Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Case of Murder

I'd never known anyone who was murdered in the whole of my life. All that changed on November 7th, 1985. Until then I didn't think that murders happened to people you really knew. Murders were on the news or in novels or on those TV crime shows. They just didn't seem to be a part of real life.

Murder is an ugly business. It destroys illusions of safety and gives you reason to believe that the world can really be a horrible place. When you're eighteen years old and two people you know are brutally murdered in their own home you get a sense of the unreal in a big way. When town chatter starts filtering in and you hear what people think and who they suspect the situation becomes even more gruesome. People get scared, but they get hungry for the details too. I don't know which of the two is worse.

Here in my hometown Rev. Dewitt Lewis and his wife Jesse Lou were the victims of a horrific double homicide. It happened on the date mentioned above and it was the first time in my experience that I actually knew people who were killed in such an unnatural manner. They were sixty-six years old. Quite affluent residents of Dalton, the Lewises were self made millionaires. Mr. Lewis owned and operated a very successful business, Dewitt's Electric Motor Rewinding and Repair. He was the minister of Brookwood Baptist Church where he and Mrs. Lewis were very active with their congregation. Semi retired, the couple was enjoying their life when this awful thing befell them.

Dalton was turned topsy turvy by the murders. It was the biggest news story to ever hit the town. Rumors started flying immediately. Everyone seemed to settle on one suspect in particular. Yet the police never arrested anybody. They made several statements to the press inferring that an arrest was imminent but one never materialized. Twenty-five years on this remains the situation.

I have never forgotten the Lewises or the murders that took them away from Dalton. Over the years there were snippets of news every now and then about the case but nothing ever came of any of it. I began to feel like Dewitt and Jesse Lou were being forgotten as the years passed and people moved on. It seemed such a tragedy to me for this to be so; a tragedy as equal in magnitude as what happened to them.

I started to write about the case a few years ago. I wanted people to remember them and I wanted something to be done about their deaths. I contacted various cold case groups but none of them would look at the crimes because I wasn't an immediate family member. I couldn't get the news to run anything new about the case. I was frustrated and angry. How could two good people meet such a grisly end and nobody was doing anything about it? Here in the 21st Century, with all this advanced forensic science at our fingertips, and nothing was happening to bring justice to these two dead people.

I also couldn't figure out why their immediate family wasn't demanding something be done. I remembered the rumors from 1985 and how everyone in Dalton thought they knew who the killer was, and I wondered...I wondered. If there was anything to this old feeling, why wasn't it being re-investigated?

In early 2004 there was a small bit of action on the case. The local police searched the home of the Lewis' grandson, Cary Dewitt Calhoun, here in Dalton. They would never say what they were looking for or why they obtained the warrant to search the residence. The home where he lived was in the Brookwood section of town, and it just happened to be a house that had been built by the Lewises, a house where their grandson lived when they were murdered, just about a mile away from the home where they were killed. Yet again nothing came of this. At least nothing that showed up in the news.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was contacted by a reporter for the local paper here in town. Mark Millican wanted to talk with me about the case. He had read a piece I wrote on the murders that went viral on the internet a couple years ago, thanks to my good friend and true crime writer Gregg Olsen. Mark was working on a story about the twenty-fifth anniversary of the unsolved killings and he was interested in my insights from the research I did for my article, and also he wanted to get some recollections about the Lewises, as I had known them personally. I was very heartened to know that someone was bringing some attention back to the case. The Lewises weren't being forgotten after all.

Mark's article was a piece of journalistic brilliance. He went into a lot more detail than I remembered seeing when the murders first took place. He went back to the Dalton police department and spoke to officers who worked the case in 1985. He even tried to talk with the Lewis' daughter, their only child. His work on this piece made a fabulous story, and he and I both hoped it would break open some kind of new lead in the case, but over a month has passed since this crime was revisited... and still nothing.

I decided to write again about the Lewis murders and I asked Mark some questions about his research for his article. He and I share the desire for justice for Dewitt and Jesse Lou. We made a good team on the project and I couldn't not write again about this without looking at it from his perspective. Mark didn't let me down.

