Thursday, April 29, 2010

Human Trial by Timothy N. Stelly Sr.

An article by Karen Rowan in The Christian Science Monitor (April 29, 2010) told us about Stephen Hawking's fear of an alien invasion. It said,"The human race could be devastated if aliens were to learn of our existence and venture to Earth, warned British scientist Stephen Hawking on Sunday." The article went on to explain why Hawking's opinion was unlikely to occur. But after reading Human Trial by Timothy Stelly you might agree with the famous British theoretical physicist. This book is another great read from All Things That Matter Press.

Timothy Stelly’s HUMAN TRIAL (2009, All Things That Matter Press) and HUMAN TRIAL II: ADAM’S WAR (2010, All Things That Matter Press), present the tale of a ragtag group of survivors of an alien-launched thermal war that has destroyed nearly all human amd animal life on the planet. HUMAN TRIAL raised the question, What happens when all that remains of the world is fear, distrust and desperation? HT II follows the group on a cross-country trek that results in a final, frenzied battle against the extra-terrestrial invaders.
Reviews for part one of Timothy Stelly’s sci-fi noir thriller, Human Trial, have been positive. Readers and critics from the U.S. and Canada have praised the book for its grittiness and frightening tenor.
“…Superb. It's as if I'm one of the 10 going through the same trials they are. I can hardly wait to read the next installment.”—T.C. Matthews, author oif What A Web We Weave
“The book scares me because of the possibility of this happening in our future and how we will handle it. Scary. Deeply thought out…Timothy definitely has his own voice and it is powerful.” —Minnie Miller, author of The Seduction of Mr. Bradley
“Human Trial was a well written, well thought out book with plenty of biting, satirical social, religious and racial commentary interspersed within the dialogue. The drama, and the pathos, were nonstop, and I never knew what to expect next.” –Brooklyn Darkchild, author of This Ain’t No Hearts and Flowers Love Story, Pt. I & II
“[This] story has been haunting me-reminds me of Octavia Butler's 'Parable of the Sower’…Stelly's work haunts me two years after I read it.”
--Evelyn Palfrey, author of Dangerous Dilemma and The Price Of Passion
“4 out of 5 stars. I felt the echoes of other notable science fiction novels, including "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia Butler, "Lucifer's Hammer" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and "Manhattan Transfer" by John E. Stith. Timothy Stelly creates a believable milieu of small-town America being turned upside down by forces beyond comprehension, and puts the reader right in the middle of the action.—Claxton Graham, review
“Human Trial is at once a sci-fi story, a look at the psychology of survival, and a timely cautionary tale regarding current environmental woes; our individual and collective responsibility to one another and to the planet…It is an entertaining and intricate story that can be read and enjoyed along with the likes of Mitchener, King, or Peter Straub. Stelly intuitively knows what everyday people will do to survive and how their interactions with each other will sound.”—Brian Barbeito, Columnist and author of Fluoride And The Electric Light Queen
“Gritty and intense, Human Trial will leave you stupefied and terrified, neither of which will protect your gut from wrenching. The message finally revealed is not only horrifying, but real, as is the omen foretold. Turning tables and unbalanced scales foster confusion and terror in an epic far greater than its words.” - Brian L. Doe, Author, The Grace Note, Barley & Gold; Co-Author, Waking God Trilogy
“Oh the suspense, the drama, the intensity, the love I’m having for this story…trust indeed that my adrenaline cannot go any higher. This will be a series finale you don’t want to miss.” – Walee, author of Confession Is Good For The Soul and What’s On The Menu? All Of Mw!
Timothy N. Stelly is a poet, essayist, novelist and screenwriter from northern California. He describes his writing as “socially conscious,” and his novel, HUMAN TRIAL, is the first part of a sci-fi trilogy and is available from, and in e-book format at Reviews of HUMAN TRIAL can be read at
HUMAN TRIAL II: ADAM’S WAR (All Things That Matter Press) is scheduled for release in MAY, 2010. Stelly also has a short story included in the AIDS-themed anthology, THE SHATTERED GLASS EFFECT (2009) . His story SNAKES IN THE GRASS, Is a tale of love, betrayal and its sometimes deadly consequences.
In 2003, Stelly won First Prize in the Pout-erotica poetry contest for his erotic piece, C’mon Condi.
Contact Info:
Both books available at, and
Visit me at: or

Human Trial is still available from and Paperback
$18.99, e-book (kindle) format, $10.99.

