Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Almost Raped...," from memoir KIDNAPPED TWICE


While I was still living at Aunt Jennie’s house, I started dating a boy from New York City. I don’t even remember his name or how I met him. His family had a summer home by the Lake, but not on my family’s property.

I was working at American Felt Company at that time, and the women there were very nice to me. This guy wanted me to meet him halfway between New York City and Cornwall, where I lived. I was shy and timid during those years. The women at work said, “No way! Tell him he has to come up here.”

He did travel to Cornwall, and he did seem like a very nice young man. One night, he came up from the City and told me he needed to pick something up from his family’s summer house. We pulled into their garage, and he said he would be right back. A few minutes later, he yelled for me to come upstairs from the garage. I did so, and when I entered the living room, he was lying naked on the couch and told me to sit on him. I told him, “No!”

He started grabbing me as I tried to get out through the door. He kept pushing me down, and he got me into a bedroom, at which point he told me to go ahead and scream, as no one would hear me. It was a fight. He was grabbing me and pulling me down, and I was kicking and punching to get back up. I guess I tired him out, because he finally let me go, and eventually he drove me home.

Because I was so upset when I got home, I told Aunt Jennie. She told my father. As it turned out, this guy’s uncle owned a bar and pizza place my father patronized. My father called the uncle, who called the father of the boy, at which time the father made the son write a letter to me stating how sorry he was and that he hoped that he would some day be lucky enough to marry a girl like me and hoped that his daughter would be a good girl like me. This was the only time I appreciated my father’s calling anybody on my behalf.

You think I would remember this guy’s name, but I don’t. Perhaps it is just as well I do not.


While I was living with Aunt Jennie, I found a man in his car who had shot himself in the mouth, committing suicide.

I was taking a ride up into the mountains, which I did a lot before I went to work on the late shift. The man had parked his car just off to the side of the road, so it was not easy to miss. I approached it cautiously and was shocked by what I saw.

Once I knew what I had seen, I drove to the Police Department as quickly as possible, shaking all the way. I walked in and told them what I had found and then ran out to get to work. They were running after me to get more information, but they let me go, as they knew who I was and could come to my place of work if they needed more information. I saw that dead man in my imagination for years afterwards. Even now, if I see a car parked on the edge of the road and it does not seem right to me, I call 911 instead of walking up and looking into the car.


Before I ran away from home, when I lived with my father and Ann, my stepmother, almost every day I had to wash and dry clothes. I would fold or hang them all, and Ann would put them away. When it came to my room, Ann would wait until I was asleep, come into my room, put the lights on, and wake me up! If I acted as if I were still sleeping, she would grab the back of my hair and lift me up to make sure I was awake.

Sometimes I try to think of something good I could say about my stepmother. I cannot.

Every night at bedtime, we would be expected to kiss my father and Ann good night. I would rather have gotten a beating than kiss either of them. I remember going to school with two black eyes. They made me wear dark glasses and say that I had poison ivy in my eyes. The last thing I wanted to do was to kiss either of them.

This attitude rolled over to my adult life. Some of my in-laws seem to hug and kiss everyone within reach. It seems that they could hate a person and still hug and kiss that person. I used to not hug and kiss my closest friends, unless I had to. I’ve gotten a little better at it, but not much. When I do have a genuine affection for somebody, then we do hug and kiss.


Approximately a year after Aunt Jennie took me in, my father came to Aunt Jennie’s house and told us that Ann had changed and that I should come home. Aunt Jennie started crying and told me not to go!

That day, I moved everything to my closet at my father and Ann’s house. The next day I received a telephone call from Ann, saying the house was on fire. When all was said and done, the fire started in my closet. Ann had been going through my things with her cigarette hanging out of her mouth and the fire started! I lost everything but the clothes on my back, my car, and my dog. My father and Ann had their house redone, making it better than it had been. My losses were not repaid.

Sometimes, when I hear on the news of a child who has killed a parent, I think I wish that I had mustered the courage to kill Ann.

I think about Ann’s going through my things that first day after I had moved back home from Aunt Jennie’s house, because my father said that Ann had changed. Ann had her cigarette hanging out of her mouth, which caused that fire in my closet. Oh yes, Dad, she really had changed!

