s rigidity.  “He never sleeps,” the doctor informed me. “He spends his entire night plotting out each moment of the next day. Isn’t that right, Jason?”

My son scowled.  “Yeah, so what? You can’t make me sleep.”

The doctor turned back toward me. “Here’s what we’re going to do. An hour before bedtime, give him one Benadryl. This will help him wind down. Trust me. He’ll be a different kid.”

Convincing Jason to take the medication seemed a daunting task…until I threatened to remove his imagination. For some reason he believed I had that power, so he cooperated. His planning time dropped to an hour before he fell into a deep sleep. His obsession with routine abated, though the defiance had taken hold. We’d tackle that stronghold months later with the help of a savvy psychologist and case of poker chips. But that’s yet another story.


*all stories revealed in this blog post have been approved for public airing by the subject in question.


Copyright 2012 Anne McDonald

Jason, age 7, armed for bedtime

My son came pre-loaded with his own entertainment system—one that kept him busy for hours on end. He enjoyed listening to children’s books and then acting out each story. Jason loved Curious George. Here was a creature with as wild an imagination as my son, yet HE didn’t get any consequences. After a few hair-raising episodes that mirrored the storybooks, I banned the beloved monkey from our home. Forever. A relative peace returned.

After Jason turned three, I encountered a rather strange event. One morning my son stood in the living room, alternately punching the air and ducking. I watched, fascinated. “Mama,” he hollered. “Tell Pigwet to cut it out.”

Piglet? Poor unassuming Piglet? Jason continued his battle for several minutes, until he finally fell to the floor, exhausted. Since I didn’t have invisible friends growing up (though I did pretend to be Snoopy’s secretary for a time), I had no idea how much the lines between fantasy and reality had blurred in my son’s mind.

Jason and his three closest friends played invisible baseball games. My son served as the pitcher while imaginary beings hit the non-existent ball. Jason drew his playmates into his imagination so well that Alexis, Cody and Lizzie would cheer for the runner and scream for him to slide home.

As Jason grew, so did his creativity. In December of Jason’s fifth year our family prepared for an imminent move from Vermont to northern Arizona. One day Piglet required emergency surgery that only my son could perform. However, said surgery conflicted with the real-world necessity to take care of some business in town so we could move on time. Fireworks ensued.

Livid, Jason stomped his foot. “No, Mama,” he insisted. “If I don’t opewate, Pigwet will die.”

His words failed to move me. “Piglet will be fine, Jason. You’ll just have to do the surgery later.”

He threw his plastic stethoscope to the floor. “Dere. Pigwet is dead and it’s all your fauwt.”

I was at a complete loss. I released a prayer arrow. Dear Lord, what do I do? Almost immediately I had the answer. I knelt in front of my furious offspring. “Jason, imagination is a wonderful thing. You can pause it. You can stop it. And you can rewind it. Just like a video tape.”

He scowled for a moment, and then the light bulb switched on. “I can we-wind it?”

“Yes, you can rewind it. And you can change the story in your mind to be whatever you want. This is why it’s called imagination.”

“Okay, den.” Jason picked up his stethoscope and packed it in his plastic medical bag. “Pigwet is fine.”

Don’t think for a moment that this resolved the bigger issue. Things slowly spiraled out of control again. The next crisis came in the form of a very sticky imaginary situation that my son believed was real. Once again, God provided me with a solution—a time machine created with a clothes closet.

When Jason returned to the present, we had a long, serious talk about reality vs. fantasy and how to tell the difference. With all the seriousness of a repentant seven-year-old, he promised not to cross the line in that way again. And he didn’t. He found ANOTHER line to cross, instead.

This time, it came in the form of monsters. I’m not exactly sure what caused this episode of wild thinking. Perhaps the move to southern Arizona had thoroughly stirred up hidden fears inside his mind. At any rate, he was convinced that monsters came out at bedtime, and he needed to protect himself. No manner of explanation satisfied him.

I released a prayer arrow for guidance. In response I got a vision of a water spray bottle with the words “Monster-B-Gone” written in black marker on the opaque plastic. Within minutes I concocted a toxic blend of spices, soap, water, vinegar and a secret ingredient, lethal for unwanted monsters. It worked. Jason would ensure I mixed a new batch every night, and he would fall asleep with a death-grip on the water bottle.

God proved His faithfulness throughout Jason’s  childhood. I found a pivotal anchor in James 1:5:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (NIV)  Eventually, my son turned his imagination toward more productive venues—music compositions, homemade television shows, a comic series, and writing. No matter what road God leads Jason on, our family knows that He will give us wisdom whenever we ask.

*all stories revealed in this blog post have been approved for public airing by the subject in question.