1. Mark, what about this case drew you to it?
MM: Actually, it was an assignment, and since I am the ‘Cops & Courts’ reporter it fell to me to do the story. However, Dalton is my hometown. I had returned there after a stint in the service and was living there when – let’s just go ahead and call it what it was, a double homicide – occurred in 1985 before I moved to Ellijay to join the newspaper there the next year. So I remember well the crime and actually lived about two miles south of where it happened. I also worked for Dalton Parks and Rec Department for awhile and since Brookwood Park was one of the areas I kept up, I knew the ‘lay of the land’ around the neighborhood.

That being said, you can sense that it was more than an assignment. One of my pet peeves is seeing injustices done to people, and my job sometimes offers opportunities for people to have their stories told – with the hope that at times justice can be served.

 2. When we were corresponding while you wrote your article, I could sense the passion that was driving you in this case. Do you feel any differently about the case since you completed the article?
MM: Certainly. After talking to former Police Chief James Chadwick and current Chief Jason Parker, I was able to add to my knowledge of the case and in going back and looking in the archives of The Daily Citizen, I was able to refresh it in my mind.

As it turns out, much of the evidence in the case points to one person.

3. As a fellow Daltonian, the memories of that time are always fresh in the minds of our fellow citizens. Are you surprised at the amount of interest there still is in this case, after 25 years?
MM: Definitely. People who live here remember it like it was yesterday, and that even includes kids who can remember. I ran into a guy (he’s 37 now!) I used to coach in baseball and we were talking about it and he was like, “Oh, yeah! I remember that!” Of course, he was 12 at the time.

As stated in the 25-year story on the investigation, Parker says he still has people remark about it “in passing.” Interestingly, there is no hue and cry from the family about solving the case, but more on that later.

4. What was your primary goal in writing the article for the anniversary of the murders?
MM: I kept running into brick walls when it came to law enforcement authorities and court representatives naming a suspect, so making that link and coming up with the name that we could go to press with became my overriding goal. But we had to do it in an official sense, and that literally came together at the eleventh hour.

5. Tell me what happened.
MM: How we got the ‘Smoking Gun’ linking Cary Dewitt Calhoun to the investigation:
As the week leading into Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010 – the 25th anniversary of the murders – drew to a close, things got very interesting. I had been transcribing voluminous notes into the computer and realized what was missing – we still didn’t have the name of the primary suspect, and the cops weren’t going to give it to me. Outright, anyway.

On Thursday around lunch I stopped in at DeWitt Electric to ask to speak to Mrs. Cox personally – DeWitt and Jessie Lou Lewis’s only child. I was told by an employee that she had fallen down a flight of seven stairs the day before. I left, went back to the office, and determined to call Mr. or Mrs. Cox the next day after she’d had another day to recover from her fall.

On Friday when I called Mrs. Cox and asked how she was, she was very curt and wanted to know what I wanted. When I began to explain that we were doing a 25-year anniversary story of her parent’s murders, she said, “You just want to hurt our family.” I tried to ask her how she felt about the murders never being solved, and she never let me get the question fully out before cutting me off with, “I’m not available for comment.” I thanked her and hung up the phone.

Moments later I got a call from the unnamed employee wanting to know what I was up to and I told him I was writing a story. He told me they were concerned the renters in the Lewis’s former home might read the story and want to move out. I told him that was not going to stop us from writing the story. He then said Mrs. Cox might be contacting an attorney about me harassing her, and I related to him how I handled the conversation. When he told me that he had given me her injury condition and that I shouldn’t have called her, I told him I was prepared to talk to Mr. Cox if he answered, and I did inquire about Mrs. Cox’s condition to preface my attempt at an interview.

In the initial article on the murder 25 years ago, Mr. Cox had gone on the record with our reporter at the time and told her it had to be someone the Lewis’ knew, and went into their security measures at their home. I simply wanted to ask him if he still felt that way.

At the same time, I was trying to get a sidebar story together about a home near the murder scene that police searched in 2004. I was stymied because I was mistakenly searching archives in 2003 at lunch and frustrated I couldn’t find anything. It was getting late in the work day and finally I took a break and drove to Panera for a cup of coffee. I just needed to get away from the office and think. I called Bruce Frazier at Dalton Police just to see if I could get anything, anything at all. He told me the home was searched in February of 2004. It was 4:40 p.m. and I knew the library would be closing soon, so I sped that way. En route, I called a friend in the courthouse and asked her if she could get me property ownership records on a piece of property even if it was just 10 til 5. She said sure. (I have a brief background in real estate sales and paralegal studies and knew if I had an address the records are public.)

