Tag: South

A bit about ‘Heart of the Plate’

My third book, Heart of the Plate, is one that I wrote rather quickly.

Some may think that it is not of a certain quality, since I wrote it in about four months and had it published five months after the release of Deep Green. That’s for others who read it to judge and not me.

But I will say this: It is a fictional story I had in my mind for a long time, a story of redemption that I wanted to tell. I wrote pages and pages each day because I believed in the story and its message. It’s more than just baseball. It has addiction and overcoming, love lost and love rekindled, heartbreak and uplifting moments. It has something for everyone, and I hope you order a copy and let me know what you think.

Jeff Wright is at the pinnacle of his Major League Baseball career, earning his way into his first All-Star Game. Not long after, Jeff suffers a gruesome, career-ending injury and ventures down a path of self-destruction, and becomes addicted to painkillers. He is arrested for drug possession. Upon completing a stint in a rehabilitation center, Jeff returns to his hometown of Lewis Rock, Georgia, where he discovers that the town’s largest job source, Reynolds Manufacturing, is being sold off and will leave hundreds jobless. He also attempts to rekindle a love that he lost years ago. What begins as mandatory community service for Jeff’s arrest quickly becomes his saving grace. Follow along as Jeff helps his hometown through a difficult time the only way he knows how — through baseball.

The book earned praise from former Major League Baseball players Wes Helms, Matt Guerrier, and Jason Standridge, as well as former college softball head coach Karen Johns.

Buy Heart of the Plate

Read an interview about Heart of the Plate

A rundown on my 5 books

My full house is complete. 

Two fiction novels and three works of nonfiction. 

And due to work and graduate school, I may not be publishing another book for quite a while, despite having several ideas in mind. Who knows, though? Maybe I’ll have another published in the near future. It’s something I love doing.

So, in the meantime, why not provide a quick video rundown of Trussville, Alabama: A Brief History, Deep Green, Heart of the Plate, Valley Road: Uplifting Stories from Down South, and Ray of Hope?

In the video, I briefly talk about each book, summarizing the plot and letting you know where you can find each. I even profess my feelings for the Atlanta Braves, a tumultuous relationship that I can’t seem to quit.

Please share this post with your friends!

Check out the video below.

Communities win Clay-Chalkville, Pinson Valley semifinal game

PINSON — I’ve waited seven years to write this story, and I hope I get it just right.

I have wanted this game for so long, an intra-ZIP-code tilt between the team with the terrorizing defense anchored by the future SEC defensive tackle against the clicking-on-all-cylinders offense led by the future — most likely — SEC quarterback.

I wanted to write about so much more than just the game. I wanted to write about these communities, their people, and what they went through when I covered their tense city council meetings, spoke to their creative writing and journalism classes, and cringed through the words I typed about school lockdowns and teachers arrested for inappropriate relationships with students.

So, here goes.

I became a local news editor here in November 2010, covering Trussville and Clay. Not long after, Pinson was added to that coverage area.

I covered a lot in Pinson, good and bad.

I sat for a couple hours on an uncomfortable couch with an old man in a house on Main Street, talking about the weather records he kept for more than six decades. I wrote about crashes on Highway 75 and Highway 79 that took young lives.

I wrote about an upstart public library that won a grant for a 3-D printer and asked people to come fill out Valentine’s Day cards to be delivered to kids at Children’s Hospital. I covered robberies, burglaries, stolen utility trailers and methamphetamine trafficking.

I watched as a middle school principal was duct-taped, literally, to a hallway column by giddy students who paid one-dollar bills for twelve-inch strips of tape to raise money for office operating expenses. I was yelled at over the phone by the wife of a man I had written about. He had been charged by the sheriff’s office with a horrible, unspeakable crime against children.

I wrote about Pinson Valley High School’s unique art class, which put on a special effects performance one night that both thrilled and horrified me. It was great. I also typed words about a coyote attacking a Dachshund, and a hit-and-run involving a car and a three-hundred-pound pig. Seriously.

