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

Prologue

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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Blog Archive

04/2013

India Adventure Give-a-way

April 01, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When I redesigned Chubby Chatterbox last year I included buttons for followers to add to their blogs. So far I’ve only spotted two Chubby Chatterbox buttons: one at PT Dilloway, and the other at Cheryl’s The Art of Being Conflicted. (Sorry if you’ve posted my button and I haven’t noticed.) In a shameless bid to encourage readers to add my button, I’ve decided to sponsor an April give-a-way. If you’re interested, let me know in the comment section and I’ll add your name to a hat. At the end of April I’ll pick a name. If that person’s blog features my button they’ll receive a cool souvenir from my trip to India. Just click on the Chubby Chatterbox dashboard above the banner where it ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

An April 1st Cluster F**K

April 03, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I should have thought twice about trying to launch anything new on April Fool’s Day. My attempt to obtain free advertising has opened a can of worms and caused problems for my readers, which I never intended.      Seeing blogs with promotional buttons convinced me I needed to do a better job promoting Chubby Chatterbox. It was not my intention to badger those of you who don’t like buttons and don’t want to clutter your site with them. On my old blog I posted buttons and awards on my sidebar but the new Chubby Chatterbox will only let me feature them on an awards page, which is where they are.      Complicating matters, I’ve learned that the HTML codes on my buttons ... read more

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Stranger in the Dark

April 05, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 Our plane was halfway through its flight from Amsterdam to New Delhi, India. The cabin was dark, and still but for the vibration of the massive engines propelling us through the night. I had a window seat and Mrs. C., like most of the passengers, had nodded off. We’d been flying over Turkmenistan, according to the monitor on the back of the seat in front of me, and now we were over Afghanistan. I was thinking about how this troubled nation had figured so prominently in the news these past eleven years when I thought I saw something beyond my window passing in front of a cluster of stars, shadowing us from a distance.      We were about four hundred miles from Islamabad when I heard, “What are you look ... read more

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Turban Time

April 07, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Ever wonder how a turban is made? This presentation was given to us at the Amber Fort in Jaipur, once the capital of Rajasthan.             I’m not sure I pull off this look very well. What do you think? ... read more

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The Shape of Things

April 08, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Yesterday I posted a photograph of myself wearing a turban. I received many interesting comments—most suggesting that this was not a look I should consider adopting. The focus on my head reminded me of this piece I wrote a few years ago:       When I was a kid my dad would drive me to the barbershop. On our way home Dad would take a moment to tell me what a great haircut I’d gotten, adding, “It’s because you have such a nicely shaped head.”      Dad was an extremely upbeat guy, always finding something positive to say, which couldn’t have been easy when it came to his chubby, non-athletic younger son. Still, it always made me feel good when he said it, and there ... read more

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The Power of Observation

April 10, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Albrecht Dürer was arguably Germany’s greatest painter, and one of the most celebrated graphic artists of all time, but in 1503 he took a break from his flourishing studio for a horse ride in the country. He wanted to take in some fresh air. As he rode down the road he did something extraordinary. He reined his horse to a stop, climbed down from the saddle and ripped a clump of weeds from the side of the road, placing the clump in his saddlebag and returning with it to his studio.      Big deal, you might say. But it was a big deal, because of what he did next. He set the clump of dirt on a table in his studio and proceeded to meticulously paint it, with as much detail as another artist might have used to de ... read more

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We're Gonna Die!

April 12, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It’s hard not to think you’re going to die when you hit the road in India. Aside from the fact that, from an American perspective, they drive on the wrong side of the road, no logic is apparent on Indian streets and highways. I asked our guide Devender about this and he admitted Indians drive erratically. “Driving isn’t tested in India because there are far too many people,” he explained. “An instructor would have to test four to five hundred people a day and that just isn’t possible, so we all learn on our own.”      This becomes interesting when the roads are choked with cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, tuk tuks (motorized rickshaws that swarm like locusts) camel-pulle ... read more

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A Sunday Portfolio

April 14, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 Here are a few pictures from our recent trip to India. First, an elephant is giving rides at the Amber Fort in Jaipur.     The second picture shows a guard at one of the many palaces we visited. This would look like an old painting were it not for the watch on his wrist.       #3 The Jain Temple in Ranakpur. The Jain religion, stressing the sacredness of all living creatures, is over 2500 years old. The temple is composed of 1444 marble pillars with no two alike. One pillar was intentionally placed crooked because only gods are permitted perfection.     #4 This beautiful lady was photographed in one of the palaces at the desert town of Jaisalmer.       #5 A dancer in Bika ... read more

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A Generosity of Spirit

April 15, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A few days ago I felt compelled to do something I seldom do—check our newspaper’s obituary page. It felt like an icy fist was squeezing my heart when I saw the name Elsa Warnick. She’d died a few days before Mrs. C. and I left for India. Her memorial took place several days before our return.      Elsa and I had been great friends and colleagues at the local art college where we both taught, but I’d lost sight of her over the past few years. I always expected to see her again; it wasn’t unusual for months to pass without contact. When we got together to share old times it was as if no time had elapsed. Elsa died after a two year battle with cancer. I feel terrible I wasn’t there to o ... read more

