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

08/2016

Ball's Pyramid

August 01, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It’s an understatement to say the world is a fascinating place. I’ve traveled to many exotic locations and the diversity of lands and peoples is truly amazing. Recently, I was surfing the Web and my attention was drawn to an island I’d never heard of, not that I profess to be an expert on islands, but they’ve always held a fascination for me ever since reading Robinson Crusoe as a kid.   The article capturing my attention asked: “What’s been hiding on this island that hasn’t been seen since the 1920s?”   I’d never heard of Ball’s Pyramid and had no idea what was hidden on it. Yet I was intrigued by a photograph of the island rising from the sea, the erosional remnant ... read more

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5th Blogiversary

August 03, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Today is my 800th post and marks five years since my first Chubby Chatterbox post. Sometimes it seems like I started blogging yesterday, yet at other times it seems much longer. Back in 2011, I felt it would be quite an achievement if I could keep it going for five years, all the while wondering if my ideas would dry up, if I’d run out of things to write about. Many of you have been supporters since the beginning, and your comments and encouragement have meant a great deal, especially the love and support Mrs. C. and I received when our son CJ was struck down with a brain aneurysm. I’m happy to report he’s made a complete recovery.             Many of you have been b ... read more

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The Happiest Picture Ever Painted?

August 05, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Most people have heard of the artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the Impressionist painter famous for painting naked women in flickering sunlight. Monet and Renoir are the most famous Impressionists, but lately Renoir’s reputation has taken a hit, with emphasis on many of the terrible pictures he painted in his later years when his hands were crippled with arthritis and he was hampered by an overabundance of geriatric sentimentality. Many of his late paintings fail at auction and others are refused places on museum walls by curators and art directors. Yet Renoir managed to create some of the most magical paintings ever.             The artist’s Luncheon of the Boating Party has ... read more

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My Favorite Brazilian Artist

August 08, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The Rio Games are finally here and this seems like the perfect opportunity to introduce my favorite Brazilian artist—Moi!   A few years before retiring from illustration to focus on writing, my agent contacted me to ask how much more work I could produce. There’s a lot of down time being an illustrator so I told her I could churn out twice as many illustrations as I was currently producing—if she could sell them. She said, “Why don’t you change your style?”   I was insulted; I liked the way I painted and had spent a lifetime mastering my craft. But I was lured by the prospect of more money and decided to try. Over the next few months I painted some of my worst pictures. Mrs. Chatterbox offer ... read more

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Much Better !

August 10, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Last year I wrote a post about a questionable statue of Lucille Ball erected in her hometown of Celoron, NY. The statue, nicknamed “Scary Lucy,” was the subject of much ridicule. You can read my original post (here). The sculptor offered to fix the statue to provide a better, more acceptable, likeness of the comedian but the offer was denied. Another artist, Carolyn Palmer, was selected to create a new statue.       Original statue dubbed Scary Lucy   I can’t say this one is a better work of art but it’s definitely a better likeness. As for “Scary Lucy,” the decision to remove it from view caused an uproar since it had become an Internet sensation. Visit ... read more

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Color Me Red

August 12, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When budget cuts prompted our son’s school to slash funding for its art department, I volunteered to teach an Art Literacy course. As a professional artist/illustrator, I felt well prepared to share my enthusiasm for art history and figured instructing middle school kids would be fun. This was my first time teaching and what I lacked in experience I intended to make up for with enthusiasm.   I knew from my own school days that kids enjoy looking at pictures more than studying math or history, so I figured it would be easy holding their attention. Still, I was nervous my first day as I lugged a slide tray and projector into the classroom. No projection screen was available; an empty wall would have to do.    &nbs ... read more

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Can't Please Everyone

August 15, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A well-used adage reminds us that you can’t please everyone, a fact brought home recently by a letter received by Mrs. Chatterbox.             Mrs. C. is the volunteer coordinator for our local police department. Among her many duties is planning our city’s National Night Out, a summer event designed to bring communities and police departments together on the second Tuesday in August.  Mrs. C. works hard to provide a fun event, coordinating vendors and local agencies. This year she had fire trucks, squad cars (kids love being photographed in the back of squad cars) and SWAT vehicles for kids to explore. The biggest hit, aside from free food, are the K-9 officers who p ... read more

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Remember Customer Service?