It is hard for me to justify or even understand the many stupid decisions in my life. Certainly, childhood abuse played a role.

I remember a special Saturday afternoon at Aunt Jennie’s house. Aunt Jennie was downstairs, and I was upstairs. All of a sudden, Aunt Jennie yelled to me, “Mary, Ann just pulled up front.” I ran to the bathroom and threw up. That never happened before or since.


We are serializing on my blog this memoir, Kidnapped Twice, by Mary E. Seaman and me. It was published by Outskirts Press, and is available in paperback and ebook formats from and other on-line booksellers.

See also my site

"They Make Me a Person," Ch. 19, memoir BUT...AT WHAT COST

I read an autobiography by Gertrude Bell a while back. She was recounting her experiences with the people of the Middle East during the late eighteen hundreds. As soon as I read the line “they make me a person,” I knew it captured the essence of what my Chinese students did for me. They made me a person.

I’d heard their culture reveres teachers and old people, but I’d never seen it in action – nor did it play out as I expected. I expected them to be appreciative and respectful and maybe bow a lot, but I didn’t know a little respect would make me feel so darned happy. I have been many things to many people: a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, an in-law, a businesswoman, a volunteer, and a friend – fulfilling roles all, but none of those roles boosted my ego quite as much as Chinese graciousness did.

I didn’t know why it was happening; I only knew I looked forward to a session with these young Chinese students as much as I look forward to a visit from the grandchildren, or a spring morning in the garden, or Christmas. I was infatuated with these people, but I didn’t know why.

Now, I’m guessing we older Americans just aren’t used to receiving so much positive attention from younger people. That is not to say that young Americans or my other students from other countries don’t respect me; they do. But, there is a difference. Excepting family gatherings, genuine social interaction between generations is very rare in Western cultures.

Granted, my Asian students were very grateful for the service I provided, and the Chinese equivalent of Miss Manners must demand they show their appreciation. However, they did not need to make me an honored guest at their weddings, bring me presents on Mother’s Day, or share their families’ New Year feasts with me.

I guess Chen said it best. He had treated me to a day in NYC’s Chinatown, and while we were eating dinner I commented that few American men of his age (30) would choose to spend so much time with a person twice his age. He laughed and said, “We like old people.”

When I told Connie of my infatuation with all this attention she said, “Well, they like you.” Yes, they do, but Randy and Sue and their friends like me too (I think), but I don’t get invited to their parties, nor do I expect to be. I attend Beth and Andrew’s parties, but they have little choice because I stay in their home when I visit. When I’m there I, too, get invited to parties they’re invited to, but I don’t think it’s because anyone wants me there; it seems more a courtesy.

The generations just don’t mix much in America. In my memory, they never have… at least not by choice, or often, or for very long. That’s too bad. I like being “a person.”

We are serializing Judy Axtell's blog here. Her book was published by Outskirts Press, and is available from on-line booksellers, including I am proud to have served as coach and editor.

See also my site,

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

7 Elements in Creating a Non-Fiction Book Title

This is based on an excellent Amazon Kindle ebook, BOOK LAUNCH, by highly successful writer and publisher Chandler Bolt. His book is subtitled How to write, market, and self-publish your first bestseller in 3 months or less AND use it to start and grow a six-figure income.”


Bolt notes that second only to its cover, a book’s title is most important in capturing the attention and approval of the potential buyer. His seven tips, seven elements for consideration, are for non-fiction books of the “How to…” genre.

Here are the seven elements:

1. Who is your audience? Picture that specific person in your mind. How will your book have most impact?

2. What will your audience gain? What benefits are you offering? Be specific.

3. Which benefits will grab the most attention? To be effective, be selective. Pain reductions beats pleasure promises!

4. Generate at least 25 titles, pick three. Use brainstorming and free-association. Keep writing titles until you tire. Get friends, associates, et al. to comment on which of the three they prefer. Run a contest?