Read the Brian Barbeito review of HUMAN TRIAL at: Read more online reviews at and

"Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol." -- Steve Martin

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jury Duty II - Plea Bargain & Public Defender

There were a couple of things that surprised me when I recently sat on a jury. (See my post from April 20 for more about the trial.)

The first of these was the incompetence of the lawyer who was assigned to the defendant. He acted as if he hadn't bothered reading the case before the trial. All he did was misquote the witnesses as if he were hoping one of them would pass on an opportunity to correct what he said. But most of the misquotes wouldn't have improved the case for the defendant anyway. It seemed that this lawyer wasn't enacting a strategy as much as he was revealing how he wasn't paying attention. He argued that one of the girls had collected a mixture of her DNA and DNA from the defendant’s sperm on a washcloth, had injured herself in a way that was consistent with a rape injury, and had conspired with other young women whom she did not know previously. All this, he claimed, was to seek revenge for being told she couldn't attend the high school she wanted to attend. The evidence against the defendant was so strong it is possible that any lawyer would have had trouble preparing a defense, but it is hard to believe anyone else would have been so bad.

The other part of the trial that I found surprising was the sentence. The jury determines guilt or innocence, but the judge sets the sentence. In this case the man received seventy-two to eighty-four years, depending on his behavior. He's twenty-nine, so no matter if he's good or bad he's still going to spend the rest of his life in jail. But the plea bargain he was offered before the trial was for fourteen years. Seventy-two years was certainly more than I expected and fourteen was small enough that he could have been release while he was still young enough to harm another child. Choosing to go to court did not change what this man had done, but it cost him fifty-eight years. I could not understand why the length of time should differ so much based solely on his level of cooperation.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

They Plotted Revenge Against America by Abe F. March

My father-in-law had an apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey in 2001. He lived across the river from Manhattan. On September 1, 2001 he stood on his balcony and watched as the twin towers collapsed. A few days after that tragedy he came back from his work to discover that he was locked out of his building. A few men had lived in one of the apartments about two months before September 1. Apparently, they had been part of a terrorist cell that was indirectly involved in the attack. Federal agents were looking through the building hoping to find clues.

This week's blog tour is highlighting a thriller about terrorists who feel justified in attacking us. It is an important read, for all of us, because although this book is fiction what happened on 09/01/01 was not.

An American attack on Baghdad leaves heartbroken and angry survivors. Two families, one Muslim and one Christian, are wiped out; their young adult progeny are determined to avenge the loss of their loved ones. David Levy, an Israeli Secret Service Agent with a grudge of his own, knows just how to tap into the vulnerabilities that grief leaves, and organizes the training of select individuals whose desire for vengeance is strong enough to consider a deadly covert mission in America. Trainees will learn to blend in, disappear in the multicultural mix of the US and then infest the food and water supply with a deadly flu virus capable of mutating and infecting the human population. The antidote - if it works - will only be revealed under strict demands. Some team members come to realize that they could ultimately be responsible for millions of innocent deaths. Their actions could break the stalemate between the Israelis and Palestinians - or bring on unparalleled tragedy.

