A Place for Reading, Writing, and Running

A male in the species Homo sapiens, I am a reader, a writer, and a runner.

I am beyond the traditional three score and ten, but still have the audacious hope for change.

In my writing, I prefer rich, dark coffee, instead of sweet tea.

Christened James Victor Herod, life changed me to Jim.

I answer email; try me with the address jherod at tds dot net. We can swap notes about reading, writing, and running. I’ll even reply to something about mathematics ... if it's not too complicated.

I am the keeper of the Art in Mid-Clarke and the Clarke County Literary Community Facebook pages. These two jobs are my public service. Take a look. On the other hand, below is what really interests me.


Reading

Ask me what book I am reading and the answer will likely depend on which room I am in. There are often two or three books going. I travel with several on my e-reader and more than a hundred in my e-archives. At the Taos Writing Conference, I am likely to be reading “The Writer’s Portable Mentor” by Priscilla Long. All time favorites change, but “Atonement” or “Prince of Peace” or “The Voyage” will be on the list for consideration.

There are two book clubs in Grove Hill. The one that meets in the evenings was begun in March, 2001 and the daytime book club was begun in 2004. They have a long and eclectic reading history found here and here.  All readers are welcomed.


In the summer of 2010, I had a chance to visit the home of Isak Dinesen ( also known as Karen Blixen ) while reading her book, Out of Africa. Here are impressions.



Writing

The novel, A Journey Beyond Innocence, is the fictitious tale of William Logan Stone’s walk from near Selma, Alabama to Tennessee. He arrives as Colonel John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate army surprises more than 2000 Union soldiers in a valley near Hartsville, Tennessee. William is assigned to operate a temporary field hospital in a house overlooking the battle. He volunteered to stay and care for the wounded as Morgan left, crossing the Cumberland River with his captured supplies and prisoners. Now, William must face Federal reinforcements arriving from Castalian Springs.


This novel tells the stories of a family deeply rooted in Southwest Alabama. The characters are men and women who served their community, state, and country. Their names could appear on any muster that calls for dedication and survival, for creativity and freedom, even for a taste of daring and wildness. They lived in small communities like Grove Hill, Crumptonia, and Orrville. Some of them moved to cities such as Montgomery and Atlanta. They are a family with history etched in their DNA. It might seem that they are completely American; that is, until a Massai warrior and an Iraqi professor step into the family’s story. “We are their brothers,” these strangers say. “Their story is our story, and their future is our future.”


Wesley Stone was smart. He wanted to be a scientist like his grandfather or an engineer like his dad. For a variety of reasons, Wesley ended up as a student at Georgia Tech needing to make it on his own. What would he be willing to do to survive? There was ROTC, a semester at sea, and marriage to a premed student at Emory University. With the death of that honored grandfather, Wesley Stone learned that he carried a legacy that would ripple through all his descendants and would leave him no choice but to go in hiding. Not long would he be able to disappear, gathering moss in some small town. He became an object for National Security.



A Summer’s Tan is a short story which was published in the Birmingham Arts Journal here. The story is found on page 18 of the paper issue and on page 20 of 51 in the electronic copy.  This short story became part of Roger's story in Etched.




In Summer, 2010, I went hunting in Africa. Not for an elephant or a lion or a waterbeast was I hunting. I was hunting for a story. It was not until I got home and was running along woodland trails at the edge of the nethermost that I heard the African story which I had brought home. Kuona Mwamba’s story won First Place in Fiction in the 2011 Alabama Writer’s Conclave. The tale is now part of Thomas's story in Etched.

Two short stores of mine have won Honorable Mention in the category of Short Fiction at the 2008 and 2009  Alabama Writers Conclave : Hiram's Son (Read it here.) and Family Secret (Read the  story.) I am part of the Grove Hill Writers' Group's. The group began in 2005 and has a satisfying history of success. In total, the group has received six honorable mention awards, three fourth place awards, one second place award, and the first place award mentioned above. All these were in the Alabama Writers Conclave contests. Additionally, one member has won third place in the Hackney Literary Award Contest. The writers group welcomes people who are serious about writing and who want to participate in an active critique group.