I put words in newsprint about a silver pot that cooked a Guinness World Record number of butterbeans. I also had the unfortunate task of reporting on a Pinson church, among others, vandalized with red spray paint scrawled across its front doors.

You’ve had it all, Pinson. Good and bad.

And now your Indians, 14-0 for the first time ever, will play for the Class 6A state championship at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa against Wetumpka. Another first, and potentially the best story to ever come out of your town.

I spoke to a former Pinson City Council member just hours before kickoff. He was ready.

“We are fortunate to have the buzz in our community,” he said. “We’ve never played in December, never won more than nine games in a season. To be able to play your No. 1 rival in this situation is what lifetime memories will be made of for the players, the fans and community. Sometimes just believing in yourself can lift your town, and today Pinson believes.”

Pinson had reason to believe, despite a slow start.

The Clay-Chalkville defense had a lot to do with that. The Indians led 10-7 at halftime, and scored 27 second-half points to win 37-7. Junior quarterback Bo Nix completed 24-of-34 passes for 256 yards. He threw three touchdowns and was intercepted once. Senior Khymel Chaverst rushed 16 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

I asked Pinson Valley head coach Patrick Nix if this game was what high school football was all about — two great teams, separated by just a few miles, playing in the December cold.

“Absolutely,” he said. “The kind of atmosphere it was, you can hardly hear what’s going on on the field with everything going on. It is absolutely what it’s all about. Overall a very clean game against two passionate rivals, teams that on paper and proximity don’t like each other a whole lot but respect each other greatly. I think you saw that in the play and how it was handled tonight.”

I asked Clay-Chalkville head coach Drew Gilmer, a Pinson Valley High School graduate, the same question. It was as if the two head coaches consulted each other on the answer.

“This is what it’s all about,” Gilmer said. “This is what makes it fun. You need two teams like us, so close together, to get to play in an environment like this. It’s good competition. We get after each other a little bit but we have a lot of respect for one another. They do a great job, and we wish them all the luck.”

But before Pinson Valley plays Wetumpka for the blue map Dec. 8 at 7 p.m., we must cover the dynamic between Pinson and neighboring Clay, at least in terms of what I covered for a few years.

I was mostly drawn to both schools’ athletic teams, particularly football. There has been a lot of crossover. Gilmer spent one year as a volunteer coach at Pinson Valley, his alma mater. Cougars offensive coordinator Jon Clements had the same position at Pinson Valley for three seasons. Gene Richardson, on the Clay-Chalkville staff, was the wrestling head coach and an assistant football coach at Pinson Valley for years. Chris Mills, a Clay-Chalkville High School assistant principal, previously served as the offensive coordinator and soccer coach at Pinson Valley.

Pinson has its own ZIP code — 35126. It shares that with Clay, which, due to not having completely set city boundaries, does not have its own. The Clay Post Office came close to shutting down in 2013. When purchases are made from online retailers that require a ZIP code to be entered, some of that revenue goes to the cities with the ZIP code listed — Pinson, and in some cases, Trussville. Clay misses out.

In 2014, Clay-Chalkville High School debuted a swanky new artificial turf football field, which came to be from a partnership between the city and Jefferson County Schools. The city ponied up a couple hundred thousand dollars for the project. Meanwhile, the field at Pinson Valley High School’s campus was overgrown with weeds in some places, just spots of dirt in others. Pinson missed out.

That same year, 2014, Clay-Chalkville went on to complete an undefeated season and won the Class 6A state championship. It didn’t come without struggle. Prior to the season, a promising linebacker died suddenly. A running back’s mother died in the middle of the season. The Winn-Dixie on Old Springville Road closed, an enormous tax revenue hit for the city. The Cougars’ team captain and stellar running back tore his ACL in the playoffs.

That was a lot to overcome. As a city, as a school, as a team. But Clay-Chalkville did it.

Now it’s Pinson Valley’s turn. The Indians have defeated their rivals from Clay three times in a row now, after the Cougars reeled off wins in the first ten matchups. A state championship, especially in football, brings so much positivity to a school, a community.