August 17, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
As I grow older I’m starting to feel grumpy about changes in our society. I remember being a kid and marching into a bank with my little bankbook to add a few dollars to my account. Back then, schools encouraged kids to open savings accounts as a means of fostering an awareness of money—an awareness lacking in too many children. Walking into a bank as a child was a positive experience; I was always treated nicely and I felt I was given the same attention as adults. I stayed with that bank for decades because of such positive experiences.   At the risk of sounding like Cranky Old Man, one of my favorite bloggers, I’m noticing the rapid decline of customer service. Several weeks ago I was in need of small bills and wa ... read more

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The Hammer

August 19, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          This story about my childhood best friend is one of my favorites. It’s languished on my menu bar for five years. I’m posting it here in case you missed it.   ************************   Ricky Delgado nearly turned inside out the summer of ‘62 when ten rusty carnival trucks rattled onto the fresh asphalt parking lot of the new shopping center that sprang up a few blocks from where we lived. He watched as the attractions were unloaded and assembled: a carousel, a haunted house and a rickety roller coaster. But one attraction captured his attention more than the others—rising into the sky, even higher than the Ferris wheel, was The Hammer.    ... read more

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Do Women Smell Better Than Men?

August 22, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Of course women smell better than men, but pheromones aside, do their noses work better?          Mrs. Chatterbox is often saying to me, “What’s that smell?”   I seldom know what she’s talking about. I have a terrible sense of smell. She’s in the habit of saying, “Time for that shirt to go into the wash.” Or, “I think you left some dirty socks under the bed.”             We’ll be watching TV and she’ll say, “Something in the fridge has turned.” She’ll get up and clean the fridge right in the middle of Game of Thrones. Dragons are flying overhead and my w ... read more

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Peculiar Pictures #49 & #50

August 24, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Considering that I’ve been posting Peculiar Pictures for five years, it’s reasonable to assume I painted more peculiar illustrations than any other kind. And here are two more, both from my Business Fundamentals CD.   I was commissioned by Getty Images to create spot illustrations dealing with business and money issues. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t know what spot illustrations were. Here’s a later example of two of my spot illustrations; simple, without complex details and lots of blank space (cropped here) to accommodate text.     Cutting Through Red Tape (Spot Illustration)       Struggling With an Idea (Spot Illustration)   Instead, I ... read more

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Tennis for Dummies

August 26, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A few months ago I announced that I was finally tackling my weight problem and working at becoming fit and healthier. I’ve lost ten more pounds since then. All my life I’ve had doctors tell me that the secret to weight control was eating less and moving more. Turns out the SOBs were right.             I recently went to watch our good friend Tina compete in a tennis tournament. Tina has been playing a few years, and while watching her it occurred to me that I could be out there also, away from the TV, interacting with people and getting more exercise. So I signed up for lessons at our park district.             Let m ... read more

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Growing Up in an Instant

August 29, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Like many senior citizens, my ninety-one-year-old mother spends much of her time watching television, particularly old movies. She’s constantly asking me questions about actors and actresses from the 30s and 40s, questions like who was John Hodiak married to, or what was the name of that guy who played Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind. I often remind her that these actors and actresses were plying their trade long before I was born, and while I enjoy old movies my interest doesn’t compel me to research the lives of long-dead movie stars. But a recent conversation with good ol’ Mom brought to mind a childhood experience when I was eight, one that rocked my little world.   Growing up in the ... read more

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Why Do Critics Hate This Artist?

August 31, 2016 :: written in: All Blog Posts
It’s one of the most famous works ever created by an American artist, so years ago I was surprised to discover it on a wall near a men’s room at New York’s MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). I wasn’t alone staring at this iconic painting; dozens of others were clustered around Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, a painting that captured the public’s attention as soon as it was finished in 1948, at the same time drawing the scorn of art critics. When I was taking art classes in the 70s, it was fashionable to trash Wyeth’s work.       Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth, 1948   Andrew Wyeth was born into what would become one of America’s great artistic dynasties; h ... read more

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