The Vulgar History of Atlanta

Thanks to some creative pestering in my part, Village Theatre agreed to help me stage a play I wrote called The Vulgar History of Atlanta.

I was thrilled and flattered to have a number of extremely talented actors audition for the show. We rehearsed for almost three months, then put it on stage on Dec 6, 2018. My dad and stepdad came to see opening night and, thankfully, an audience did too.

It has been one of the great joys of my life putting this show together. I wrote it, directed it, designed the music and sound cues, built the sets, and dressed the stage. I made the actors dress themselves. I planned and paid for all the marketing.

Thanks to all our hard work on the show, we were invited to come on Lois Reitzes’ City Lights on WABE 90.1, the NPR affiliate in Atlanta. I asked one of our talented actors, Jaymi Curley, to join me in the studio and she was able to take off work to come be interviewed.

It’s hard to express what putting this together has really meant for me. I have been involved with theatre since I was 6 years old. I was in shows all through high school, college, and into my professional life. To be able to join a brilliant cast in taking a small place in the tradition of theatre is a joy too great.

I am insufferably proud of the cast and the show. We’re running through March 2019. I hope you’ll come see it.

My Weekend at Hotel Terrible

I read the reviews of the Ramada Plaza & Conference Center by Wyndham Louisville before I went there, so I knew I was in for … something. “Nasty place STAY AWAY,” one review read. On the other hand, one of my author pals said that the writing conference being held there was not to be missed, so, hoping as ever to sell some books, I went despite the abysmal reviews of the hotel.

How bad can it be, right? I’ve stayed outside lots of times. I’ve slept in freezing cold, clouds of bugs, even a flooded tent in which my tentmate feared I might drown due to partially-submerged snoring. Speaking of which, I considered packing a one man tent to set up in my Hotel Terrible room in case of bugs. I decided against it because I didn’t want the cleaning staff thinking ill of me. Besides, none of the bad reviews mentioned bugs. Well, not bedbugs anyway.

The gentleman who checked me in was professional. He informed me politely that the internet might or might not be working. Either way, he said, the internet was locked in the manager’s office. It could be reset tomorrow, maybe, but not before. I wasn’t expecting walls or a roof, so an internet problem was no trouble. After all, a lot of big-name hotels still charge for WiFi in 2018, a practice for which they are invited to go and fornicate themselves.

And really, who needs the internet anyway? Why look up reviews of local restaurants on Yelp when your in-room guide has gems like this in it?

It is my long-held contention, based on the world travel I’ve been lucky enough to do, that showers are the one thing that we, the United States of America, unquestionably do best. No, the shower experience at Hotel Terrible was not as nice as I might expect at my own house, but warm-ish water did eventually splurt onto me in a relatively predictable torrent. That’s more than I can say for most other supposedly-developed nations.

Once I completed my shower and “toweled” myself off with the handy cloth-based sandpaper supplied by Hotel Terrible, I realized it was impossible to turn the shower water off completely. It dripped for the rest of the weekend. Presumably, it drips to this day.

Mind you, rich people pay money all the time for in-home water sculptures and zen rivers and so forth. My wife occasionally listens to recordings of babbling brooks to help her fall asleep. Hotel Terrible provides you the sound of running water free of additional charge. What luck!

Hotel Terrible has a convenient entryway feature. The doors, as originally designed, require guests to unlock them with a keycard. Luckily, though, the doors are so poorly maintained none of them shut, let alone lock. The result is that if you have stuff in your hand as you approach — a weapon, e.g., or burglary supplies — you can just nudge the door aside with your murder boots and waltz right in.

To be fair, the open doors might be a feature meant to ameliorate the smell inside Hotel Terrible. Though I am a great lover of wine I must confess that my palate and sense of smell are far from the most refined. Still, I would describe the general bouquet of Hotel Terrible as a heady mixture of uncle feet, Funyuns crushed into ancient carpet, week-old jean shorts, and hastily-Febreezed mold.

In short, it smells like the horror of a 1980s family trip; the kind I was forced onto in my own childhood. Three back seats. Four kids. Unchecked aggression. In short, the smell of Hotel Terrible is one of those rare experiences that makes a person glad to be an adult, because adults, usually, are free to leave.


My hotel information booklet still had a few pages that were clipped into its 3-ring binder. One of them mentioned that somewhere in the hotel was a coffee shop. Might they have an espresso machine? I had a few moments to kill on Saturday, so I went looking.

