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

03/2015

The Center of the Universe

March 02, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Thanks to everyone for your condolences. I didn’t know Bette Fletcher, my sister-in-law’s mother, that well but I know she had a long happy life. She was a devoted grandmother and loved being in the company of children. She’ll be missed by family and friends.             This past weekend, Mrs. Chatterbox and I drove to Medina, Washington, arriving at St. Thomas Episcopal Church an hour before Bette’s memorial service. With time to kill, we wandered around the church grounds and noticed a mandala-shaped design in the brick pavement separating the church from the rectory. I recognized it as a modern variant of something very old. More people arrived, and ... read more

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A Developing Language Problem

March 04, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Launching myself into the workforce after high school wasn’t easy. I’ve written several accounts of job disasters. Here’s another.             After graduating from high school, the future Mrs. Chatterbox landed a summer job at A-1 Color Lab in nearby San Jose. A color lab is a place where professional photographers bring film from weddings and other special events to be processed, and pictures printed. Large photographs come off drying drums and are often marred by tiny white specks caused by bubbles in the emulsion. Mrs. C’s job was to sit at a drafting table. With sable brushes she mixed watercolor paint and dabbed color onto the photographs, renderi ... read more

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A Comforting Face

March 06, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    When I began my illustration business, I had to scramble for work. I’d always enjoyed creating pen & ink drawings and seemed to have a knack for arranging lines in pleasing patterns to suggest a rich tonality. Pen & ink drawings are often used for logos and mastheads because they reproduce easily and cheaply.             I was excited to receive a call from a nursing organization in need of a pen & ink drawing. I met with a committee of nurses responsible for the commission (all women) and showed them a portfolio of line drawings, which they complimented enthusiastically. They explained that they were looking for an image of a “typical” nu ... read more

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Hemingway's Coat

March 09, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    This piece of fiction was first posted on 11/2/12.     *********************************     “I thought you wanted to be a writer,” the old woman said to fourteen year old Becky.              “I do, Granny. My brain is full of ideas, but I have trouble putting them down on paper. All of the kids at school have computers. I wish I had one.”                   The old woman looked at the orphaned granddaughter she’d spent nine years struggling to raise. Every cigarette the old woman had ever smoked was present in her voice when sh ... read more

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Pen & Ink

March 11, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I’m still in the process of looking for the ink illustration I mentioned in my recent post, A Comforting Face. (If you missed it, check it out here.) While prowling through my files, I came across a few more pen & ink caricatures. This time I thought it might be fun to have you guess who these folks are. It’s an odd assortment of people, but I bet you get them all. The answers are at the end, so don’t scroll down until you’ve guessed.          Number #1                Number #2             Number #3             Number #4         ... read more

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Scene at an Airport

March 13, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  As most of you know, Mrs. Chatterbox and I love to travel, and we’ve seen many interesting things. I try not to prejudge what I’ll see because it’s usually those unexpected or unanticipated experiences that have the deepest impact. The incident I’m going to describe didn’t happen overseas; it happened at New York’s Kennedy Airport, a simple scene but one that still lingers with me.             In the West, there’s much talk about how Arab women dress. To many of us, it seems cruel and atavistic for women to drape themselves from head to toe and walk about in a cocoon of obscurity. As I understand it, “wearing the veil” was ... read more

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One-Step or Two-Step?

March 16, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  As an art professor, my job included exposing students to various art techniques so they could choose the one best suited to what they wished to express. Most of my students had a fervent desire to learn how to paint portraits, capture likenesses and master flesh tones.             In Western art, there are two distinct ways to paint portraits. The first is the Two-Step method based on underpainting. For hundreds of years, this was the preferred approach. Artists from Raphael to Ingres employed it to achieve the illusion of three dimensions on a two dimensional surface. During the Renaissance, a renewed focus on the human body inspired artists to combine science with painting. ... read more

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It's All Who You Know

March 18, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Sometimes, avoiding a ticket comes down to who you know.             I haven’t received too many traffic violations (I don’t enjoy driving and do so as little as possible) but recently I remembered a time when I was pulled over by a cop—in 1982. Mrs. C. was working as an executive assistant at the time, but I was unemployed and on my way to a job interview. CJ was two years old and at the peak of his cuteness. With his mother’s rosy complexion, curly golden hair, long eyelashes and bright blue eyes, he looked like a living, breathing Hummel. He was belted in the front seat and I was about to drop him off with a sitter.      &nb ... read more

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Buccaneers of Buzz

March 20, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I know many of you have published thousands of posts, but today is Chubby Chatterbox post #600, actually #623 but I’ve subtracted reposts. Although the weather isn’t cooperating everywhere, today is the first day of Astronomical spring and I wanted to post something appropriate.   My illustrations were mostly created for books, newspapers and magazines. This picture, done for my own amusement, is the only one created from a poem—a short piece by Emily Dickinson that playfully compares bees to pirates; it’s so fun and lighthearted that I couldn’t resist picking up my brushes to see what I could do with it. For those of you who are interested, this piece is acrylic on untempered masonite.   ... read more

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The Big "O"

March 23, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I didn’t have many followers when I posted this early in 2012. You might have missed it.   *********************************   Our tour bus was cutting through the Taurus Mountains of Turkey, located on the edge of the Anatolian Plateau where people have been living since Paleolithic times. The mountains were modest compared to the Alps or Rockies, with expansive valleys meeting us at every curve. At one point our guide, Selchuk, ordered the driver of our bus to pull to the side of the road. He said to us, “Do you want to see something really interesting?”   Of course I did. That’s why I’d traveled halfway around the world, to see what I couldn’t see at home. I followed Selchu ... read more

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An Ambiguous Ending

March 25, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Some tales are straightforward and conclude without ambiguity, but this is not one of those stories. It’s a true incident that happened to me in 1983 when I left my position as display manager for Mervyn’s Dept. Store, and took a position as manager of an art gallery in Portland, Oregon.             Soaring Wings Gallery specialized in wildlife art, and was owned by local millionaire and entrepreneur George Klempton. I had little contact with him, and was hired by his single, middle-aged chief assistant, Mary Ann Gasper, who I soon realized had a massive crush on her married boss.             The gallery was ... read more

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Paradise Lost

March 27, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
One of the guys I hung out with in college was an architecture student named Alan Aoki, the son of a prominent Northern California florist. His parents often sent flowers to his dorm room, which at first we all thought strange, but eventually we came to appreciate the wonderful scents and colors.             One night while partying in Alan’s room, he pointed at a recently delivered birds of paradise arrangement. We were admiring the brilliant tropical colors when Alan launched into a lecture on this native South American plant. He shared with us a florist secret. Pulling one of the flowers from its container he said, “Most people don’t know this, but beneath the bir ... read more

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Memory Lane

March 30, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Does anyone ever plan on growing old? I know I didn’t. When mature enough to start reflecting on the voyage of my life, I was surprised to find out how little documentation there was that I’d ever existed.             A popular blog meme is “Throwback Thursdays,” where folks post vintage pictures of themselves. I’ve never participated in this because there are precious few pictures of me. Being the second and last child, my parents were not inclined to snap pictures of me, although there are many of my older brother David. Truth be told, as I grew older I wasn’t particularly pleased with my appearance and moved into the shadows whenever a camera mad ... read more

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