Copyright 2012 Anne McDonald

When Ethan and I welcomed our bundle of joy into the world about twenty years ago, we had no idea what we were getting into. Someone failed to give us the fine print of the “owner’s manual” so our parenting road became littered with various successes and failures from our trial and error approach.

Raising children hadn’t exactly come as a total surprise to me, as I had to take on a maternal role when I was only nine. My mother was in the hospital off and on, and I had three younger sisters and three older brothers who kept me busy. As an adult, I had also worked on the streets with gang members, drug addicts and alienated teenagers. However, nothing prepared me for the arrival of this inquisitive bundle of rebellious opinion determined to rule the world.

Besides Jason’s daily mission to submarine any efforts to get him to nap, he focused his energies on two other major tasks. First, he went gunning for every bit of safety equipment set up to keep him out of trouble. Then he fine-tuned his manipulation skills. On many occasions I’d come home to find my confused husband mumbling at the ceiling. The “kid” had bamboozled him yet again. Why hadn’t he seen it coming?

You know the old curse, “you’ll have children as bad as you were or worse”? Since I had been a compliant child, I couldn’t quite grasp the motivation behind my son’s driven ambitions—at least until I learned my husband’s dark secrets from his mother.

With God’s help, Ethan and I maneuvered past major disasters, with little more than a few extra gray hairs and a determination to stay at least five steps ahead of the little twerp. However, when Jason turned eight, the possibility of juvenile detention loomed in his future. Full-on rebellion took hold, sending us on a rollercoaster ride that lasted three years. Between running away and trying to burn down our home, he seemed bent on destroying himself and us.

I  threw myself on God’s mercy and quickly discovered the truth found in Isaiah 30:18 and 21 “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him…Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” (NAS)

Soon I started recognizing His voice directing me throughout my day. To Jason’s disgust, the LORD would warn me of the kid’s specific impending plans in time to circumvent disaster—usually without me even seeing him. “God, that is NOT fair,” my son complained through gritted teeth.

Interventions, house alarms, and highly structured, consistent discipline helped reign Jason in. Survival demanded that I become adept at slinging prayer arrows in the heat of the battle, and listening for God’s directions. Having a child bent on world domination certainly provided ample motivation for me to grow spiritually.

All of those difficult years in the trenches have paid off. Today, Jason is a confident young man who deeply wants to honor the Lord in every area of his life. Since our family’s challenges are not unique, he wants others to learn from those turbulent experiences. Thus the inception of Mommy Confidential. Hopefully these posts will give others hope along the way. Stay tuned. There’s more to come.

Copyright 2012 Anne McDonald

*all stories revealed in this blog post have been approved for public airing by the subject in question.

“Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife… An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.” Proverbs 26:21; 29:22 (NAS)

When I first met *Peggy, she came across as a prickly religious cactus—deeply opinionated and easily offended. Still, I befriended her, hoping to show God’s love by accepting her—prickles and all.

The relationship developed slowly over three years. She kept most people at a distance, carefully controlling outside contact. Peggy shielded deep emotional and spiritual wounds with a dark cloak of bitterness. She kept a life-long tally of those who had offended her, refusing to embrace forgiveness.

Still, I knew that God wanted to heal her heart. My family understood the risks, and we were willing to be His tools. We’d just have to guard our hearts. Over time we discovered in Peggy a brilliant, talented women with a quirky and fun sense of humor.

We enjoyed her company, sharing hearty laughs together. Whenever God blessed our family, we shared the bounty with hers. However, I began to sense some kind of unspoken competition building over the years. Peggy would make off-handed comments about how easy my life seemed. Sure I could make homemade bread—I had the right kind of equipment. So, I gave her my electric bread maker and the recipe book. She never used them. Nothing I said or did lessened her critical attitude toward me.

When some friends gave my family a van, Peggy wasn’t happy for us. Instead she became pensive. She couldn’t understand why God hadn’t given it to her instead. How odd, I thought. Why would she expect anything from people with whom she had no relationship?

Soon afterwards she started picking arguments with my teenage son. If he didn’t support her particular viewpoint, she would accuse him of putting her down. My son felt confused. Eventually we realized that Peggy counted all opposing viewpoints as direct assaults on her individual worth. Small infractions began to send her into a torrent of verbal and physical expressions of rage.

My family would back away and let God heal our hearts. After a bit of time passed, she’d contact us again, apologetic yet never repentant. She always had some explanation: her husband’s passivity, problems with the kids, her daughter’s surgery, her mother’s illness and subsequent death, her sisters’ jealousy. Again we’d guard our hearts and enter her life again.

I knew God wanted to heal her heart, but she seemed to stay just beyond His reach. Peggy spoke of how the LORD had been talking to her about making specific changes in her life. She just “wasn’t ready”.

