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

04/2017

Into Dust

April 03, 2017 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Nearly thirty years later, it remains a day in retail I’ll never forget. A customer walked into the jewelry store I managed, asking about opals. I showed him a few but he wasn’t interested in buying. He seemed to know more about opals than I did, or so it seemed until disaster struck.   The secret to being a great salesperson doesn’t necessarily reside with the products you happen to be selling. Here’s a secret you might not know; the key to being a great salesperson is convincing the client that you’re the person they want to buy from. Convince them of this and you can sell them anything. To this end, I was tremendously successful. My ability to chatter like a magpie served me well.   One day a g ... read more

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A Piercing Dilemma

April 05, 2017
This post describes another questionable adventure in retail. It happened several years after I’d become manager of the jewelry store mentioned in the previous post.   **********************             Jerry was one of my best customers. He and his lovely wife Mary Anne had purchased a small fortune in bling from me over the years. I was polite with all of my customers but over the years I developed a real fondness for Jerry and Mary Anne. It helped that Mary Anne was a beautiful woman, shapely with cascading Pre-Raphaelite red hair.             One day while browsing, Jerry slid up to me while Mary Anne was on the ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #59

April 07, 2017
This illustration was not a commission. Painted on spec in my spare time, my hope was that art directors might find it useful. I painted hundreds of pictures in this manner. Frankly, I can’t even remember painting this one.    It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I found this image in a drawer, forgotten along with half a dozen Y2K illustrations that will never again see the light of day since the world didn’t end in the year 2000, seventeen years ago. I could easily imagine art directors using an illustration of a fortune teller for a variety of purposes: divining the future of the stock market, predicting the rise or decline of the dollar, sports results—anything with an uncertain outcome. With so many ... read more

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Peculiarities #4

April 10, 2017
I had no idea where this post was going to lead when I started writing. My intention was a lighthearted description of another peculiar item at Casa Chatterbox, but a Google search sent me in a more serious direction, a tragic one.             It began in 1976 when Mrs. Chatterbox and I were backpacking through Europe with a dog-eared copy of Frommer’s Europe on Ten Dollars a Day. While exploring Paris near the Eiffel Tower, we passed many shops selling gorgeous Art Nouveau figurines and collectables—all costing hundreds of dollars. I love Art Nouveau and considered throwing our $10 daily budget out the window, but I couldn’t convince myself to spend hundreds of doll ... read more

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Freshly Brewed Hype!

April 12, 2017
I always look forward to posts by Rick Watson, a talented author/columnist, blogger, and singer/guitar player. Rick’s blog, Life 101, is extremely well written and always uplifting, and we can always use more of that. I mention Rick because he recently posted a piece about his love of coffee. His initial experience with this brown elixir, which he refers to as “…love at first sip,” was much different than mine. Check it out (here). In contrast, I’m posting my very first blog from 2011 where I describe a very different reaction.    *********************************             Some things in life just don’t live up to their hype. Every time I ... read more

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Tulip Time

April 14, 2017
Oregon’s weather is much like that of the Netherlands, which means tulips grow exceedingly well here. And once again, tulip time has arrived. It’s much anticipated because tulips bloom sooner than other flowers around here. Other than a few daffodils, nothing much is happening, except in Woodburn, Oregon, a sleepy agricultural community about thirty miles south of Portland where the fields have once again erupted in color.   I love photographing children almost as much as I like snapping pictures of flowers, and both were present in abundance. There were dozens of children out enjoying this colorful spectacle.                           ... read more

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A Very Good Dog

April 17, 2017
I once saw a cartoon speculating on what dogs think. In the cartoon, owners were talking to the pooch but all it was hearing was, “Blah…blah…blah…Ginger,” poking humor at the millions of dogs forced to live with the ubiquitous name.   Years ago while I was toiling in retail, Mrs. Chatterbox and CJ went to the pound the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year. I recently came across a picture of our very own Ginger. Our son CJ had initially wanted to name the dog G.I. Joe, which didn’t seem appropriate for a female dog. We asked him to reconsider, and he chose Ginger.   Many families have a menagerie of pets over the years, and Casa Chatterbox is no exception. Ginger w ... read more

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Line By Line

April 19, 2017
In order to be a successful illustrator, I found it necessary to wear a lot of hats. Clients often wanted portraits of CEOs for corporate reports, authors of newspaper columns and local politicians for editorial pages. Budgets were often small so color portraiture was out. I needed to create an inexpensive black and white product for images often destined for newsprint, which isn’t the best paper for reproduction; images often look washed out or mushy.   So, to satisfy my clients I set aside my paints and changed hats. I’ve long been interested in pen & ink line drawings. You might recall some of my previously posted caricatures. To increase my business, I developed a crosshatch style that reproduced cheaply without l ... read more

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Doggone!

April 21, 2017
On Monday I published a post about Ginger, the pet who tugged hardest on our heart strings. If you missed it, check it out (here). There was more to the story. I wasn’t present when the events of this tale unfolded, but Mrs. Chatterbox filled me in on the details.   It was 1997. Our beloved pet Ginger, who’d lived with us for nearly ten years, had been put to sleep when her organs shut down two years earlier. Mrs. C. was shopping at Macy’s. After entering the lingerie department and browsing through a few racks, she spotted an uncomfortable looking man, fidgeting while holding what was presumably his wife’s purse. Mrs. C. isn’t in the habit of looking at strange men (unless they’re first-string fir ... read more

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