(Excerpt – page 148)
…Now she expected to endure the same fate at the hands of the security police, as she would have expected in Russia. She bit her lip. Her face took on a determined look. No, she would not give them what they want and they would not break her. Without her knowing it, someone had been sitting in the room observing her. She was startled when the person said,
“How did you come to know David Levy?”
“Who’s to say I know David Levy?”
“Are you denying it?”
“I simply want to know who is saying that I know him. And why was I abducted?”
“I’m asking the questions. You will answer them.”
“I am not required to answer any of your questions. You have kidnapped me and brought me here by force. And why must I remain blindfolded. Are you afraid to show your face?”
“I ask you again, how do you know David Levy?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“You impertinent sow.” He slapped her across the face. Her head snapped back like whiplash. The stinging of the slap was nothing compared to the fury she felt. If only I could get my hands on that person ,he would never slap me again, she thought…

Review by Malcolm R. Campbell for PODBRAM
”Terrorism frightens people because it operates outside the traditional rules of war. It's hard to combat because the attacks are no longer limited to people wearing military uniforms at well-formed battle lines: they can happen anywhere, at any time, and they may well target people who don't have any direct knowledge of the peoples and issues involved. Part of the terror is the pervasive feeling that nobody’s safe.

This is the arena of Abe F. March's chilling novel They Plotted Revenge Against America. The novel is chilling, not because it's filled with “just more violence” in the Middle East, but because the story occurs on American soil as survivors of the American attack on Baghdad blend in to mainstream society to personally extract revenge against everyday citizens.

They Plotted Revenge Against America is a plausible, sobering, intricate and effectively plotted story about a group of well-trained, well-coordinated teams who slip into the U.S. with forged papers and then painstakingly work through a plan that will infect food and water supplies with a deadly virus.

These team members are not the gun-wielding, grenade-throwing stereotypical terrorists we see in most TV shows and movies. They are everyday people who have suffered personal loss and who want to fight back. Once their mission is complete, they plan, if possible, to go back to their normal lives. As the mission unfolds, they alternate between excitement and doubt while trying to avoid detection, and in the process, they discover while blending into community life, that Americans are not the monsters they expected.

March’s story tends to humanize both the terrorists and their victims, showing Americans as largely unconcerned and ill-informed about the agendas and issues involved in the long-time conflicts between Israel and its Arab neighbors. On the other hand, the terrorists see themselves not as criminals but as soldiers responding to what they view as acts of war taken against their communities.

Since the overall mission leader is a double agent working for Israel's Mossad, group members must not only avoid Homeland Security and other U.S. law enforcement agencies, but the highly effective Israeli intelligence agency as well. This subplot is a nice touch in a book that suggests we're more vulnerable than we suspect.,.”

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Click here to see a video of a reading from Motherless Soul

My schedule was interrupted for a few days last week while I was on jury duty. It was an interesting experience, although it was quite disturbing at times. The man on trial had been accused of statutory rape. We found him guilty on all charges, so I suppose the term "accused" is no longer proper. He was a foster father who was having sex with his under aged foster daughters. The first girl was in his home for seven months, during which she had a birthday. This meant that there were two charges concerning his relationship with her, one when she was fourteen and one when she was fifteen. The second girl was only in the home for two weeks. She was fifteen. There was one charge concerning his relationship with her.

The second girl reported this man's activities to her guidance counselor, which is how law enforcement became involved. Her case was easy for us. There was DNA evidence and she was examined by a S.A.N.E. nurse (Sexual Abuse Nurse Examiner). The nurse testified in court that the recent tear in the girl's vagina was from a blunt force that was consistent with a sexual attack.

The first girl's case had us debating for some time. It was more of a "he said/she said" situation. The judge had instructed us to use our common sense and to determine who was telling the truth using the same skills we use in daily life. He also said that circumstantial evidence could be as important as direct evidence. We listened to witnesses, none of whom had seen anything first hand, and we weighed the pattern of behavior this man demonstrated. We each tried to determine our own threshold for "reasonable doubt" and, in the end, we all decided that the girl was the one telling the truth.

The man knew the backgrounds of the two girls and the fact that neither of them had anyplace to go if they lost their home with him and his wife. He seemed to be taking advantage of their desperate situation. The assistant district attorney referred to him as a predator and that was clearly accurate.

It is always difficult to look back on a situation like this one. I'm certain we did the right thing, but it is still hard to know how our decision impacted this man's life. I must admit I'm very happy to be back to writing and to the fictional problems of my characters.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lily's Odyssey by Carol Smallwood

This week's blog tour brings us Lily's Odyssey by Carol Smallwood, a story of a woman who, as a child, suffered from abuse and incest. Throughout the book she is discovering and dealing with the events of her childhood. It is a wonderfully written, poignant story.