Just ask Clay-Chalkville High School Principal Michael Lee.

“The significance of a successful athletic program in a school and community is a vital factor in a healthy school environment,” Lee said. “Athletics, along with strong academics and the arts continue to be the backbone of a school and the thing that brings us together in our communities.

“Friday night football is powerful and means so much to so many people. Often times it brings people with nothing in common together. An AHSAA state championship brings pride and a sense of belonging to your school and citizens in the community. It also brings state and national notoriety to your school and the other great programs such as band, cheerleading, and school news groups that other students participate in. The relationships, opportunities and benefits are profound.”

These communities and schools are the real winners from Friday’s Class 6A semifinal game at Willie Adams Stadium, as Lee stated. A packed facility, a tremendous sense of pride, neighboring cities pitted against each other — this is what high school football is all about. And you carried yourselves well, Pinson and Clay.

“The memories run deep with Pinson,” said a former Clay-Chalkville player who was at Friday’s game. “Also, it was fun because everyone always knew everyone. It’s basically the same town. Same ZIP. Same type families. Now that Trussville doesn’t play Clay this has become the team kids look forward to.”

Bring it home, Indians. Regardless of this heated rivalry, I’m willing to bet those you share a ZIP code with will be pulling for you.

I will be, too.

Book of inspiring stories releases Sept. 15

MOODY, Ala. — Gary Lloyd has released his fourth book, Valley Road: Uplifting Stories from Down South.

The book is broken down into three parts: People, Places and Play. 

In the People section, Lloyd tells stories of inspirational people, from a BMX stunt team motivating a school of elementary students to a man with severe Alzheimer’s miraculously remembering how to play a specific song on the piano. 

In the Places section, Lloyd takes readers on a heartening and descriptive ride through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, to the concrete jungle of New York City, to the Green Monster at Fenway Park, to the azaleas at Augusta National Golf Club, and many places in between. 

In the Play section, high school coaches from around the Southeast tell their favorite stories, words that have never made the Sports section of their local newspapers. In exclusive interviews with Lloyd, they talk about why they became coaches, about basketball saving lives, about baseball players gathering for Bible studies, about a serve-others-first mentality.

“This has been a book I wanted to put together for a long time,” Lloyd said. “So much focus these days is on the 24-hour news networks, the horrible things that people say and do. I believe this is a book that many people need to read these days. They need to know that life in the 21st century is about much more than political debates, riots and negativity. This book is a collection of stories about the good in the world, about undisturbed land in Ellijay, Georgia, about ‘Stop For Prayer’ signs in the Wal-Mart parking lot, about a man retiring after more than fifty years in city service pleading for his wife to be thanked publicly for her support.”

Former University of Alabama quarterback Jay Barker, who led the Crimson Tide to the 1992 national championship, praised Valley Road.

“Gary shows in this book how coaches, youth pastors and community leaders truly impact the people around them and in turn impact communities in such a positive way. Each chapter demonstrates the positive impact of such people and reminds me of how such people have impacted my life, and encourages me and others to do the same. This book is a must read and one that hopefully encourages us all to realize the impact we can have on the people around us.”

Sean Dietrich, the author of seven books about life in the American South, also commented on the book.

“Gary Lloyd writes with fervor that leaves the reader feeling something akin to a plate of blackberry cobbler—with vanilla ice cream, of course. This book, and Gary himself, are gems in this world.”

Valley Road was published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing. The book is available on www.Amazon.com for $10 and on Kindle as an e-book for $7.99.

Lloyd is also the author of Trussville, Alabama: A Brief History, published by The History Press in 2014. He has also written two novels, Deep Green and Heart of the Plate, also available on Amazon.com. 

Lloyd has been a journalist in Mississippi and Alabama. He grew up in Trussville, Ala., and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Alabama in 2009. He lives in Moody, Ala., with his wife, Jessica, and their two dogs, Abby and Sonny. 

