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 Not Proud of It

July 9, 2014

First Posted 2/8/12


On most days I turn on my computer to find that I’ve been invited to join a contest or have supposedly won one I never entered. Let me be clear: I never win contests and seldom enter them. I’m a great finder of things, particularly in the homes of people on vacation.


My streak of bad luck at winning contests started with, surprisingly, a win. It happened in the fourth grade when my entire grade school was herded into the all-purpose room for the annual end-of-the-year assembly. In our midst was Captain Satellite, a San Francisco celebrity who showed cartoons and Three Stooges movies on local TV after school. For an hour he ran cartoons on a defective movie projector and told jokes.


Ruthie Cardinas was seated next to me. Ruthie was my neighbor, but she was in the second grade and I didn’t want to be humiliated by socializing with her, at school anyway. Ruthie was too small to see over the kid seated in front of her and she squirmed and whined throughout most of the assembly. I was sitting on the aisle and had a mostly unobstructed view, but shortly before the assembly ended I switched seats with her to shut her up.


Soon after making the swap, Captain Satellite reached for the mike and made an announcement that silenced the chattering mob. He said, “Somebody in this auditorium is going home with a shiny Schwinn bicycle today.”


Scores of mouths dropped open.


“Taking home a new Schwinn today is…” He paused for dramatic effect, as dramatic as a middle-aged man in a satellite costume can look, “…the boy or girl with a gold star taped to the underside of their chair.”


Kids reached between their legs and fingered the underside of their chairs. To my surprise, and horror, Ruthie held up the gold star and began shouting, “I won! I won!”


The gold star had been taped beneath the chair I’d sat on throughout the assembly and had given up only minutes earlier.


“Like HELL you won!” I said, grabbing the star from her hand and bumping her off her (my) seat. “I won!” I said as she lay sprawled in the aisle. “I only let you sit in my seat for a little while because you couldn’t see.”


I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone that the principal sided with Ruthie. She got to take home the Schwinn. She rode it past my driveway every day that summer while I pretended to blow her off that bicycle with my laser vision.


Now you know why I don’t enter contests.



What's the best thing you ever won?