But there was a dead end at the library. Library archives had not been completed past 2003 and I walked out frustrated. Desperately, I called Frazier once more and asked if he would give me the address of the home searched in 2004. He said, “Sure, it’s 506 Lakemont Drive."
Just like that. I called my girl at the courthouse and she laid out the ownership by year. The home belonged to grandson Cary Dewitt Calhoun when it was searched for evidence related to the murders. Still no arrest was made, and he sold the home to his mother within days.

Here’s the link on the new evidence story:

6. What kind of feedback have you received from the article?
MM: Favorable. A lot of it has come obliquely, through other newspaper staff members who have talked to people in the community. For instance, our news editor talked to a man who was one of the Lewis’ neighbors, who said simply, “It needed to be said.”

Other feedback while I was actually writing the piece was not favorable, but that was entirely from the family and a DeWitt Electric employee.

7. Are you planning any further journalistic work on this case?
MM: Not unless something breaks in the case. My plate stays pretty full with all the crimes, court cases and features I have to cover and write.

8. Thanks for allowing me to be involved in the work you did, Mark. I enjoyed collaborating with you very much.
MM: Carey, it has been my pleasure. Your input into the main story – that of knowing the Lewises personally – is what every reporter dreams of in this type of story. It put the “personal touch” into the lives of a long-dead beloved pastor and his wife who were brutally murdered. My most fervent hope is that there will be a break in this case. I believe someone out there knows something, but is fearful of stepping forward.

And that is exactly the sentiment around Dalton concerning this case. I have always hoped that someone, somewhere, at some time, would reveal something to bring about a closure to what happened and provide an explanation as to why the Lewises were so mercilessly slaughtered that night so long ago.

Like Mark, I've also wondered time and time again why their family hasn't been insisting that something be done. If it had been my parents who were murdered, I would be screaming for justice from every rooftop I could find. The police would never hear the end of me on the matter until someone was in prison for killing them. It would become my life's work to bring this killer to justice for what was done.

A footnote to my original article on the murders was used by Mark in his story, and the next day after it ran the Daily Citizen News used it as their Quotable Quote for that day. I think it's only fitting to close this new writing with that same thought.

"There is still a killer walking around who knows what he did that night all those years ago, and there are still two people dead who deserve justice."

(If anyone who reads this knows anything that might help bring this case to a close, please contact the Dalton Police Department at 706-278-3333.)

Carey Parrish

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The End of Don't Ask Don't Tell, The Beginning of Tomorrow

Today will go down in history as one of the most important victories in the fight for equal rights in this country since the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861. The United States Senate voted to repeal the despicable "Don't Ask Don't Tell" rule that had been preventing gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces since the Clinton administration. This is a monumental step forward in the evolution of our nation toward an equal and just society.

For too long gays and lesbians have been forced to live their lives in the shadows. Our country is one of the last civilized nations in the world to recognize LGBT people as more than second class citizens. The legalized brutality that the LGBT community has had to endure for more years than most people care to count has done much to diminish the world of people who are American citizens, entitled to the same rights as any other US citizen, but who've been pushed into the background, being told that they can't have their constitutional rights, while idiots like John McCain have led crusades to excuse and further this discrimination. I wonder if he's been revived since the Senate vote. (Little laugh.)

People have grown tired of having to accept that they can't live their lives as openly and as freely as other citizens of this country. The LGBT community has suffered at the hands of the religious dominations that have influenced the lawmakers of this land for far, far too long. These people are no longer willing to step aside and live their lives in secret because the Constitution says they don't have to do that. Every citizen of this nation is entitled to the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of expression, set down as law by the founding fathers of our country. I for one think it's a damn shame that people have had to demand their equal rights in the first place.