For more information, email garylloydbooks@gmail.com. Also visit www.garylloydbooks.squarespace.com and Like his author page at www.facebook.com/GaryLloydAuthor


When you tear the tape on the heavy cardboard box delivered by UPS, dreams tend to pour out. 

You run your fingers across the matte covers of a hundred books, and you almost can’t believe it’s your name printed on them, your words in black ink inside. It’s surreal. 

You have grand visions for your future. You see a line of people out the door at Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble, clutching your book for you to sign. You see news articles about your book in publications across the country, praising its prose and description, and maybe it’s even on the bestsellers list. You see royalty checks rolling in that pay for vacations to the beach. 

Those are all extreme examples, but you dream of them, at least a little bit. Why do something if you don’t want it to be the best? But the harsh truth is very few authors reach the mountaintop of writing books, where all you do is write bestsellers that are turned into blockbuster movies. For most of us, it goes a little something like this. 

Your first book signing ever is held at a posh store near Birmingham, Alabama, where your name and photo appear on a large poster outside. You feel like royalty. You sign a couple dozen pre-ordered books in a back room. You expect to do the same in the two-hour event that follows, but mostly you chat with the store owner about his business model, and with your parents about what’s for dinner later. You sell two books to the same man. 

Your next signing is at a bookstore not far away from the first one, and maybe ten customers come in the two hours you are there. About four acknowledge your existence, as if you are the DirecTV rep begging for people’s time in Wal-Mart. You play Hangman on notebook paper with your wife to pass the time, which helps. You sell no books, but you beat your wife in at least one game of Hangman. 

Your next signing is the one you are looking forward to the most. You just know that the third time is the charm. It is in your hometown, which is also the focus of your book. The event is in a high-traffic area, near an Old Navy and a Target. It’s on a Saturday. This will be great. The publishing company has sent posters previewing your signing to be taped to the windows, so folks will know when to come by. You arrive, and the employees have no clue who you are, or about any book signing event, for that matter. You have been forgotten, and you sell one book. You try to ease your anger about the store’s forgetfulness with more games of Hangman. This time, it doesn’t help much. 

Your next signing event is a true act of desperation, held at a large grocery store in a city full of people who have never heard of you or your book. You wonder why this was even scheduled. You sit near the small section of books the store carries, and awkwardly watch as people push shopping carts full of Gatorade, chicken breasts and vanilla ice cream. One man is intrigued by your work, and he asks you a dozen questions as he flips through your book. He does not buy it. 

This is rock bottom. You wonder if those eight months of research pressed into more than one hundred pages was worth it. You didn’t write the book for the money, but sitting for two hours without selling one is embarrassing and seemingly a waste of time. Then, something great happens. 

You publish your second book, and a church invites you to talk about it and sign copies. You are nervous, because talking in front of a crowd does not exactly seem easy. But you do it anyway, because it is marketing for your book. It goes surprisingly well. You talk for half an hour about your inspirations and the book’s plot, and answer a dozen questions. You connect with this group, and their laughs don’t sound like pity. Almost every little old lady that Wednesday night buys a book. You make five hundred bucks and give some back to the church. You are energized to do more. 

You put out a third book, and it’s back to the drawing board. You promote as much as you can on social media, begging for likes, retweets and positive Amazon reviews. Mostly, those come from your wife and mom. You spend hours looking up independent bookstores in every state, emailing them about your new book. You email a hundred stores and get four responses, all with words you weren’t hoping for. You do the same with various newspapers, hoping for any bit of publicity. You get three stories locally and one in Mississippi. You take your new book and the first two to many locations to snap photos of them for social media promotions. You take photos at a river, baseball field, church parking lot, abandoned business with a rusting door, Turner Field in Atlanta and even your driveway. You hope those images, along with excerpts from the books, draw attention. 

Finally, it’s time for another book signing. You’ve never attended one where there are a dozen authors, but it sounds like a good idea. There will be many people with various tastes, you believe. It is held at a general store just outside the main shopping district in town, where there is not much around. You load your own table and chairs, and a box of books. Because it is held in December, your wife bakes Christmas cookies for the event. Authors are scattered all over the store, between old Texaco signs, a crock pot, carved crosses and other antiques. 