Hotel Terrible is big. There are two huge parallel corridors with rooms on either side and a pool in the middle. If you have the stomach for it, you can stand at the far end of Hotel Terrible and look for a long way down the corridor. If the kid on the Big Wheel in The Shining turned the corner into this corridor, the scary twins would be haunting the end of the hallway perhaps 100 yards away, thus somewhat ruining the effect.

The route I took in search of coffee brought me through the pool area, which, for reasons completely their own, the evil geniuses who designed Hotel Terrible have termed “The Tropidome.” If you uncultured clods think you can vape inside the Tropidome, you’d better think again. This is ironic because only someone who is drugged nearly to the point of percussive heart failure would want to be in there at all.

“Tropidome” is, apparently, a word that Hotel Terrible’s designers made up. Google searches for “tropidome” return links to reviews of Hotel Terrible. In their vast, reptilian imaginations, Hotel Terrible’s designers probably intended the Tropidome to be a lush green oasis in the middle of the hotel, where guests could relax among plants, take a dip in the pool, and possibly even enjoy a slice of pizza or a cold beverage. (No vaping!)

In practice, however, when one enters the Tropidome, one is hit by a blast of hot, humid air the like of which can only otherwise be found exiting a demon’s gaping maw a split second before it bites off your face. I do not exaggerate unduly about the heat in the Tropidome. It is not just sauna-hot-and-uncomfortable. It is custody-battle-inside-a-sauna-hot-and-uncomfortable. I can’t imagine what the guests whose doors open onto the Tropidome do at night other than roast in their beds. These unfortunate souls are probably the reasons why the outer doors no longer shut. They’ve damaged the exits in their blind haste to escape the Tropidome.

There are some “green” “plants” in the Tropidome, but I think they’re fake. If not, they should all be rescued. They are certainly doing whatever equates to the plant version of screaming.

Upon leaving The Tropidome I found myself in an abandoned Godfather’s Pizza. All the lights were on. The TVs were cackling and babbling to themselves on the walls. There was a bright serving counter where pizzas were certainly once handed to hungry customers. But the place was stripped of everything that would make a restaurant except the tables and chairs. All that remained of the once (probably) bustling pizza restaurant was these photos.

I believe the actor in this photo to be J. William Knoll, mentioned here in the Toledo Blade from Nov. 14 1983. The tale indirectly told in that article is of Italian Americans rising up against Godfather’s Pizza for associating their heritage with gangsters and criminals. Fortunately for Knoll, Godfather’s made an arrangement with the Italian groups and he was allowed to continue work as the Godfather. The Godfather’s website bears photos of a man I believe to be Knoll, still presenting himself as The Godfather. I kind of hope it’s him. Congrats on a long-running gig, buddy.

Godfather’s Pizza killed off a huge amount of its stores in a 1990s restructuring under the leadership of Herman Cain, who would later run for president as a Republican in the 2012 election. Cain suspended his bid for the presidency on December 3, 2011 after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. How do you think Cain’s feeling now, in 2018, watching all these Republicans get a free pass from their party on sexual misconduct? I bet he’s pissed.

One of the wading pools off to the side of the lake of bizarre that is the abandoned Godfather’s Pizza in Hotel Terrible is a small room with two ancient computers and one tiny printer. I pity the traveler who attempts to print anything in this room.

You can tell that someone has experienced some form of violent anger here because they’ve taken their anger out on one of Hotel Terrible’s terrible terminals. One can only guess at why the hotel leaves the broken machine plugged in. My guess would be that they consider it to have been inadvertently elevated into a piece of digital art. That, or they’ve left it as a warning to the other machine.

In my mind, I am a brilliant and well-respected author whose work is enjoyed the world over. This is a delusion I recommend all writers manufacture for themselves in order to survive the long years between starting their careers and anyone else noticing they’ve done so. If I had been a therapist instead, I might guess that my dissatisfaction with Hotel Terrible has a little to do with its terribleness inadvertently bringing the actual status of my career into sharp relief.

You probably won’t die if you stay at Hotel Terrible. Sure, any passing murderers will be able to roam the halls freely, but the room doors appear strong and the metal locking loop seemed in good order. The spots on the sheets were small and probably not all blood. I did not get a rash, as some other reviewers of the hotel said they did.

I was reminded, though, of what it was like to grow up in the 80s: horrible. But I was also reminded that I am now an adult, which meant I was free to leave. So, early Sunday morning, I did. And I even got some good career advice from a license plate in the parking lot as I left.