Lily's Odyssey unfolds in three parts with the inevitability, impact, and resolution of a Greek play. The dialogue rings true, the concrete conveyed along with moods and half-tones to paint Midwestern middle class flawed characters with poignancy. The psychological detective novel explores the once largely unacknowledged: it is not only soldiers who get post-traumatic stress disorder and child abuse whether it is overt or covert incest is a time bomb. From daughter to grandmother, Lily's voyage is told with lyricism, humor, and irony using a poet's voice to distill contemporary American women's changing role in religion, marriage, and family.

Carol Smallwood has appeared in English Journal, The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, The Writer's Chronicle, The Detroit News. Short listed for the Eric Hoffer Award for Best New Writing in 2009, a National Federation of State Poetry Societies Award Winner, she's included in Who's Who in America, and Contemporary Authors. Writing and Publishing: The Librarian's Handbook, is one of her recent American Library Association books. Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages, co-edited, is her 22nd book.

From the Preface:

Weight of Silence, and Nicolet's Daughter were considered as novel titles but it remained Lily's Odyssey. Odysseus, the epic hero from Greek mythology in The Odyssey, helped by the gods with his band of men, maneuvers the Scylla and Charybdis passage as one of his many adventures in ancient times. Lily, from the Midwest, named by a gardener mother she doesn't remember, struggles with a subconscious she fears will destroy her. Her narrow passage is between reality and disassociation, her time the latter 20th and early 21st Centuries. Her odyssey without help from the gods, reflects a passage through linear labyrinths women interpret as round. Lily's fragmentation is echoed in the writing style.


That evening after we saw Dr. Schackmann, Cal said, "You must realize that building my practice takes all my energy, and accept that as reality." He was mixing his martini before dinner on the glass-topped mahogany sideboard. As he spoke, I studied the sideboard's inlaid rosewood and ebony squares, again thinking he was a good surgeon, widely respected, and it must have been my fault that I wasn't a good wife.
I got a coaster and placed it on the sideboard. He frowned and turned it so the pheasant on the coaster squarely faced him. "You don't even know why you're so dissatisfied," he said, and laughed. "How can you not even know that?"

At the luncheon, I made as many trips as I dared to the restroom without causing people to wonder if something was wrong with me. Inside the unheated cement block room, my long deep breaths came out like smoke signals when I opened and shut my mouth to relieve my clenched jaw, shake my head in disbelief. Each time I went in, I saw cracks in the ceiling that I hadn't seen before. Some natural light came through a small casement window dotted with snow, and I recalled making dots of snow on windows into fairy tale pictures when a child.
When people had complained about the cold rest rooms to Father Couillard, who was the priest before Father Mulcahy, he'd say, "Enjoy the cold while you can, my friends. Where many of you are headed, it will be plenty hot."


Smallwood is a watcher. Her eyes are unblinking. And her ears can detect the mercurial ticks of a heart. As a storyteller, she's as sure as any Preakness jockey. She knows when words need to clip-clop up to the gate, when to bide, and when to unfetter them, to let the truth loose. Truth thunders in Lily's Odyssey.
-Katie McKy, author of Pumpkin Town, Houghton Mifflin, and Wolf Camp, Tanglewood Press.

Smallwood is an incredibly gifted author with a broad range of experience. She demonstrates commitment to conscience in her work through Michigan Feminist Studies, The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, and Best New Writing 2009.
-Sandra Potter, CEO & Founder, Dreamcatchers for Abused Children,; co-author, Unnecessary Roughness: Till Death Do Us Part; The Child Abuse Survivor Project.

Lily's Odyssey
ISBN-13: 978-0984098453
All Things That Matter Press
literary novel

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ethel Waters: His Eye is on the Sparrow

Video of a reading of Motherless Soul.