One author has written about her experiences with cancer. Another has written a children’s book. A woman has written about adoption. One man, with more than five books to his name, plays a guitar at his table. Another man, who calls you “Brother,” passes out a poem he wrote that he printed on computer paper. Not many people come to this store during the four hours you are scheduled to stay. Four hours feels like eight. You sell one book, to a man who is about to undergo surgery and needs all the reading material he can get during his rest and rehab period. 

Six months later, you sign up for another large event, this one at a state park along a huge lake. It’s summer, and you assume that it will be well attended, with people swimming and fishing nearby. There is room for fifty authors. Fifteen or so show up. The authors are set up right on the lake, and you’re visited more by hungry mallards than locals seeking the latest in Christian fiction. You feed chili-cheese-flavored Fritos to the ducks and kick yourself for not bringing your rod and reel.

You sell two books: one to your mom for one of her friends, another to the wife of a co-worker. You mostly spend the day talking with fellow authors, about their inspirations and writing processes. You learn about how a man stumbled upon hundreds of documents that told the story of his father in World War II. You learn about adoption. You learn what it takes to write more than three hundred pages. More than anything, you learn about people. You get to know these people better. They become friends and supporters. 

You sell only the two books that day, but you soon realize that might be more than the others sitting near you sold. Some have traveled far for this event, and you feel for them. You help one author take his books back to his car. But they are happy, not deterred by going home with the same amount of books they brought. It is their passion, this writing thing. You learn, after three years grinding in this industry, that money isn’t everything. The industry, like most everything else, is about relationships. Your wife has been to all your events, baking cookies for them, taking in the little bit of money you make, smiling through dozens of games of Hangman. Your mother-in-law has driven to each book signing since she’s lived in Alabama, and even made you a book-themed tablecloth that is asked about and complimented by fellow authors at every event. Your parents and brother have come, and they have bought copies at signings even though they know you’d give them books for free. 

I didn’t get into this industry to make thousands of dollars, though a few hundred would be nice. I did it to tell stories that are worthy of sitting on your bookshelf or coffee table, to put something in print that provides some light in an increasingly dark world. Who knows, maybe some day long after I’m gone someone will read one of my books and say, “I needed that.” I’m going to keep writing as long as I’m able, with that in mind. These authors I sit with in an old general store or in the blazing heat to sell maybe one book inspire me. They fuel my passion. I hope I fuel theirs.

And that’s worth more than any royalty check. 

New homes

Their dreams were so big, but their budgets weren’t quite enough. 

There was the woman pursuing a master’s degree, dreaming of one day opening her own daycare center. There was the other mother, hoping to go back to school to earn her own degree. There was the kindergartner who was on her church’s praise team, who needed a stable place to live. There was the woman who wanted to show her young daughter that you can beat the odds, that anything is possible with God. 

Habitat for Humanity is a wonderful organization, and it chose a neighborhood in my coverage area to build dozens of homes. I got to cover those builds, in which ten homes were constructed in two weeks. It was called a building blitz. Those events were tons of fun. The neighborhood was cut into a steep hill, almost a small mountain. I’d park my truck at the top in a cul-de-sac, where there were no homes. From there, I’d walk past the new homes, their roofs littered with nail gun-wielding volunteers, others carrying furniture inside. The families that qualified to move into those homes would be working, too. They had requirements: to contribute three hundred hours of “sweat equity” and attend workshops on financing and budgeting. The mortgages came with zero interest. 

There was always a key ceremony when the work was done. Each house was dedicated and blessed with a Bible, and the new occupants would speak to the crowd, if they weren’t too nervous, or could push past the tears. Those moments were always chilling. Imagine a single mother with a six-year-old girl, working full time while studying for college tests, and still managing to cook breakfast, give rides to and from school, and help with homework. Adding a stable home to all those tasks lifted a huge burden on these people I saw weep in front of their new homes. 