With the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," other challenges to equal rights will soon follow the same fate. The debate over same sex marriage has always been a moot point in the first place, but now it won't stand a chance to keep people from marrying who they please. Love is universal. In antiquity, gays and lesbians were not treated as sub human species either. Bisexuality was also a very common practice in the ancient world. It wasn't until the religion known as Christianity came to prominence that those who loved differently found themselves forced hide their true selves. A couple of millenia filled with persecution, torture, and ostracism has finally festered into a boil that is erupting all over the place. You can't make people live lives that aren't natural to them; you just can't do that. The struggle and the fight for equal rights that we're seeing now is what you get when you try.

In many ways, the civil rights movement is mirrored in what's happening now. A minority of people, born in this country, as human as anybody else walking around, was denied even the most rudimentary of rights - their freedom - all because of the color of their skin. A war was fought to end slavery but another century had to pass before the bonds of segregation were finally broken. Now there is another minority, having been denied their own civil rights because of their sexual preference, who are rising up as a whole and saying that they will tolerate no more of such treatment because of who they are. They are taking to the streets protesting what has been foisted upon them by an unjust society and demanding that their lawmakers force the recognition of their rights. Yes, there are very clear parallels here. Lets just hope it doesn't take another century to right the wrongs of the past.

The world is forever changing. So are the thought patterns of modern man. What was accepted without question in decades past is no longer relevant in today's world. This is the 21st Century and nobody has to bow to another simply because anymore. No one should be made to be ashamed of who they are or who they love. And nobody should be denied the right to live as freely as anybody else. It's that simple. The religious conversatives who've opposed equal rights for LGBT Americans are simply going to have to accept that there are other points of view which are as just as valid and just as equal as theirs. They don't have to embrace it, they don't even have to like it, but they do have to admit that they have no right to force their beliefs on other people. Trying to do just that is why we're in this situation right now.

Yes, today is an important day in the history of our country. It's the day when our government took the first real steps toward creating a society where people can live freely and equally, where nobody has to hide themselves in the shadows anymore, and where no one can deny a person his civil rights because he happens to be different. The definition of equality is taking on a new sheen right before our very eyes.

Let's celebrate it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book Excerpt: Butterfly's Child by Alan Chin