Listen to Steve's discussion of Motherless Soul on The Authors Show:
Part One
Part Two

My wife and I go to almost every production at Triad Stage in Greensboro. It's a small theater with a wonderful, intimate mood. Most of the time the audience is on three sides of the stage, although one of those sides has more than twice the seats of the other two together. For one production they had some seats on the far side. Technically it was theater in the round for that show, but the majority of the audience was still on a single side.

The sets are always fantastic. It's worth the ticket price just to see the stage design. The latest show, Ethel Waters: His Eye is on the Sparrow, is no exception. They had rear projection going through a sheer curtain and, as always, they were careful about the tinyest details, from the sparrows hanging above the set to the blinking lightning during Stormy Weather.

On this night, however, this production had a problem. Cassandra Lowe Williams, the actress who played Ethel Waters in this one woman show, was phoning in the songs. There were a couple of numbers, including Stormy Weather that she carried off, but for the majority she almost spoke the lyrics rather than singing them. This Joint Is Jumpin' was one of her numbers and that great song certainly deserves to be done with some spirit. The odd thing about this actress was that she was terrific with the dramatic side of the show. I had to wonder if there was a reason her singing was weak. Perhaps she didn't feel well that night or maybe she was pacing herself.

I still would recommend this show. The pianist was great and, as always, the set was gorgeous. It was also fun to learn about Ethel Waters. She's an important part of our culture and this play is her story.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Shooting Angels" by Nicolas Sansone

This week our blog tour is featuring Shooting Angels by Nicolas Sansone. It is a funny, fast paced book that is an outrageously great read.

A NASA Space Shuttle plummets to Earth. A team of eight rescue workers plunges into a treacherous Texan wilderness to recover the wreckage, and become entwined in a cosmic conspiracy. An uncouth disembodied head enslaves an elderly rancher and uses his cellar as the war room of its campaign against God, a noir-style slickster with a buxom blonde wife and a taste for margaritas, who rockets down from the suburbs of Heaven on a comet to do battle with metaphysical evils. "Shooting Angels" races from the jungles of Texas, to the dark corners of undiscovered space, to the innermost reaches of the human mind, to the smoggy streets of Central Heaven, where people are free to give in to their most detestable urges. The novel asks its characters to confront their ordering theories of the universe, and raises questions of how we are to envision divinity in a technological age.

Review from amazon user S. Lemme: "Shooting Angels" is an immensely creative and eminently page-turning first novel from Nicolas Sansone. Sansone's imagination delivers a world in which the outrageous is entirely believable, the everyday and mundane are eerily unnerving, and God (as well as Mrs. God) is a truly relatable being. This fast-paced and quick read allows readers to readily consider the "big" questions of faith and reality with good measures of humor, compassion and irreverence. Sansone's tight depiction of his large cast of characters, who range from the ordinary to the downright bizarre, contributes to his characters' accessibility and believability (in the face of the extraordinary). After this read, I can only look forward to what will come next from Sansone's rich imagination. Though his characters and their predicaments may be out-of-this-world, to quote the novel, "They are born of the imagination, but so is everything real".

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Monday, April 5, 2010

My Aunt's wine

Listen to Steve's discusion of Motherless Soul on The Authors Show:
Part One
Part Two

Our Easter dinner had an exceptional twist to it this year. Or I should probably say pop to it, since it involved a couple of corked bottles. My cousin Joan and her husband Gordon have a winery in Washington state. They're doing quite well with it, but because of the distance between Washington and North Carolina I had never tried their wines. We recently received two bottles: a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Rose. We saved them for the Easter dinner so I could share them with our family and friends. And they were a hit!

The Cabernet Sauvignon was the first one we opened because so many people seem to favor that type. It tasted better than any Cabernet I've ever had and I know the others at the dinner would rave about it as freely as I do. But the Rose was the one I treasured the most. Joan dedicated this wine to her mother - my Aunt Rhoda.