Malcom Gladwell is Mad at Satire

PHOTO: Kris Krüg
I like Malcom Gladwell’s work because I want to feel smart without doing the work of research or analysis. Remember when he dropped that 10,000 hours knowledge bomb? People devoted their lives to that pup like it was god’s own pinned tweet. Well, old Gladdie’s gone and fired a shot at Satire. In doing so he has exited the universe of absurdity, through the Oort cloud of hubris, and is making his way into interstellar bullshit.

I’m late to this, but in his podcast, Revisionist History, (Episode 10, “The Satire Paradox” Warning: bizarre-o site design) Gladwell asserts that satire not only doesn’t solve any problems, it sometimes makes them worse.

He cites as one example Stephen Colbert’s show The Colbert Report, positing that liberals watching the show saw Colbert’s over-the-top blowhard character and thought “That’s so true! Those Fox News Pundits are so full of shit!” and conservatives thought “Hooray! That Colbert guy is owning the libs!”

Point being, if you’re a liberal comedy writer and you think you’re striking at the heart of hypocrisy, sometimes hypocrites get a laugh too. They know how full of shit they are and they’re getting away with it.

It hurts when that happens. I was invited once to participate in a “roast” of some local celebrities whom I judged to be kinda racist. I went to their show, stood up in front of their crowd, and pointed out that it was weird that in a city which is predominately non-white, not a single person of color had chosen to attend the show. I expected to bomb after that comment because I thought people would look around the room and think, “Wow, he’s right.” Instead, it got a big laugh, almost as though that group of people knew they were being kinda racist and maybe kinda liked it.

Chalk that one up to my naiveté, because, when applied to myself, I prefer “naiveté” over “dipshittery.”

People often criticize satire, and comedy of all stripes, for merely making fun of issues without proposing a solution. That’s valid criticism if you’re in couples therapy with your wife and she’ll only communicate by doing Dangerfield one-liners. But satire provides a great service to the public conversation that Gladwell is overlooking: it describes the pieces at play.

Right- and left-leaning zealots are always going to read the news. But the difference in a democracy is made not by the zealots but by the middle. By and large, The People do not like things like hypocrisy, bigotry, corruption, but in order to get them to the polling places to do something about those issues, people have to first be made aware.

My impression is that you’re more likely to get The People to read a The Onion article, to watch The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight, than you are to get them to read a Reuters news piece. It’s easier to digest entertainment than unvarnished fact, and Malcom Flippin’ Gladwell should know that, given that his books, and his career, are based on simplifying stories to make them fit a narrative. I mean, come on, dude. You’re shitting on your own bailiwick!

I do not, nor should anyone, fault Gladwell for making his books interesting. That’s his job. But for him to fault comedy writers for turning reality into comedy is as useful as him yelling pop lyrics into a shitty hat.

Come on, Gladwell. You’re a good writer and a smart person who has been a journalist for a long time. Do better.

Note: Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici also jumped Gladwell for this one.

27 – David Joel Stevenson and Cavern of the Immortal

David Joel Stevenson is a singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and author. He lives outside of Nashville, TN with his wife, several chickens, and thousands of honey bees. He’s working on a great series about a superhero called Victor Boone. “Victor Boone Will Save Us,” is the latest in that series.

Find out all about him at his site here:

I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a couple of SciFi con panels with David, then got to be next to him at our artist’s tables most recently at Hypericon. He’s a super likeable guy with some great books to offer.

I knew he’d be a good Outliners guest!

26 – Lydia Sherrer and the Planet of the Snakes

Lydia Sherrer is an award-winning USA Today bestseller and author of the Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus series. Find all of Lydia’s work on her website here:

I met Lydia on a panel at Hypericon in Nashville, which got completely derailed when I inadvertently mentioned another author’s work. That set Lydia laughing for most of the rest of the time. We’ll tell you all about it.

It’s new book day for me! Check out Apprentice Quest here:

Thanks for listening! Hope you dig the podcast.

25 – D. Alan Lewis and Gears of Love

My guest this episode is D. Alan Lewis, possibly the bravest man alive. He leapt into an open seat on this podcast with no explanation or warning or anything. That’s a leap of faith similar to the one when Indiana Jones stepped off that ledge in the last good Indiana Jones movie and it ended up he was stepping onto a ledge of green screen.

Anyway, I really appreciate it, Alan. Find his work here and give it a look-see:

Also at Hypericon we also met our new pal John Horner Jacobs. Find his work and his recap of the weekend here including a photo of me with a beer on a panel. Shameful display:

As for me, my new book, “Apprentice Quest” is live for pre-order! Grab that here:

The Outliners Episode 24 – Bilgrones and Crystal Whispers

My guests on this episode are Julia Jones and Jessica Bilgrad otherwise known by their two-woman powerhouse improv duo Bilgrones. Find them on Instagram here:

I invited them to be on this writing podcast first of all because they’re hilarious and fun to be around. But also because the point of this podcast is to reinforce important things about writing which are: writer’s block doesn’t exist, ideas are nothing, it’s all in the execution.