5. Generate a subtitle. Emphasize benefits, clearly.

6. Make a specific claim. Bigger is better, as long as you deliver.

7. Optimize for search keywords, moderately. Although valuable, this can easily be overdone and become self-defeating.


In addition, put the title in large type on the cover, with the author’s name smaller, unless the author is famous. The little on-line book cover icons on and other on-line booksellers will shrink book titles, so make them prominent. Make the cover background simple, clear, and contrasting with the title font and color, again so the title stands out.

Chandler Bolt’s BOOK LAUNCH is packed with useful information and serves as an effective advertisement for his training program:


My writing-coaching-editing site is:

Monday, February 16, 2015

8 Steps to a Compelling "How To" Book Introduction

This summary is based on an excellent Amazon Kindle ebook, BOOK LAUNCH, by highly successful writer and publisher Chandler Bolt. The book is subtitled How to write, market, and self-publish your first bestseller in 3 months or less AND use it to start and grow a six-figure income.”


Bolt notes that number-one bookseller gives the first 10% of the book in its “Inside the Book” feature, so your Table of Contents and your Introduction need to be compelling. His eight tips are for non-fiction books of the “How to…” genre.

Here are the eight steps:

1. Identify the problem. Let the reader know what problem you will be solving.

2. Present the solution briefly. Your book will show how to solve the problem by….

3. Reassert your credibility. Tell who you are and why you wrote the book and why your advice should be trusted.

4. Restate the benefits. Tell reader what they will get, again, in more detail.

5. Give them proof. Tell some stories, briefly.

6. Make a promise. Bigger is better, as long as you deliver.

7. Warn against waiting. If they wait, they may lose out on benefits.

8. Get them to start reading immediately. Read it now, to be ready whenever.

Chandler Bolt’s book is packed with useful information and serves as an effective advertisement for his training program:

My writing-coaching-editing site is

Saturday, February 14, 2015

School Days, Continued, from KIDNAPPED TWICE


I was always made to play sports with Norman, Ann’s son, my step-brother. When we played baseball, he wanted to be the pitcher, I had to be the catcher. When he wanted to play basketball, I had to play also. In fact, I had to play basketball almost every night, after I cleaned up from supper.

At school they had a New York State basketball contest for foul-shooting ability. I won by making all 25 of my 25 attempts. I was given a nice trophy, which made Norman’s mother very mad. I never saw that trophy again!


While I was in high school, my father warned some of the boys to keep away from me. I don’t know how many boys my father called, but I do know of two for sure.

One was a boy who lived right next to school and would go home for lunch. I would have my lunch and then walk back to school with him. We were friends, and that was all. We had great conversations, but never even held hands. We were just friends. My father told him to keep away from me.

When we have had class reunions, he has waited for me to show up. The last one I attended, we all met for a boat ride up the Hudson River, and, as usual, he and I sat and talked throughout the trip.

The incident with the second boy occurred when I was going into my senior year in high school. Every day, everybody would stand around talking. I noticed a nice-looking guy, and I guess he noticed me. After he graduated, he sent me a letter in which he said he would like to take me to a movie. My father called him and his parents and told them never to contact me again. Odd.

No wonder everyone from my high school days remembers me!


One of Ann’s favorite things to do was to hide behind the door when I would open the kitchen door to enter the house. She would grab the back of my hair and drag me around the house. I still remember the hurtful and disgusting words she would call me!

I was responsible for the cleaning of the house, which would take some of my weekday evenings and pretty much the entire weekend.

On one of those hair-pulling and -dragging occasions, she had a bucket of water and ammonia. She pushed my face into the bucket, at which time I passed out. From that point on, I had to clean everything with ammonia.


I was the student who took around the attendance lists to the classrooms every morning. I would go to the main office to pick up the lists and start delivering them. I was a fairly good student in most of my classes, but my grades were never good enough for my father and Ann. If I got a B+, it should have been an A. If I got an A, it should have been an A+. This was even though I never had much time left for homework at home.

One day, as I was waiting for the attendance list, I noticed a pile of new, blank report cards. I took one and started making out my own report card. For a time it relieved my stress level at report card time, until I put myself on the honor roll by mistake! Well, all hell broke loose, and I was punished hard for that, but I did deserve it. This time they really did have something to punish me for. I had to work twice as hard to bring my grades back up, and deal with the madness at home.

