Getting Older.

As we roll into 2017, I’m one year closer to being fifty.

I can’t believe it.

Regardless, due too eating to much between the hours of 1-3AM, which is apparently when I MUST HAVE CAKE, I started running last year. I love it.

But, I only like running outside, and in the heat. The hotter the better, which leaves me in a lurch right now as Tennessee is in the midst of our own Arctic Winter. And then summer, and then winter again, but mostly winter.

So, I started a pushup challenge with myself. I did forty pushups (not all at once) about three weeks ago. Today, I just did four hundred. Again, not all at once, but you get the picture. To my horror, I seem to kind of like them, and I can do them anywhere that gravity exists. I think the goal is to run outside with no shirt (and not scare people) this summer, which means I’ve got five months to go. I’m keeping a log book, and when it’s time to run, I’ll add up my pushups and see just how many it takes to turn back the clock a bit.

In other news, I really appreciate Oreo Thins being sold in convenient single-serving packages of forty.

Paging Clark Griswold: It’s Christmas time.

I’ve reached a compromise with my wife.

I wanted 250,000 Christmas lights, a small nuclear reactor to power the system, and live reindeer.

She wanted light-up Christmas trees that have a vaguely Dr. Seuss-like quality; whimsical and fun.

I like them. As you may have guessed, that isn’t 250,000 lights, but it’ll do. It turns out that an unlicensed nuclear plant is both expensive and frowned upon, so I’ll hold off until later and/or whenever portable nukes become a thing.

Our search for trees was critical, as we have more than one Christmas tree in the house. Since we have somewhere between one and three hundred cats (I think), we have little trees placed high in *relatively* safe areas. Meet one of our little trees.

That’s tucked away in my son’s room, and yes– that’s a VCR. He likes old technology, and he’s convinced that he can reinvent the American obsession with videotapes. Since he’s eight, I won’t call him a hipster, just an optimist.

We found the trees at a local lot. It was dusk, and cool, and the perfect night for tree hunting.

All in all, it’s been an amazing December and we’re just getting warmed up. Wherever you are, may this season be warm and bright.


Jezebel and the Rabbit

This Tuesday, something happened that is a (sadly) common part of my life. 

Taking my son to school, I noticed a rabbit sitting in a driveway. From her body language, I knew she was badly wounded. I stop, approach her carefully, and pick her up. She’s shaking, in pain, and scared.

I’ve been rescuing animals since I was a child. My dad taught me to love animals, respect their plight, and above all else, render aid when and where I could. In the past month, I’ve handled a possum, a crow, five kittens, a rabbit, and snakes, frogs, and turtles. In truth, I have pulled over to escort woolly bear caterpillars across the road (I find them charming and oddly funny). 

I am a magnet for turtles. This is known.

The bunny’s injuries were too severe, and I knew it. We drove across town to the animal hospital, and she was given peace. My wife kindly said, “Her last few moments were warm.” I do this a lot– every time, it’s hard, and every time, a bit of me stays with the small life that just ended. I’m okay at first, but like a tide returning to shore, the feelings catch up with me. I cry, think about what it means to help (it’s not always easy) and move on. In more than forty years, it doesn’t get easier. Ever.

What I’m going to write now is something I’ve been considering for several days. As a writer, I have to be– polite? Careful? I must choose my words, because my living comes from the sale of books to kind people who believe in my stories.

Therefore, I’m comfortable with the following departure. 

A few days ago, Jezebel published this:

Let’s read that headline together: “An October Surprise For Mike Pence’s Dog: Death”.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t like politicians. That doesn’t matter here, at least not to me. Jezebel is a site that combines snarky exploitation along with the journalistic integrity of Gawker. They’re not journalists; they write clickbait about private lives and scandal to earn money. That’s it. They earn money from pain, or shame, or curiosity. 

That headline is beyond the pale. Even for the appalling standards of clickbaiters, it’s sick. It’s the lowest common denominator in a field dominated by exploitation and stupidity. I’d say they have no shame, but that’s redundant. 

I’ve never read Jezebel, or the *author* of that piece, one Brendan O’Conner. I certainly won’t start now. I will, however, tell my readers to consider who you’re supporting when you click on anything from their site. 

For me? I won’t forget this article. I leave that decision to you. Thanks for reading.


About Orlando

I write books, but I also teach history. My fields are military history and religion. They go together, as evidenced by the horrific things done in the name of God.

More than fifty people are dead because a coward named Omar Mateen saw two men kissing, became enraged, and planned– in cold blood– an act of war.