Cord moseyed back to the porch swing and stayed there long after the rain had stopped and the boys had gone to bed. A lustrous sheen spread over the workyard as the moon peeked through the clouds. The light grew brighter as the clouds parted, revealing a full and lovely silver face and throwing down bushels of light.
The Jeep pulled into the workyard and parked at the stone house. Tomeo went inside, but he left the front door half open. A minute later a yellow light brightened the interior, and Tomeo placed the lamp near the front window.
Cord was thankful Tomeo didn’t restart the generator to have electric lights. The lamplight glow brought a quiet comfort. A figure in the window drew Cord’s attention.
Tomeo stood with the curtains falling against his bare shoulder. He had shed his shirt and leaned against the window frame. Cord studied the column of his neck, the curve of his shoulders. His gaze traveled down the length of slender torso to find a patch of white hugging the man’s waist. Yes, he had stripped down to his briefs. A smile adorned his face, which meant he knew Cord sat in the shadows, watching. His left arm raised and curled above his head, posing.
Cord sucked in his breath and held it. The lamplight turned the slightly muscular frame amber. It was the sexiest thing Cord had ever seen. It felt like a cool river flowing through the middle of his chest.
Tomeo moved away from the window, but Cord kept staring, hoping he would slip back into view.
A minute later the yellow lamplight moved to the bedroom window, spilling across the workyard. The front door still hung open. Cord’s eyes went from the door, to the bedroom window, to the door. His heart was not even thumping; the invitation was clear enough. They had come to a silent understanding by using the ancient language of flirting.
Cord hesitated another moment, listening inside the big house to insure everything was as it should be. He stood, still trying to decide what to do. He heard a window opening upstairs. He cocked his head, listening to the slight stirring from the boys. That was enough to cast a shadow of reservation across Tomeo’s open door. Still, the prospect of making love to that sexy man pulled at him—the intimate comfort, the pleasurable sharing of flesh and feelings. So intimate, so pleasurable, that he knew he would not cross the workyard.
He retreated to his own bedroom, stripped off his clothes, and settled under the top sheet. Was it absurd, he wondered, to throw away a relationship with Tomeo in order not to damage his fragile relationship with the boys? Could Tomeo be some sort of wedge? Possibly—as much progress as he and Kalin had made, their relationship was not wedge-proof.
He felt confident he had made the right decision. However, he was too excited to sleep. He lay awake in the darkness, naked, covered by the sheet. The thought of Tomeo so close, stripped to his cotton briefs, had his mind sizzling. He imagined pressing his cheek to that soft fabric, nuzzling the hardness hidden beneath. He felt his flesh turn electric; hot sensations gathered in his groin. He shook the thoughts from his head before his hand reached for his own erection.
He glanced at the nightstand. There in the moonlight, barely visible, was a book: another of Tomeo’s texts on Buddhism. His scattered readings and occasional attempts at meditation had not made him the least bit mindful. When he read the text, he thought he understood the theory—nothing is permanent, everything is in a constant state of change until it breaks down and dies, and this is why attachment to things causes suffering. But he thought about the boys asleep above him, and he wondered what was so damned wrong with attachments? Why shouldn’t we allow ourselves to love wholly and break our hearts when it changes, fades, and dies? Isn’t the ecstasy worth the pain? Or is there a middle ground? He had so many questions the book failed to answer. He wanted to talk this over with Tomeo because he felt he must be barreling down the wrong path. But he remembered the Buddha’s last remarks: be your own light, work out your own salvation with diligence.
As he stared up at the dark ceiling, he heard the back door creak, footsteps, then a tall figure slipped into his room, still wearing those white cotton briefs. He moved to the bed and knelt beside Cord. His hand slipped under the sheet, touching Cord’s shoulder, then wandering down his flank, running in a smooth arc over nipple and abdomen.
“What are you doing?” Cord whispered.
“Taking the bull by the horn,” Tomeo said as his fingers tightened around Cord’s erection.
Cord tried to protest, but before he could, his mouth was smothered by satiny lips. Surprisingly, Tomeo’s breath tasted sweet; the life rising out of his throat felt as hot as a furnace.
Tomeo slowly, passionately, sucked away Cord’s breath, and with it went his resistance. His fingers reached up, not to push away, but to stroke those sunburnt cheeks and roam across neck and shoulders. He wrapped his arms round Tomeo’s solid torso and drew him into the bed. Tomeo banged his head against the headboard, and they both stifled a laugh.
Tomeo stretched against him as their legs tangled in the sheet. Cord felt the distended fabric of Tomeo’s shorts against his belly, heat waves enfolded him, and their lips pressed into a continuous kiss. Cord was shocked at how good this man felt, as though Tomeo reached deep into Cord’s body with velvet fingers and caressed him from the inside out, setting fire to his nerve endings, making him twist and rise and arch at Tomeo’s will, like a puppet being manipulated by a master puppeteer. Cord had never experienced anything like it. Nothing before this came close.
Tomeo pulled away and whispered, “I love you, Cord Bridger, and I intend to do whatever it takes to make a life with you.”
Cord received those words all the way to his marrow. It felt satisfying and simultaneously not enough. He buried a moan in the soft of Tomeo’s throat while hugging him tightly enough to crack ribs. He needed to fuse with this hot skin and be devoured. Cord kissed the man again, kisses that said yes, yes.
And why not? What Tomeo’s books had taught him was that love is a peach. It’s ripe for the briefest time. If not picked and eaten, it falls to the ground, turns brown, and rots.

Other work by Alan Chin
Novels: Island Song, The Lonely War, Match Maker
Screenplays: Daddy’s Money, Simple Treasures ( articles)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Sarah Palin's Alaska

The Learning Channel's newest original series, Sarah Palin's Alaska might be more interesting to me if I actually like the star of the show. As it is, I have watched a few episodes just get a feel for it and even though Sarah grates on my nerves like fingernails on a chalk board this is really only a minor irritation when I consider the other aspects of the program.

Alaska itself is one of the most beautiful states in the union. Unspoiled, mostly undeveloped, and a glimpse into a time long passed, the ambience of Alaska is just irresistible. Most people got a feel for the place back when Northern Exposure was on the air, but this show actually gives you gorgeous panoramas of the real place in all its natural glory. The mountains, the streams, the ocean that surrounds three fourths of it, the blue sky overhead, Alaska could be the star of the show all by itself. It's just that beautiful.