The one writing competition I won was in like 3rd grade for a local TV station. I didn't win the grand prize, but I did win like 3rd place and got a shiny Silverhawks action figure. Best win ever!
By: PT Dilloway on July 9, 2014
oh, goodness! that would chap my breeches, too!
By: TexWisGirl on July 9, 2014
I've won two items in my whole entire life...one was a book and the other was a gorgeous wood carving which I won recently from another blogger. I don't have good luck at winning contests so I rarely try anymore.
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on July 9, 2014
oh dear- I can imagine how you felt! I don't recall ever winning anything. Regardless I've had a happy life and that's waaay better than a bicycle.
By: Kathe W. on July 9, 2014
Once, a long time ago, I convince my mom to enter a drawing at an appliance store. She was purchasing a washing machine, a Bendix front loader. Anyhow, she entered, and won.... ...a washing machine. ...
By: Uncle Skip on July 9, 2014
Wow! Okay, you're a sore looser, but that picture is a Picasso.
By: mindy halleck on July 9, 2014
Hey...you have won at least 2 WHOOP-TEE-DOO's!!
By: Cranky Old Man on July 9, 2014
I can't believe it. I mean really... how on earth... can you remember all these things so... what's the word... ah yes 'vividly'!?!
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 9, 2014
Rarely win anything. Won £100 (about $200) some years ago on a football raffle (boring I know, but the only time I've won anything).
By: Bryan Jones on July 9, 2014
Just being able to say Captain Satellite makes you a winner! I won a very good football at my dad's office picnic one summer. I would have preferred the basketball. But it was handed out by the President of the company, not Captain Satellite!
By: Tom Cochrun on July 9, 2014
You neglected to include that she grew up to be two inches taller than you and became a world-famous super model--didn't you?
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on July 9, 2014
Oh...I would have been very upset about the contest situation, too! An elderly woman here in Florida won the $800 million Powerball after a younger woman in line let her go ahead in front of her. Not sure how I would react to that...I'm guessing blows with laser vision would be lame in such a case. The best thing I ever won was a set of cooking pots and pans at a work picnic about 20-something years ago. I still use them.
By: Pixel Peeper on July 9, 2014
Oh, i've won a couple of books, and occasional CD, even a pair of shoes once. Nothing compared to a bicycle!
By: mimi on July 9, 2014
The BEST thing I ever won? Um...I guess that would have to be the heart of my long-suffering husband.
By: Val on July 9, 2014
I have thought hard and came up with nothing but a few medium sized lotto winnings. You really shoved her on the floor?? Still she could of at least let you ride the bike now and then.
By: Akansas Patti on July 9, 2014
Best thing I won..A two oz bottle of scotch!
By: red on July 9, 2014
Some people make a full time job out of signing up for contests to win money or contests. I once saw a TV show about people who have radio scanners and call in to radio show contests over and over to win whatever they are offering (money, tickets, etc.). I imagine it is hard work. Personally, I think it is more enjoyable when you win when you least expect it.
By: STLfan on July 9, 2014
No joke: I really did win a schwinn bicycle. I was ecstatic. I won the Kellogg's stick up for breakfast contest, along with 4999 other kids. I drew and colored in a very cool picture of the Kellogg's Corn Pops cowboy eating a nutritious breakfast. I was ecstatic to pick out a pink schwinn with a flowered banana seat. As a shorty, I'd have sided with Ruthie too. It's not easy when you can never see before of the dufus in front of you.
By: Robyn Engel on July 9, 2014
Sorry you were penalized for being a gentleman. I remember my first Schwinn bike. It was purple with a banana seat, and a flowered basket. The best prize was a giant stuffed tiger that barely fit into my car.
By: Julie K Pick on July 9, 2014
You should have run out and knocked that brat off the bike and taken it from her. I would have taken your side. The best thing I've won is Willy Dunne Wooters. I also won quite a nice college scholarship once upon a time. And I won two children. Don't know their origin, but I've become quite fond of them over the years. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on July 10, 2014
$1200.00 on a slot machine in Connecticut. Two tickets to see Finnean's Rainbow at the Goodspeed Opera House and two free movie tickets a month for one year. Not too bad!!
By: Bouncin Barb on July 10, 2014
I'm sure I must have won something once way back when, but I'll be darned if I can think what it might have been. Like you, I just gave up trying.
By: Scott Park on July 10, 2014
I won 50 francs at the racecourse in Paris, circa 1980. I won't say it was dumb luck, but I don't even speak French! (Well, un peu.)
By: Tom Sightings on July 10, 2014
The first writing contest I ever won inspired me to write more and work harder at the craft. I've never regretted a single moment. :)
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on July 10, 2014
I won a hideous hand made cushion when I was a kid, and my mother hated it because it didn't go with the colour scheme in the house, but I wouldn't let her throw it out because I'd won it. Eventually all the foam stuffing popped out and it disappeared whilst I was at school. Hmmm.
By: LL Cool Joe on July 11, 2014
sad story Stephen. :) i have won a mother's day basket from a local shop, bingo twice on the same day, $400 from the pokies and a chicken in a meat rafffle. not much but not to be sneezed at. :)
By: Fran on July 11, 2014
What a sad story. It kinda proves that old saying about no good deed going unpunished. Being surrounded by authors and plenty of rafflecopter giveaways for books, I've won my share. :)
By: Lexa Cain on July 11, 2014
I am never usually lucky that way either. By way of compensation I am sure I was told that when you work for something you appreciate it all the more.......... I would like the other way too though!
By: John on July 13, 2014
Captain Satellite and "Like hell you won!" Hahaha! I enjoyed this story!
By: Michael Manning on July 13, 2014
I will NOT tell you the nasty comments that ran through my head when I read what Ruthie did!
By: Mitchell is Moving on July 15, 2014

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