I spent the summers of my youth on an island in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey's largest lake. Our house was positioned between the homes of my Aunt Jean and Uncle Quinn on one side and my Aunt Rhoda and Uncle Alan on the other. So I grew up knowing my Aunts and Uncles and all my cousins. Each family had a separate house, but the doors were always open. We ate dinners together in a large picnic area. And we shared the waterfront as well as countless small boats. When I was four years old Hurricane Hazel flooded the yards of those lake homes. In the laid back, fun loving style of our family we celebrated with a parade of boats paddling by the front porch of Aunt Rhoda and Uncle Alan's home. The event was recorded on 16MM film but I don't know who has the copy now. Living with an extended family is an experience more common to Mexico than to the USA, but I was lucky enough to experience it.

My mother was once in a serious auto accident. I was out at a concert that night and it fell to Aunt Rhoda to be the one to break the news to me when I came home. I mention that because it was typical of her to step up when a task was difficult. She was a very strong woman.

The following is printed on the label of the Rose my cousin Joan dedicated to her mother:

Wine Lore: This is the first Daven Lore Rose and with it we remember a special woman Rhoda Davenport, Joan's mother. No one person had more influence in making Joan the woman she is today. Rhoda, Hebrew for Rose, was a singularly gifted woman in knowing sometimes the best gift one can give is the steadfast belief of family. To Rose! To Rhoda! Enjoy!

Easter is a celebration of the promise of life everlasting. I believe it was a perfect time to remember my Aunt and to drink her wine.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Shaman Circus by Gail Gray

This week's blog tour entry is Shaman Circus by Gail Gray. It's a book I've returned to a number of times since I first read it. I find what happened in New Orleans after Katrina to be horrifying, of course, but also fascinating. Gray's book tells the story in a way it's rarely told, on the level of individuals. (See my review below.)

Shaman Circus by Gail Gray

In New Orleans following Katrina all bets are off; all masks dissolved. “Don’t forget the sham in shaman,” Jacob Laguerre lies to his new apprentice, Alex Hampton. When Alex, a twenty-eight year-old anthropology professor goes on field-study to post-Katrina New Orleans, he enters a chaotic and altered landscape where he’s psychologically, physically and spiritually challenged by the sarcastic mentoring of the mulatto, Laguerre, a current day voudou shaman.
Both Laguerre’s and Alex’s psyches struggle through stages of transition and rebirth as their lives are enmeshed with a group of quirky fringe-dwellers, as colorful and eccentric as New Orleans itself. Lily Hampton, a sculptor, torn between her love for both men; Mavis, an artist who spent nights in her attic, but survived the floods; Perry Laguerre, Jacob’s hermaphroditic twin, and Bad Jacqui, lesbian owner of a French Quarter bar: are pulled together to form the cynical but ultimately idealistic team who vow to stay in post-Katrina New Orleans.
They all follow a taut path between madness and redemption in the no man’s land of Refrigerator Town as they assist in the aftermath and healing of both the city and those who remain.
Shaman Circus is a magical realism/dark urban fantasy approach to the failure of the levees. This raggle-taggle group discovers how devastated and government-abandoned New Orleans leaves no quarter for societal charades and consumer societies. Cast adrift and crashing together they attempt to make sense of both internal and external wastelands, ultimately leading to transformation and sanctuary.

Review by Steve Lindahl, author of Motherless Soul

"Shaman Circus is a story of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The writing has great detail and provides an understanding of what life was like in that city with clarity that wasn’t in either the news media statistics or the graphic pictures provided at the time of the storm. I was especially affected by a section where an artist was cleaning her studio. When she discovered that one of her works was only half destroyed from water damage, she ripped off the ruined part and kept the rest hoping she could recreate the painting someday. Gray’s images of huge out of control trash fires and colorful Louisiana Voodoo rituals performed in half destroyed warehouses, pulled me into her story and held me there. There was also a fascinating love triangle between Alex, Jacob, and Lily. Their relationships swirled around with almost as much destructive force as the hurricane. Shaman Circus is the type of book that makes its readers want to slow down to carefully pull in every word. It is more than a good read. It is a wonderful journey." -

To purchase Shaman Circus:
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