Peggy regularly ranted against the commercialization of Christian holidays. She hated anyone who tolerated Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Real Christians didn’t embrace such things, she said. Yet Peggy introduced her young family to horror movies and scary books. This made no sense to me since her six-year-old boy already struggled with terror.

When I questioned the wisdom of Peggy’s choices, she became indignant. She insisted that if the books were good enough for her sister’s kids, they were good enough for her. (Later I found out that Peggy had lied. Her sister had never let her two sons read that series.)

During the last few days of contact with Peggy, I sensed that she stood at a crossroad. Rebellion beckoned from one direction, healing from the other. I prayed she would toss aside her cloak of bitterness and step into the light.

On an August morning, I watched Peggy slip into darkness. The final catalyst came the in the form of a renegade Chihuahua who liked to chase cars on our busy road.

Peggy had stopped by to get my son and me so that we could help her with a project at her house. Shortly after she pulled into the driveway the belligerent little dog darted across the road, into the ditch then turned back—right under the wheels of a blue pickup truck.

I hurried outside. Peggy and a bystander launched a verbal assault against the person driving the truck. Peggy’s disabled daughter joined in the fray, repeating every filthy, hateful word that came from her mother’s lips.

The driver, a teenage girl, seemed confused and shocked. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see it,” she repeated over and over. She had turned deathly pale and trembled. Peggy’s verbal attacks increased. “You’re not sorry,” she insisted. She called the teen a dog murderer.

After wrapping the dying dog in a towel and removing it from the road, I comforted Peggy’s victim. A neighbor and I assured her that she wasn’t at fault. The dog had a habit of chasing cars. The girl had done nothing wrong.

My son tried to calm Peggy down by explaining that the driver couldn’t have seen the dog in time. She turned her rage on him. “You’re an idiot if you believe that,” she screamed. My son held his tongue and walked away.

She cancelled our project plans and drove back home. The day’s events left my son shaken. He had lost all respect for Peggy and had become terrified of her bouts of rage. “I forgive her, but I never want to deal with her again,” he told me. While I deeply cared for Peggy, I could also understand my son’s limitations. Her abuse had definitely crossed the line.

A few weeks later, after a special event at the church my family attended, Peggy and I had the opportunity to talk things over. When I quietly explained that my son had become terrified of her rage, she hardened her heart. How dare he say something like that? Over the next several minutes she ranted over what she felt were injustices. My son’s hurt feeling were his responsibility, not hers. The teen driver on my road should have crashed the truck rather than hit the dog. People needed to see Peggy’s points of view rather than try to hold her accountable.

I listened without interrupting, praying that God would give me wisdom. Finally, Peggy stood. “I can tell by your silence that you disagree.” She started to walk away.

I tried to explain that I was just waiting for God’s promptings before speaking.

“That’s because I’m WRONG, as USUAL.” Her nose in the air, Peggy trounced out of the church without looking back.

Further attempts to reach out to Peggy were met with scorn and derision. She seemed to relish the discord. It hurt to watch her give into Satan’s destructive plan.

Devastated by Peggy’s attitude, I started asking hard questions. How had I failed her in our friendship? Had I missed opportunities to point her to God’s healing? Had I failed to speak up? Guilt assailed me. I dissected every conflict, looking for where I could have improved.

I also wrestled with anger. Peggy really believed others held the blame for their own hurt feelings? She valued a stranger’s dog over a human life? No one had the right to hold her accountable for her actions? Didn’t she accept responsibility for anything? This all sounded like insanity. How could a reasonable person embrace such lies?

The whirlwind of emotions offered nothing but pain. I turned Peggy over to God’s hands time and again. Whenever she came to mind, I spoke prayers of forgiveness. Finally the LORD’s small still voice broke through my turmoil. I had no power to change anyone. He had asked me only to love her and deliver messages of warning, hope and healing. Only Peggy could take responsibility for her own choices.

Now I stood at my own crossroad. My experiences with Peggy could easily turn into bitterness and contention. Why should I reach out to wounded people ever again? I had the right to protect myself from any future pain. However, I knew this attitude would only expand the enemy’s territory. No matter what, I couldn’t let that happen. Instead I reached for Christ’s hand and limped down the other road.

While it didn’t happen overnight, my wounded heart and spirit did heal. My experiences have encouraged me to lean hard on the Savior and dig deeper into His Word. He’s taught me more about spiritual warfare and my role in His kingdom. I’ve also learned more about setting and enforcing healthy boundaries. There are many more challenges ahead, but I know that as long as I keep my eyes and ears tuned to Christ, He’ll lead me where He wants me to go.

*Name changed for privacy reasons.

Copyright 2012 Anne McDonald