The extended Palin family also gives the viewer something to focus on besides the harpy at its center. Todd Palin is really much more interesting than anybody thought he could be. His past as a salmon fisherman, and a successful one to boot, is impressive. That his son Track is carrying on the family business in this forum is quite touching.

The other Palin children are also fun to watch most of the time. They come across as ordinary kids growing up in an extraordinary place, with an extra-extraordinary mother who really loves them. In fact, the whole family seems very close knit and Todd is extremely demonstrable in his affection for his kids. The youngest, born with Down Syndrome, is a cutie who is a delight to watch. The way the rest of the family goes out of its way to see that he's being brought up without any pity is worthy of applause.

But it's Sarah Palin herself who remains the centerpiece of the whole show. One does get a different feeling about her as she displays herself as a wife and a mother, focused on her family, but pursuing  a high profile career in politics as a public figure. You have to wonder if she's just using this series as a platform to warm up the populace to her for a possible White House run in 2012. After all, she did come off as something of a caricature in the 2008 race, and the way McCain used her as an obvious pawn was laughable.

Still this isn't a bad show. It has that gorgeous Alaskan backdrop, a family that endears itself to an extent, storylines that revolve around more than just the famous mom, and a general likeability factor that is not just confined to the right wing either.

If only Sarah Palin wasn't the star. She just gets on my nerves.

Not everybody's cup of tea but still worth a watch or two nonetheless.

3 Stars out of 5.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Review: Tricks by Rick R. Reed

Novelist Rick R. Reed created his career by turning out one page turner behind the next, most often from the supernatural genre, but with his latest foray he's written a romance that is as good as anything else on the market today.

Tricks tells the story of Arlis, a popular stripper in one of Chicago's most successful clubs. Arliss knows his craft and he knows how to make the most of it. Into his world of sultry sexual intonations comes Sean, a young man who's mostly the nerdy sort, quite out of place in a club like the one where Arliss dances, and who's also reeling from a recent relationship implosion.

As fate dictates, Arliss and Sean come together in an "opposites attract" love story that keeps them both satisfied and content, no matter how different their lives have been. True happiness finds them both as their romance evolves, giving the reader the feeling that love really is blind.

Enter a major porn producer who wants to make Arliss his next star. The very real possibility that the romance was too good to last envelopes them both as Arliss considers making the career jump into adult erotica. Only he doesn't know the real intent of his would be benefactor and he's fallen in love with Sean, who he doesn't want to lose but whose continued presence in his life will be in question if Arliss goes down the path he's offered.

Tricks is one of the most refreshing books from Rick R. Reed in a while. It is a tale that won't let you go until it's ready, and it won't be ready until the last word is consumed.

Recommended reading. 5 Stars.

Review: Susan Boyle - The Gift

Pop sensation Susan Boyle's second studio album is a collection of holiday carols called The Gift. With this release Susan again displays the unique gift that catapulted her from obscurity to stardom. Virtually unknown prior to the spring of 2009, she knocked the whole globe on its arse with her riveting, searing, tour de force audition for Britain's Got Talent. Since then, her career has done nothing more than ascend higher and higher into the stratosphere.

Perfect Day is a song that is spot on for Susan's vocals. She captures her listeners' attention without difficulty and delivers a gorgeous rendition of this standard. Do You Hear What I Hear is without question the album's centerpiece. This piece de resistance is arranged so beautifully that one literally drifts away on its gorgeous melody. Don't Dream It's Over is a surprise inclusion in this set and Susan's delivery is pristine. O Holy Night is another gem in the velvet cushion produced here, but O Come All Ye Faithful, the CD's final track, really stands out as an original performance of an overproduced standard.

I can think of no other singer on today's stage who could take a set like this and turn it into a masterpiece the way the incomparable Susan Boyle has achieved with The Gift. She is undeniably still "dreaming her dream" and as long she keeps the music flowing the planet will keep listening.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Gallery: After Turner by Samantha Floyd

After Turner
by Samantha Floyd

Samantha Floyd is an art major at Shorter University in Rome, GA, graduating in May 2011. She is located in Sugar Valley, Georgia. Her goal after graduation is to move to New York City and begin a career in museum work. Her hobbies include traveling, digital photography and photo editing. Painting is the main field she works in. She has a strong interest in art history and is working on using that interest in her work to study and paint with the techniques developed by artists throughout art history to combine with her personal techniques. The titles of most of her paintings are dedicated to the artist in which she borrowed techniques from for that particular painting.