After I moved on from the daily journalism grind, I decided to drive through that neighborhood, where I had heard that another building blitz had taken place. In that spot I once parked, there was a home. It had four blue columns, tan brick and a rocking chair on the concrete porch. It was nice, and I liked that this neighborhood seemed almost at capacity. I saw a boy outside in his pajamas playing basketball, because during the summer, there are no wardrobe rules. 

I left thinking about those struggles that most of those people surely experienced before Habitat for Humanity selected them for a new home. It couldn’t have been easy. Their tears proved that. I pulled out of the neighborhood and turned right. About a mile down the road, there was a church, its marquee board showing Isaiah 43:19. I looked it up on my iPhone. 

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Under that verse, there were these words: “A new day coming soon.” 

It could not have been more applicable.

Books available at free author event in Bessemer

I’m signed up for another author event, and it’s free.

I’ll be at the third annual Bessemer Public Library Local Author Extravaganza on Saturday, August 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free to attend for the general public.

Thirty authors will be on hand selling and promoting their books.

I’ll bring copies of Heart of the Plate ($15), Deep Green ($15) and Trussville, Alabama: A Brief History ($10).

The library is located at 400 19th Street North, Bessemer, AL 35020.

Come say hello and buy some books!


Have you ever been teased with something to the point you could cry? The perfect house is fifty thousand dollars over your budget. Your favorite college football team loses the national championship game on the final play. The McRib makes its comeback the week after you started a fierce diet.

We’ve all been there. My biggest tease was a golf course. Not just any old acreage of grass, but Augusta National in eastern Georgia, home of The Masters, the best golf tournament the sport has to offer. Let me explain.

The tournament is always in April. To attend, whether it be one of four rounds, a practice round or par 3 contest, you must sign up online to enter a ticket lottery. Winners of tickets are selected at random. You will refresh your email for the results like a lunatic, believe me. In 2014, a friend of ours won tickets to the Monday practice round. He, another friend, my dad and I made the trip. We stayed in a small hotel about an hour outside of Augusta, and the aroma of a nearby Waffle House hung thick in the air. We gave in and went around nine-thirty that night.

The next morning, it was foggy, with rain in the forecast. We toted umbrellas and pullovers and prayers for the rain to hold off. It didn’t. We strolled parts of the most beautiful golf course in the world for fewer than two hours. The practice round was canceled really before it got started. Major bummer. Just setting foot on the muddy grounds was more than most golf fans get in a lifetime. We were appreciative.

Then, a miracle. Everyone who came that day got rain checks. We were allowed to come back in 2015. We had a year to speak with the golf gods, to plead for pleasant weather. April finally came and we drove Interstate 20 across the state line, past Atlanta and on to Augusta. No rain. We wanted to see it all.

Television does not do Augusta justice, no matter your TV’s size or 1080p resolution. The grounds are hilly and spacious. The fairways are so pristine that you feel as if walking on them is a felony. Early in our tour, we had our picture taken in front of Hole No. 13’s green, encircled by bright pink and purple flowers. The hole’s name is, fittingly, Azalea. We watched Tiger Woods tee off on a long hole called Yellow Jasmine, stood in a long line to have our photo taken on Magnolia Lane, saw Titleist ProV1s clear Rae’s Creek on No. 12, walked every square inch of the place that we could, ate pimiento cheese sandwiches for a dollar-fifty. 

I watched the eventual tournament winner, Jordan Spieth, send golf balls airborne on the driving range. I stood close to Graeme McDowell, who played at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, as he putted on the practice green. I said hello to Tom Rinaldi, who tells tear-jerkers for ESPN. 

You don’t have to appreciate golf to have a blast at Augusta. It is heaven on earth, even if it rains. The merchandise store has more stuff for sale than a Sam’s Club, and the food is always cheap. 

I’ve passed through the gates at Augusta National twice, and will most likely never win the ticket lottery. Every time I’ve tried, I have eventually received the “We’re sorry” reply. 

But you can bet I will sign up every year for the rest of my life.