Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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A Nice Surprise

February 10, 2017

It’s always a nice surprise when I encounter my artwork in unexpected places. Not long ago while vacationing in Sedona, Arizona, I picked up a copy of Arizona Business Magazine in the restroom of the bed and breakfast where we were staying. As I thumbed through it I spotted a familiar picture­—one of mine!


This generic image was included in my CD Business Fundamentals. I never know how or where my work will be used; the only restriction is the art can’t be marketed for its own sake, like a T-shirt design or wall décor. Illustration CDs are old school, not used much anymore, but I still receive royalties for individual sales. The magazine should have credited me for the image but they failed to do so.



Years ago when CJ was a teen, he happened by my studio, noticing on my desk a list of clients from Getty Images, the publisher of my CD. There were several dozen names listed but one in particular thrilled him.


“Dad, #12 on your list is incredible; it’s your biggest client, ever!”


The name he was excited about was Exxon Corp. This was before Exxon became ExxonMobil in 1999.


I laughed and said, “CJ, that’s not the biggest one of the list.”


He studied it more closely. “Who’s bigger than Exxon?”


I pointed out another name. “#7 is bigger than Exxon.”


He looked confused. “What company is that?”


The name confusing him was comprised of just three letters—IRS!


“What’s the IRS?” he asked.


“You’ll know soon enough,” I answered.


I have no idea how the Internal Revenue Service used my artwork, but I was careful to include all my sales that year on my tax return. By the way, is it just me or does the eagle on the IRS logo look more like a vulture?  



I hope everyone has a terrific weekend.




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Nice surprise! Hopefully you at least got payment if not credit.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on February 10, 2017
a buzzard would be even more appropriate! Have a great weekend!
By: Kathe W. on February 10, 2017
As long as you get paid for their using the image I suppose the credit doesn't matter.
By: PT Dilloway on February 10, 2017
I see the occasional bald eagle at our pond, but vultures/buzzards are commonplace. That is definitely a buzzard in that logo!
By: Kelly on February 10, 2017
Yes, the "eagle" is totally a vulture and probably more apt for the IRS anyway. Yay for seeing your own artwork in a magazine! I occasionally buy images for book covers. Getty is the most expensive, so I stick with cheap ones. Have a great weekend!
By: Lexa Cain on February 10, 2017
Yep, I wouldn't try to shave any of the IRS payments off your taxes! It is disheartening to have work used by others without credit, as I have experienced on a few occassions.
By: on February 10, 2017
ugh, that last post was by me :)
By: Sage on February 10, 2017
Nice artwork on that cover!
By: The Broad on February 10, 2017
A pleasant surprise indeed! Way to go, Steve!
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 10, 2017
Maybe you'd get used to seeing your art unexpectedly, but it must be a bit surreal at first! And yes, that really does look more like a buzzard. Hah :)
By: jenny_o on February 10, 2017
That's a happy thing, being able to still sell the image, and finding it in an unexpected place. As for the IRS eagle, it reminds me of Sam the Bald Eagle, from The Muppet Show. He looks angry, as Sam always did.
By: messymimi on February 10, 2017
Hey, Stephen, you should have told me when you were going to be in Sedona. That's only about an hour from where I live and I would have driven over.
By: Catalyst on February 10, 2017
Definitely more vulture than eagle. Very cool about seeing your artwork in an unexpected place.
By: Mr. Shife on February 10, 2017
I'm not sure I recognize a bird at all, but if I see anything at all, it is a buzzard.
By: cranky on February 10, 2017
To be honest I can't see it as an eagle at all. Are you sure it's not actually meant to be a vulture?
By: ja woolf on February 10, 2017
Seeing your picture like that must be like a song writer hearing his song on the radio. Yea!!! I don't see a bird but if I squint I can see a vulture and that is probably from the seed you planted.
By: Arkansas Patti on February 10, 2017
Stephen- As noted before, I wish I would have had access to your services when I was a CEO of a media production company or when I was a news executive. Sorry the AZ magazine omitted giving the artist credit. Perhaps because I'm married to an artist I am sensitive to that issue. In fact I have lobbied to have artists and designers be given credit for the art on wine bottles. Guess it's time to do more research on that. Cheers!
By: Tom Cochrun on February 10, 2017
What a pleasant surprise! Like others have said, I hope you got the royalties for that illustration!
By: The Bug on February 10, 2017
I am enthralled with the circumstances that put you in Arizona, in the time frame that the magazine was out, in that bed and breakfast, in the bathroom (okay, I don't want to think about details of that part) to see your artwork in that Arizona magazine.
By: Val on February 10, 2017
It must be very satisfying to find your art work in various places.
By: Kline on February 10, 2017
That's a vulture for sure! Great story
By: Bee BB Bee on February 10, 2017
Ha! Vulture.....definitely. :)
By: scott park on February 10, 2017
Wow, you've had some pretty impressive clients. I sure hope the big ones didn't stiff you out of your commission like this little magazine did.
By: Chris on February 10, 2017
What a fun discovery. Too bad they didn't credit you. As for the eagle-vulture. More vulture, definitely. But I thought it looked like an ax topped by a dead palm or fern frond.
By: Mitchell is Moving on February 11, 2017
Perfect post. All the celebrities are there. The admiration of a son. The thrill of someone buying something from your soul! And the humor.
By: Tabor on February 11, 2017
there's an eagle in that logo?
By: Ellen Abbott on February 11, 2017
That's supposed to be an eagle? Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on February 11, 2017
I can imagine how exited you were coming across YOUR work so unexpectedly. I remember a number of years ago, the meteorologist on the evening news showed my picture of the full moon that I had emailed to the TV station and mentioned my name. I think I jumped around in triangles all evening...
By: Pixel Peeper on February 11, 2017
I never noticed that was a bird of any kind. Yes, it looks more like a vulture. I liked your line about being careful to include all your sales on your tax returns. That's a vibrant painting; they should've credited you. Shame on them.
By: Robyn Engel on February 11, 2017
Did you get in touch with the magazine? They should have credited you for using your artwork. Hope you get that royalty, though. Really like the image. Very evocative. Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on February 12, 2017
That must be a bit of a thrill... Even if they didn't say it was yours... Hmph. Oh, I am really curious now what the IRS had for one of your pictures, vulture or no. Cat
By: Cat on February 12, 2017

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