Carolina Red is a short story that I carried to the workshop conducted by Wally Lamb at the 2013 Taos Writing conference and to two workshops conducted by John Dufresne in 2015 at the Seaside Institute. It is can be found in the sidebar, free and open for all readers. You might, however, send a comment. My email address is jherod at tds dot net.




Not all my stories win awards or find publication. What is a writer to do except keep them and polish them again some late night while waiting for sleep? Cutting for Cataracts is associated with a fond memory of an eye surgeon.  They come with age, those cataracts. They came so slowly, I didn't even know they were there. Doesn't everyone see halos around lights? My eye doctor said no. "They don't, Jim," he said. "Surely, you know this."  He suggested removing the cataracts. "Okay," I agreed. "We'll do that, but I'll be watching, watching to see if there is story in this." Maybe even a scary story.


In 2016/2017, I will be working on a long, short story titled Second Son. The Grove Hill Writers’ Group has critiqued the episodes which I submit for those meetings.

I will take portions to the Creating Writing Workshop conducted by John Dufresne at the Seaside Academic Village. At the March, 2017, meeting, the portion I will submit to them expands on this statement by the protagonist:

                    WE GOT MARRIED, SHE GOT PREGNANT, AND I GOT DEPLOYED.



There has been more than fiction.

There is the writing in mathematics.


Edward Yeargers, Ron Shonkwiler and I offered a cross-disciplinary course: biology, modeling, and analysis. The class attracted students in mathematics, biology, and engineering. Springer Publishing asked to publish the text and continues to promote the books.


Nearly all students entering Georgia Tech have already had one dimensional calculus in high school. Their first college mathematics experience would be more interesting if they began with multidimensional calculus and with the one dimensional situation as a special case. There was no text available with this perspective, so Professor George Cain and I wrote one. We made it freely available to anyone over the internet. This text is found here.


One aspect of mathematics is to understand changes whether in biological, atmospheric, financial, or some other systems. Create a model for the change. Then, gather data to validate the model. The importance of this structure is to be able to predict the future. Modeling and gathering data is fun, but closer to science than mathematics. I spent time trying to understand mathematical structures.   One of my favorite stories can be found in notes for a graduate class that completely characterized one general kind of structure for problems that might have many affecting dimensions.

I was asked to write two short articles for National Geographic. Naturally, I thought about science in Clarke County. Here is one: http://www.usgulfcoaststatesgeotourism.com/content_detail.php?uid=gulFC299F364D9E25C10

The other one is at http://www.usgulfcoaststatesgeotourism.com/content/historic-homes-on-the-grounds-of-the-clarke-county-historical-museum/gulB2ED602C741159868.

Thanks to National Geographic for giving me the opportunity to show some of the history of Mid Clarke.

For a while after August, 2011, Annell Gordon and I wrote a monthly literary column called Books & Whatever: He Says,She Says in the Clarke County Democrat. First, the exercise of pausing to write a review of a good book for the general public is discipline I needed and, second, I enjoyed doing any writing if Annell is involved. She reads good stuff and tries to make me a better writer!

The Grove Hill Writers' Group's meets every other month. We welcome people who are serious about writing and who want to participate in an active critique group.


Running


My fastest marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon in November,1981. Then Major Carl Springer was my pacesetter. (Thanks, Carl.) At that time, this statue was at about the twenty mile point. I mirrored the anguish seen on his face.






I won the “Over Sixty Trophy” at the Grove Hill Classic in 2001. I wrote about the event from my perspective as a  racer. The story is here.  Years later, I took the over seventy prize in two races in 2011. I missed the 2012 RUN THE HILL due to a running injury. Three trophies!  I confess to no great pride in taking the 2013 over 70 trophy, for I was the only over 70 runner! Here at the end of 2016, I continue to race with the Tombigbee Runners' Club. I won the 60+ cup in the Old Lock One 10K race this year.