But the paralells don’t stop there. Improv is an art form where a group of people try to come up with a story together. The only way to come up with a story live in front of an audience with other folks like that is to contribute to the story but not to hog the stage.

It’s a lot like writing a novel in that way.

23 – Jonathan French and the Grey Bastards

On this episode I want to take a minute to celebrate friend of the podcast Jonathan French and his “The Grey Bastards” book launch with Crown. I recorded our conversation at Eagle Eye Books at his launch event so you’ll get to hear that too.

Check out Jonathan’s work at his site here:

In us news, Outliners is going on the road! I will be traveling to Hypericon in Nashville July 6th – 8th to talk about writing and sell books, and one of the panels I’ll be on will be an outliners, so look forward to that.

The show I (half) directed, Summer of Sketch & Moby Sketch, runs for two more weeks at Village Theatre. Grab tickets at

My show Atlanta Explained is going to do a short, free version of itself at village Saturday June 30th, 7PM. 30 minutes long. Join us for that.

There will be a whole bunch of discounted books starting next week through Kindle Countdown deals. They’ll be $.99:
Santa vs. Krampus: June 24th – July 1st
Santa Suits: July 1st – 8th
Battle for ATL: July 8th – 15th
Find those book on the main page of my site here:

Thanks for listening! If you’re an author who would like to be a guest, find out more here.

22 – Gil Hough and the Algae of Death

I met Gil as a fellow panelist at ConNooga, a scifi con in Chattanooga. He’s a super interesting dude, as you will see when we get into the tale of the Algae of Death!

Gil is working on epic fantasy with his Order of the Lion series. The Celestial Paladin is the first book in that series and it’s free on Amazon:

Also check Gil out at his web site here:

Thanks for listening!

Cryptocurrencies are Becoming the Everest of Stupid

If you know me from my mountain climbing books, you know that I try to inject a little humor into mountain climbing, which is a sport whose practitioners often take themselves too seriously. Let me be clear: you should not ever take yourself seriously, especially not when in the great outdoors. But you should respect the land to the point of religious zealotry.

Someone who was attempting to publicize their new social media and attendant cryptocurrency sent three climbers to the summit of Everest with a thumb drive they say is valued at $50,000. The men were told to leave the thumb drive there as a publicity stunt for the new crypto. A man died in the attempt. That makes me unspeakably sad, even though I never met him.

Beyond that man’s senseless passing, it bothers me that the company claims their surviving climbers “conquered” Everest. Humans no more conquer Everest than an ant conquers my driveway. I suppose to the ants the driveway might be significant, but to me it’s just a flat surface where I park ageing used cars. The ant, the driveway, and myself are all so insignificant to the Earth as to disappear from calculability. It is impossible to “conquer” something that will never, ever notice you.

Secondly, just because you say something is good–say, worth $50,000–doesn’t mean that it is. I have explained to my wife many times that my dance moves are art, but she insists upon asking me if I am having a stroke. We’re expected to understand that if the currency’s designers say it’s worth $50,000 it must be so? Guys. Are you having a stroke?

Even if the thumb drive these guys left was worth what they say it is, it costs more than $50,000 to get to the summit of Everest. You might be able to get to the summit for less money if you already have all the gear, fitness, and knowledge, but even so you’ll be gone from your home for months, which means you’ll not be earning any money. Also, like all mountaineers, you’ll be at the mercy of the weather. You might never set a foot above 4000m.

This fundamental lack of parity between what crypto people say their stuff is worth and the real world is, like, the most cryptocurrency thing ever.

A friend emailed me this morning to ask about some sort of blockchain social media thingy which claims to pay authors in a cryptocurrency that has just been invented. This is the digital equivalent of reading your work out loud in a bus station in return for Skee-ball tickets.

I don’t mean to sound like a cryptocurrency snob, but if someone was offering Bitcoin I might be able to turn that into actual money. Then again, my first question would be, “But why can’t you just pay me in actual money?”

I think the ideas behind cryptocurrency, like security and de-centralization, are good ones, but it seems now that every day someone invents a new coin and a dumb way to promote it. It makes me sad that someone died alongside this frivolity.

You know what doesn’t need promoting, ever? Value.