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The Snake Charmer of Jaipur

April 17, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
     I rarely write fiction but this short story resulted from my recent trip to India:   The Snake Charmer of Jaipur     “Follow me,” the boy said, his voice more commanding than his slight appearance would suggest.      Stickley took in the youth’s unkempt appearance; rags that hardly qualified as clothes, a turban too soiled to identify by color, dusty sandals that barely covered his filthy feet. He shot the kid a stern look and gestured for him to get lost.      A wall of roasting air hit him but he wasn’t perspiring any more, a reminder he wasn’t taking in enough water. He licked his parched lips but his tongue was too sw ... read more

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The Snake Charmer of Jaipur - Part II

April 19, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
For Part One of my short story click here. The Snake Charmer of Jaipur Part II   “I’ve been waiting for you, Mister Stickley,” said the boy. “I knew you’d come.”      “How did you know?”      Without answering, the youngster started down a passageway. Stickley had a reputation among his peers for being cool under pressure, a criminal who performed dangerous tasks as if his emotions were numbed by shots of Novocaine, but calmness eluded him, his heart trip-hammering in his chest. No bit pulled him forward, but he couldn’t break the spell the kid had on him as they continued on their way.      The passageway narro ... read more

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The Vision of Emperor Akbar

April 21, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The Boston Marathon tragedy made last week a difficult one. Like many Americans, I watched the news reports and wondered how anyone could commit such a heinous crime. I hoped that when all of the facts came out it would be learned that religious extremism was not the cause, and even though the investigation of this crime is ongoing I’m resigned to the fact that religious extremism will be an integral part of this horror.      Situations like the Boston tragedy are bleak reminders of the evil we humans inflict on each other. Yet history has provided examples of tolerance to inspire us to set aside our petty ways. I’m encouraged by a building I recently saw in India, the Diwan-i-Khas, a structure as beautiful ... read more

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India Portfolio

April 22, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
*Note: All of these pictures were taken in the Indian state of Rajasthan.   Picture #1 (Left) In the abandoned Moghul capital of Fatehpur Sikri, those convicted of capital crimes were forced to lay their head on this stone. An elephant performed the execution by stepping on the head.     #2 A floating palace in Udaipur. You might remember this building from the James Bond movie Octopussy.     #3 Jaisalmer’s wealth came from this desert city’s position on the Silk Road. Most of the inhabitants have never seen rain.     #4 This is a view from the rooftop of the Maharajah of Bikaner’s palace, now a hotel. Most of the rooms were filled with the heads of hunted animals. They sta ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #24

April 24, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Some of my newer followers might not be aware of the fact that I’m a retired commercial illustrator. Like many illustrators, most of my work resulted from commissions, but I also created pieces to satisfy an artistic itch. On days when my creative tubing was kinked, the result could be a peculiar picture. Many of these odd pieces have sold over the years, others have not. This feature is called Peculiar Pictures, and I invite you to come up with a caption or purpose for these pictures. There isn’t a correct response so those of you who are worried you don’t know much about art can let out a deep sigh of relief—there is no right answer.      This illustration seemed like a great idea at the time. ... read more

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The State of Mittelwestcoastia

April 26, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Most people who have spent time in California have witnessed the drastic differences between Northern California and the rest of the state. I’m  referring to political differences, not topographical or geographical ones. I’m reminded of this because of something I recently saw in an antique store, a map of the United States in 1941. It showed forty-nine states, interesting because in 1941 there were only forty-eight states—Hawaii and Alaska had yet to join the Union.      I looked closely at the map and found the mysterious 49th state, carved out of Southern Oregon and Northern California; it’s capital was Yreka. My jaw dropped. The map was professionally printed and didn’t appear to ... read more

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Jack's Gift

April 28, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This Sunday rerun was first posted in 2011 and for nearly a year it was my most popular post.  I hope you enjoy it.      I swim at the public pool on weekday mornings at seven a.m.  On the way home on Fridays I swing by the bakery section at Albertsons because—well, you know why. (A clue is in the title of my blog.) Anyway, this morning I was marching toward the delicious donuts and pastries when I encountered five year old Jack and his grandpa.          “It’s Jack’s fifth birthday today,” Grandpa said, grinning at me. “He’s picking out donuts for his party this afternoon.”       I returned the smile and waited patiently wh ... read more

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The Fill Up

April 29, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In 1942 he was a lanky sixteen year old and glad to have a job pumping gas, checking oil and washing windshields at the Texaco in Modesto, California. Most of the men had dashed off to war or he wouldn’t have landed this job. He had numerous brothers and sisters. Now he was able to contribute money to the jar on the kitchen shelf—all that kept food on the table and a roof over their heads.      He’d just finished filling the tank of an old farm truck when a shiny black Buick pulled into the station. The kid had seen the expensive car a few times and recognized the man behind the wheel. An icy claw squeezed his heart and his breathing became labored—he’d never been this close to the driver. ... read more

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