Spotlight: Novelist Alan Chin

With a new novel hitting the market now, novelist Alan Chin has been burning the candle at both ends for some time. He first established himself with the popular book Island Song, and then he followed it up with the Rainbow Award winning The Lonely War and Match Maker, associated with today's Don't Ask Don't Tell headlines. Now Butterfly's Child is being released and Alan is getting ready to increase his fan base again.

Alan is an email pal of mine. We've been corresponding for a couple years and his talent is undeniable. He also gives as much as he gets. This guy has interviewed me for the Examiner a couple of times and he always send me his latest release so that I can get a sneak peek into what he's doing.

Alan is a world traveler whose home base is in San Francisco. He and his husband spend the winter months in Southeast Asia. His reports from the East are always enjoyable. Alan has a way of sharing what he's experiencing and making you feel like you're there too. Pictures are often not necessary. His use of language just sends the senses reeling in such a way that the mental picture you get from them can create the image all by itself.

Now that Butterfly's Child is being released, I got in touch with Alan and asked him for an interview. He happily obliged. Once again it was a great experience. Chatting with Alan is always a pleasure. But when he's talking about his work it's even better. A devout Buddhist, Alan uses his life experiences as the palate from which he paints his words. The view is breathtaking.

CP: Tell me a bit about Butterfly's Child, Alan.
AC: Butterfly’s Child is the story of Cord Bridger, who was raised on a ranch in Nevada until he went to Julliard to train as a concert pianist. Fifteen years later, he goes back to the ranch for his grandmother’s funeral, only to find his grandmother had a woman lover, and he has a teenaged son he didn’t know about. (his high school sweetheart was pregnant when he left)

This is a story about family, and realizing what’s important in life -- of finding your path. And yes, there’s a little gay romance along the way, some heart breaking and some heart warming. It’s a story with many layers, but the central theme always loops back to alternative families.

CP: How does this one compliment your previous novels?
AC: It is similar to my other novels in that much of it is told from the viewpoint of a strong gay protagonist, who is thrown into a situation he is not prepared for, and has to dig deep to find the strength to deal with the issues thrown at him. In fact, this one hits rock bottom, then has to pull out a jack hammer and dig deeper.

It is different from the others in that half the story is told from the viewpoint of a seven-year-old boy who has severe emotional issues, and lives in his own little world, isolating himself from everyone except his older brother.

CP: Where did you get the inspiration for your new book?
AC: About three years ago, while there was a lot of controversy about gay couples adopting children in some southern states, I decided I needed to write something regarding gay families. I wanted to make a statement that traditional, straight parents did not necessarily provide the best environment for children, and that gay couples could provide a stable, loving atmosphere. 

CP: What sort of advance reaction have you gotten from Butterfly's Child?
AC: Only three people have read it and given me feedback. Each one said they read it in one sitting, because after a certain point, they were literally unable to put it down. Of course, these are friends of mine, but all of them are not afraid to give their unvarnished opinions.

CP: How did you get involved with Dreamspinner Press?
AC: I had issues with my previous publisher, so when it came time to publish Match Maker, I decided to shop around. I found a literary agent who spent almost two years trying to sell it to the big New York firms, without luck.  In April of 2010, we parted ways, and I sent the manuscript to Dreamspinner. They loved it, and while the ink was drying on the Match Maker contract, I sent them Butterfly’s Child.  Dreamspinner will also republish Island Song in 2011.

CP: What are you reading right now?
AC: I’m reading a book that hasn’t been published yet called The Boy Behind the Gate. It is the true account of a gay couple who sailed around the world in a 50-foot sailboat. The author is self publishing, and it should be out by the end of this year. Being an avid traveler, I’m really enjoying his read.

CP: You and your husband Herman travel a lot in winter. Where are you now?
AC: We are in Chang Mai, Thailand. We just arrived today, in fact. We spent a long weekend in Bangkok, where the entire city was party central, because it was the King’s birthday. All Thai people love their King, so they go all out this time of year. At one point, there were massive fireworks displays going on in no less than seven different areas of the city, all at the same time. Talk about Shock and Awe!

