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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I'm Being Published!

September 10, 2014



I know many of you have been published, but I’ve been writing nonstop for a decade without seeing a single word in print outside the Blogosphere. I recently learned that a California publisher has accepted my work for an upcoming collection of true stories titled Working for a Living. The collection is being published by Not Your Mother’s Books and is tentatively scheduled to come out in November.


The publisher liked my story enough to request a photograph to accompany it. My piece is called Out With the Mop Water, an account of me being fired from my first job as a janitor’s assistant at Kress Department Store. Creating a photograph to accompany my piece turned out to be more difficult than I’d expected.


I decided on an image of a commercial bucket and mop, the type one sees in countless retail operations being pushed through the store after the loudspeaker blares, “Clean-up on aisle twelve!”


When I posted my story at Chubby Chatterbox I included a borrowed picture from the Internet, but I didn’t want to submit something to the publisher that might have copyright issues. I grabbed my camera and started hunting for a quintessential mop and bucket.


Several grocery store managers were startled when I asked, “Do you have a filthy mop and bucket I can photograph?”


Eyebrows shot up, perhaps wondering if I was a health inspector or worked for a Candid Camera type reality program. Several managers gave me a flat “NO,” but most led me to a mop and bucket that looked clean enough to eat out of—not what I remembered using at Kress and not what I was looking for.


Remembering how barfy kids were when I was a kid, I decided to check out a local middle school. With current budgets cut to the bone, I figured schools would be making do with overused, less than pristine clean-up buckets. If I got arrested for making a weird request at a grade school I figured I’d have something interesting to write about, but on my way to the school I passed a grocery store and stopped to check out their janitorial equipment. As it happened, a maintenance fellow had just finished cleaning up a broken jar of relish and was returning to the stockroom at the back of the store. I approached with my camera and made my request. His mop and bucket were perfect, dirty but not gross—just what I was looking for.


I was allowed to take my pictures. I had no idea this would prove to be such a difficult task, harder than writing the story. I haven’t heard yet whether or not the publisher likes the photograph.



I found too many of these. Clean enough to eat out of.
Finally, a mop bucket with character.



Many of you send e-mails and are kind enough to inquire after my mother. She’s doing well and will turn ninety next year, but over this past weekend she said something more surprising than usual. The cable provider servicing her retirement home offered free HBO over the weekend. My mother watched Twelve Years a Slave. I asked her what she thought of it and she replied, “Well, it sure didn’t speak well for slavery.”


It was one of the few times I couldn’t think of anything to say.