It has taken me years to realize that some of my teachers and principals were trying to watch over me. The Principal would have me baby-sit his children. The English teacher, Mr. Bouton, would ask me every day to stay after class and erase the chalk board. Mr. Krug shocked me one day, as I always sat in the front row. He said, “Has everyone noticed what beautiful blue eyes Mary has?” I wanted to crawl under my desk.


One day in high school we were having music class. Mrs. Callahan was the substitute teacher that day. She was playing the piano and asked me to sing while she played. I don’t know why it all came out sounding so good that day, because I normally was scared to death singing in front of anyone. When we were finished, she stood up and said to the class, “Take a good look at Mary now because she’s going to really be somebody.” As you will read here, I never became that somebody.

After I got out of school, most people who were in my life never knew that I could sing.


The day I left home, intending the departure to be forever, I was 16, just recently graduated from high school. I had a job that was on the second shift, so I waited for Ann and her sister to leave the house to do their daily shopping. I put what I could into a paper bag and left. I went to the town park, as I had every intention of sleeping in a small shed the town had on its property.

My cousins were at the park, and I told them what I was doing. They went to Aunt Jennie and came back to tell me to go to Aunt Jennie’s house. That day I started living with Aunt Jennie, and for the first time since I had been with my grandmother, I was not afraid. I was happy!


In contrast, I remember my real mother, Elaine, coming to visit me while I was living with Aunt Jennie. Aunt Jennie had told me that she always liked my real mother. My mother and I took a walk. I was much taller than she was. She told me that I had a cleft chin, but I had no idea what that was back then. She was blonde and pretty. That’s all I remember, except that she gave me a pearl ring, which I wore for many years.

Ann angrily accused my father of giving me that ring. She carried on about that ring for a long time.


We are serializing in this blog the memoir KIDNAPPED TWICE; Then Betrayed and Abused, by Mary E. Seaman and myself. It tells of the long-lasting effects of child abuse by Mary's step-mother and father. It also describes her efforts to help her own step-daughter, and it shows her love of all animals. The book is available in paperback and ebook formats from and other online book sellers.

My other site is

"The Joys of Tutoring," Ch. 18, BUT...AT WHAT COST

  While nothing can quite compare to being a gramma (the kids’ name for me), tutoring came close. I liked wallpapering and it was a worthy challenge, but tutoring was more personally satisfying. Prior to joining Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA), most of my accomplishments had been physical ones. Getting old sucks. Setting up staging in a stair-well and climbing around like a mountain goat while wall papering were very physical. I was far from being a great athlete, but I had coached Little League softball for many years, played competitive softball and volleyball well into my fifties, and played tennis until I ruptured my Achilles tendon playing tennis when I was 59. I couldn’t sing anymore, at least not as well as I wanted to. I couldn’t play sports anymore, at least not competitively. I didn’t want to hang wallpaper anymore because it was no fun doing it alone once Amy had moved to Georgia, and after the Achilles injury it was too physically demanding except for small jobs. As I said, “Getting old sucks.”

Tutoring saved me from entering a vegetative state. My brain still worked, so that’s the direction I headed. My long-time friend, Al Bojman, and his mother, Joan, had been after me for years to give it a try. She loved it, thought I would be good at it, and used Al as her recruiter.

Enter assignment number one: Ying was a returnee to the program. She had been in the States for two years and was living with and working for her brother in a local Chinese restaurant. She worked from eleven a.m. until ten p.m. six days a week, so we arranged to meet from nine to ten-thirty on Tuesday and Friday mornings. We got off to a slow start. I was inexperienced, and she was shy and entirely too polite. All that smiling and nodding had me completely fooled into thinking she was learning. Not!

Somewhere in the middle of our third session she allowed her eyes to glaze over. A definite breakthrough. I adjusted my technique and we got on track. Two sessions after we achieved a comfort zone, students number two and three arrived on the scene. They walked in the LVA room with Ying, said “Hi” and sat down.

Ying said, “You teach, okay?”