On this trip we will also spend time in Malaysia, Singapore, an Island in southern Thailand, and a few weeks in Japan on the way home.

CP: How does the practice of Buddhism influence your writing?
AC: I like to think that Buddhist teachings are at the core of all my stories. I always seem to put my protagonists in deep trouble, where they have to dig deep and examine their core. And what they find there, is what I’ve learned by studying Buddhist texts.  I don’t stand on a soap box and do any preaching. If fact, I try to hide it as much as possible, but it’s there if you look for it.

CP: Are you working on a new novel now? If so, what can you share about it?
 AC: I’ve recently completed the first draft of my latest novel, which I hope to publish in late 2011. It is the futuristic story of two twin brothers, one straight and one gay, battling a government taken over by ultra right-wing Christian fundamentalist. It makes a statement about religion and government, and was inspired by a brilliant story Victor J. Banis wrote called Angel Land.

I’ve also recently completed the first draft of a screenplay about a tribe of Native Americans in Southern California trying to buy a Las Vegas Casino. It’s my first stab at writing comedy, and boy, writing funny material is damned hard work, at least for me. My husband, Herman, claims I have no sense of humor, and I’m beginning to believe him.

CP: Where can readers find Butterfly's Child?
AC: Hopefully on the night stand beside their bed. If it’s not there beside my other books, <grin> then they can find it in paperback and all ebook formats on, or on

CP: What do you hope your audience gleans from the book?
AC: My only hope is that they enjoy a good read. If the story touches something deep within, or they find meaning that reflects on their lives, then that’s fantastic.

CP: And what advice or wisdom can you share?
AC: That’s a tough one. All I can share is, each person must live their own life, find their own path. We are surrounded by wisdom, but we must each figure out on our own how to recognize it and apply it to our lives. 

I’m sorry to say, that is my only wisdom. As I’ve grown older, I’ve apparently not grown wiser, only more selective about what I think and do.

CP: Alan, thanks for visiting with me, my friend.
AC: Carey, as always, it has been a pleasure. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying your new blog, and I’m thrilled for the opportunity to help make it a success. Best of luck to you and your readers. 


Welcome To The Outer View

What you're looking at here, and reading, is the culmination of a dream I've been cultivating for the past several months. Let me give you a little background.

Back in February, after more than three years, I had to close down Web Digest Weekly e-magazine. It had become too time consuming keeping up with a weekly publication like that, and keeping it at the quality that both my readers and I had come to expect from it. It was a painful decision for me to reach, and one that I didn't make in the course of a few days, but over the space of a few months.

At that point, I began receiving a lot of emails asking for something new in which to feature much of the same content. Web Digest Weekly had originally been created to serve the writers I had met through several online communities; writers who are very talented but who had few resources available to them through which to get their work out into the mainstream market. A writer without readers is like the proverbial tree that falls in the forrest without anyone to hear it.

Over time WDW became a big success. I started with four pages on that web site. By the time I wrapped it up, it had twelve. The first month I had a few hundred views. By 2008 I had a few hundred thousand views. When I closed the site it was still getting around 60,000 hits per month. Writers, actors, reality stars, singers, painters, you name it, we had it. Reviews, a wildly popular advice column, my own page where I ranted and rambled about current events, the site was a lot of fun and I loved doing it.

Now, with The Outer View, I hope to continue the tradition I began with WDW but on a much less demanding scale. There will still be the interviews, the reviews, artists can feature their work here, and so on, but it will be a more relaxed pace which hopefully I can keep up with more easily. Once per month, the posts from that particular month will be combined into a .pdf file for download. By doing the majority of the mag in blog format I won't have to maintain a web site - at first anyway -  and it will be more readily available for folks to view at their leisure. With WDW, most of the posts were gone after a week and if you didn't get there in the seven days it was up you missed it. This new fomat will be a lot more user friendly and the content will always be available for anyone to find who wishes to search for it.

Thanks for your support and thanks for sticking by me as I've figured out this new format. WDW launched my own literary career and I am still here to serve the artists who give of themselves so freely for the public to find, enjoy, and celebrate.

Carey Parrish