Congratulations! Your Moms comment made me Laugh Out Loud! I read the book and Mrs. Cranky asked me if it was good. I told her, "Yes, but I have a strange yearning to kick the crap out of a white person."
By: Cranky Old Man on September 10, 2014
Well done, congratulations. I am sure you are excited and happy. As to your Mother....she is such a crack up, but then she's not my Mom. Haven't seen the movie or read the book yet.
By: omalinda on September 10, 2014
Well it's about time! For your literary talents to have been overlooked for this long is almost criminal. Congrats Stephen!
By: Scott Park on September 10, 2014
First, big congratulations to a great talent. I was published in High School in the town paper, but seem to have gone downhill from there. Maybe I need to study some esoteric markets! The photo story was unexpected, but I can see why people do not trust you. Now one trusts anyone these days with a camera and FB around the corner. You mother is a hoot...The other type of Gracie Allen.
By: Tabor on September 10, 2014
Congratulations on being published! That is so exciting! And very well-deserved :) I love the final picture...seems perfect for your story. The bucket definitely needed a little seasoning.
By: Kianwi on September 10, 2014
Congrats on the publishing credit! Who knew it'd be so hard to find the perfect mop and bucket?
By: PT Dilloway on September 10, 2014
This is SO deserved. It proves the adage that 50% of success is to you keep showing up. You certainly have done that. Congrats!
By: mindy halleck on September 10, 2014
Congratulations. I wish you a huge commercial success. I'm excited to get my own copy.
By: Michael Offutt on September 10, 2014
WooHoo Stephen! Congratulations ! Your search for the perfect mop n' bucket was a crack up- and I have to give your Mom and two thumbs up on her take on slavery! Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on September 10, 2014
Well for starters.. OMG that is so awesome you're being published. I read your stuff when I can and you def deserve this. Your writings are awesome. Then I have to say that the wall behind that dirty bucket looks soo gross. Or am I just seeing it wrong? Ewwww! I haven't seen that movie, soooo I have no idea what Mom is talking about. I'm glad she is well though!!
By: Hey Monkey Butt on September 10, 2014
Congratulations--let me know where & when I can buy a copy!!
By: fishducky on September 10, 2014
So now that you're a celebrity... CONGRATS !!!
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 10, 2014
Woo-hoo! Congratulations. I find it fascinating that you weren't even a janitor, just a mere janitor's assistant. I think you've come a long way. I like your mom's comment. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 10, 2014
Congratulations! Yes, those are the buckets i've used many a time. We clean them, but they aren't pretty. Your mother continues to amaze me with her observations.
By: mimi on September 10, 2014
Congratulations Steve! We are so proud of you! Since it's a political "by-year" we need to get together and kvetch about our mothers (instead of our usual political chats)!! Mine turns 90 next year too! Aye yai yai!!!
By: Laurie on September 10, 2014
Congratulations! Yes, I can imagine that it would be harder to get a photo than to write the piece. Maybe you should have asked at scummier place. I haven't seen the movie, but i never imagined that it was supposed to portray slavery in a positive light. Can you imagine the riots would have come out of that!
By: Snowbrush on September 10, 2014
congratulations to you!!! and your mother's stories always make me shake my head!
By: TexWisGirl on September 10, 2014
Fantastic news! You have such a wonderful writing style. Very happy for you...and glad your mom is doing well.
By: Stephanie D on September 10, 2014
Holy cow, you are a published author!!. Big time kudos to you and look forward to that publication. Now if he had just asked you to paint the picture--easy peasy. Your Mom is a hoot and I am glad she is doing well.
By: Akansas Patti on September 10, 2014
Congrats on your upcoming publication! Glad you didn't kick the bucket!
By: Val on September 10, 2014
Congratulations on being published. Being published is like winning something really big. You work at it for years. Go out and celebrate.
By: red on September 10, 2014
That's fantastic news! Congratulations! And, by the way, would it kill you to take care of that clean-up on Aisle 5?
By: Al Penwasser on September 10, 2014
Congratulations! You must be beyond excited. And I can relate to your trying to get a photo. Everybody is a little suspicious. I once walked around an outdoor mall taking some pictures and the security guard asked me why I was taking photos...sheesh. And yes, let us know when and where we can buy a copy of the book!
By: Pixel Peeper on September 10, 2014
Congrats! Will look for the book -- assume it will be on amazon, or will you be selling autographed copies?
By: Tom Sightings on September 10, 2014
Congratulations! I'm actually wondering what took so long for your stories to be publushed. Will be looking out for the book. Glad to hear your mom's doing better. She sounds like a real character :)
By: Anne Organista on September 10, 2014
hi Stephen, big congratulations on your publishing deal. it's well deserved. that is some pic of the mop and bucket. much character there. and the comment made by your mum is spot on isn't it? thanks for the chuckles :)
By: Fran on September 11, 2014
Congratulations on being published! The mob/bucket photo is great. And your mother is the queen of understatement.
By: Mitchell is Moving on September 11, 2014
You have finally been discovered? I have thought for a long time that you should be published. This is a start. You have a good eye, even the photo of the mop and bucket is not ordinary, but better than that, what you have to say is a joy to read.
By: CiCi on September 11, 2014
Excellent... congrats. I'm so happy for you. You deserve to be published. My first thought when you said that they asked for an accompanying photograph is that they wanted one of the author. That would have been a lot easier. :)
By: Hilary on September 11, 2014
Congrats! How exciting..it took them long enough! Your mom is a hoot. I'm glad she is doing ok. Hope everything works out super with the book. Your chosen mop bucket rocks..much better than the clean one.
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on September 11, 2014
That's great news. Congratulations. Your mother's review of 12 Years a Slave is a classic! Still chuckling about that.
By: Tom Cochrun on September 11, 2014
It's about time! Great picture to go with the story though I think you could have painted a better one. And yes, two thumbs up for your mother's review.
By: Catalyst on September 11, 2014
I never imagined finding a filthy mop bucket would prove so difficult.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on September 12, 2014
Well done Steve, what a great accomplishment.
By: John on September 12, 2014
Congratulations!!!!! Anxious to get a copy, will you please sign one for me. My Christmas shopping will be a cinch this year. Perfect present for everyone on the list.
By: Hilde on September 13, 2014
Delighted to hear about your publication success - long overdue. And a great picture; the editor would be a fool not to include it.
By: Bryan Jones on September 15, 2014

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