Well, I had no idea if it was okay or not, but they were sitting there smiling, waiting for me to say something. I turned to the new arrivals and said, “My name is Judy.” I got a smile and a nod from each. I tried again, “You are?” Nothing. “Your name is?” Nothing – no waiting for glazed eyes with these two.

Oh, my, I thought as my eyes glazed over, too. Fortunately, Ying noticed my dilemma and jumped in for the introductions. Lan knew a few waitress-related words, but Lin’s English vocabulary started and ended with “Hi.”

I’d been through many, many hours of training, but I was not really prepared for such low-level students. Ying was a level two; these were zeroes. I picked up my bag, thanking the language Gods I’d brought it that day, grabbed a few props to demonstrate actions and got to work. “Put the spoon in the cup. Put the cup on the table.”

I was immediately hooked. I simply LOVED working with lower-level students… and there was no shortage of them in Middletown’s Chinese restaurants. They just kept coming and coming. It got so I couldn’t buy Chinese food in Middletown; someone in every place that sold Chinese seemed to know who I was and wouldn’t take my money. I only took advantage once in a while. “You come eat Mother’s Day.”

“Okay.” Such a gracious people.

The best side-effect of my tutoring years was learning about cultural influences. My attention to culture was inspired both by my training, which emphasized not offending – as if we were a bunch of American chauvinists, and my up-close, personal observations of my students. The first few years, I was bathed primarily in Eastern Patterns of Culture because I worked almost exclusively with Chinese students. Afterwards, my horizons expanded to include other Eastern, Middle Eastern, and South American countries. My exposures were very revealing and in many ways confirmed my sociological beliefs and subsequent political evolution.


We are serializing on my blog Judy Axtell's
BUT...AT WHAT COST: A Skeptics Memoir,  available in paperback format from and other online book sellers. This chapter foreshadows her transition from liberal to conservative. I am proud to have coached Judy and to have edited the book.

My other site is




Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Double Your Money in a Day

Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.

If you are like me, you are exposed to many advertisements and emails offering to tell you, for a fee, how to get rich quick. My free advice comes without charge.

I’ve got nothing against getting rich, and quicker is better. I’ve decided to tell you how to double your cash in a day and to offer to sell you my special course on quadrupling your cash that same day.

First, though, I must offer the usual disclaimers: past performance is no guarantee of future results, and you should consult your own financial advisor if you are not sure you understand the method, its potential, and its risks.

The method need not take a whole day, but I’ll assume it will take you that long to reach and return from a place that offers high-stakes roulette, like Atlantic City or Las Vegas.

When you get there, spend about half an hour watching the roulette wheel. If black numbers come up surprisingly often, much more than half the time, then eventually you are going to bet on black, as in the expression “being in the black.” Conversely, if the machine shows some strong preference for the red numbers, go with the red. Do not accept the fallacy of “the maturity of the odds,” which would indicate that seeing lots of reds mean a black is overdue. No, unless the wheel is askew, black and red should each be the result about half the spins, except for those pesky green values 0 and 00.

You are about ready to take the opportunity to double your money. Put it all on black or all on red, preferably when some other big bettor is taking the other color, so the house has no incentive to cheat, if it could. Approximately half the time, you will win (except for 0 and 00 results). Stop right there, collect your money, and you will have doubled it. Walk out and do not return.

If you should happen to have invested in the wrong color and lost, you can treat this as a valuable lesson, perhaps deductible as a business educational expense.

Yes, it is possible to gamble on the stock market, taking options, perhaps highly leveraged, and doubling your money if the market goes up that day as you predict (if you are a bull) rather than down or if it goes down (if you are a bear) as you predict, but the odds are not nearly so clear as they are with roulette.

Normally, this kind of appeal would have testimonials from successful practitioners of my method. Since I have just announced it, however, there has not been time for the successes to mount up and happy users to write glowing reports. If there were to be some who did not find success with my method and if they were churlish enough to write unpleasant comments, I would try to be man enough to include them, also. We rarely do see such negative reports printed, however.

For a limited time, those of you who contact me will be given the opportunity to register for my somewhat expensive course on quadrupling your money in one day. [Hint: it may involve betting twice in a row at roulette.]

“He must be kidding,” some of you will respond. You’d be correct.