Let me offer some unsolicited advice about God. If your God commands you to kill, then there is no room in my life for your god. 

Christianity is, depending on your notion of time, about a thousand years older than Islam. Here are two things I know for a fact, because I was raised as a Christian and can speak comfortably about the state of my own heart.

1. Christianity allows self-examination. It’s been around for a while, so scholars, humanists, and others can read and offer an opinion without mortal fear. In this sense, we are a partially secular society in which some people are religious, and some people are not. Islam does not allow this kind of examination or scholarship from humanists. It is not allowed, tolerated, nor encouraged, as the holy book of Islam is considered to be perfect. In the United States, some people regard Christians as quaint fools. Some people regard Christians as a threat. That’s a personal decision, and has no impact on my personal decisions of faith. If your religion cannot survive the presence of reason, then there is no place for your religion among thinking, loving people with whom you must live.

2. If your god’s love is so fragile that it can not withstand examination, then it is not real love. Real love is immutable, robust, and permanent. Real love is a bedrock, and cannot be degraded, swept aside, or perverted by outside pressure or doubt. Real love is, at the end, perfect. It is immortal and powerful, and there is no slippery slope in which real love can be eroded into nothingness. If you doubt me, look at the face of a parent as they watch their child sleeping. Look at the face of a parent as they bury their child. Not even time and all the stars between them can change that love.

That’s all. I’m sorry that there are so many families walking around with such pain today, wondering if their hearts will burst. I don’t know what I’m going to tell my kid. I don’t know what I’m going to tell my students on Monday.

When Cookies Attack, And Other News.

I quietly got fat.

I weighed myself and, over the winter,  have gained 22 pounds. So, back on the regimen of eating things like celery and things sort of like celery but shaped differently until my summertime running program lets me feel more like myself. It sucks getting old, and sometimes, it doesn’t. Right now? It does.

Next month, we release the third book in my Halfway Witchy series. Early review copies are available if you’d like in on the fun. I love the direction Carlie’s headed. She gets more interesting with each scene.

The audiobook for Halfway Bitten will be released next month, too! As usual, Erin Spencer is wonderful. She captures all of the voices beautifully, and didn’t flinch when I asked her, “Hey, what do you have for the accent of a French Canadian Clown?” Look for it soon.

I was in beautiful Clear Lake, Iowa for the North Iowa Book Bash this past weekend. It was, in a word, amazing. Wonderful people, great books, and a cool town. The journey there was. . . challenging. Here’s the breakdown:

5:00 AM: Leave in my car. Wheeeeee!

7:00 AM: Gurgle splutter click silence. My car dies 120 miles from home.

9:00 AM: Tow truck driver picks me up. We head home. I am displeased.

11:30 AM: On the road (again) in my bride’s vehicle. 

12:17 AM  Pull into hotel in Clear Lake, Iowa, 755 miles away. I’m a bit loopy. Hell, I’m more than loopy. I’m twitching from too much caffeine. I am close to Minnesota. There are gates across the highway that can be closed in case of a blizzard. The soil is the color of midnight. It’s cold, and the hotel staff is wonderful. I load up books, fall into bed. It’s been. . .challenging.

6:00 AM: I’m up. It’s book time. And oh, is it ever worth it. Fantastic people, a couple great meals, and back on the road a day later to arrive home, shopworn but satisfied. I’ll be going back.
In a car that works, hopefully.

I hope your Spring is sprung. I’ll share art for the new book as soon as we have it– the colors are amazing and I can’t wait to hear your feedback.

Don’t forget– message me on Facebook or Twitter is you’d like a review copy.


Springtime: Outlander, Tornadoes. and Tomatoes.

Happy Spring, Humans.

If you’re north of Florida, then you too are awaiting the arrival of Spring. Here in Tennessee, we kick off the season right: 

We don’t have “rain”, we have sirens. So, in the midst of a month or so in which we dive for cover now and then, I’ll be doing the same things I do every year.

1. Debate putting tomato plants out too early, in which they’re turned in green mush by a passing storm.

2. Endure angst by not putting my tomato plants out, which causes me to go extra days without home grown tomatoes. I prepare my body carefully for what I like to call Tomatogeddon. I don’t like to wait.

3.Bless the heavens for HBO and Starz. See, as a football fan, the spring is a troubling time. Do I respect gymnasts, golfers, and figure skaters? YES. They’re skilled people doing superhuman things. What they are not is my college football team, and waiting until late August to see them kick the snot out of someone isn’t acceptable. So I need something to occupy me when I’m not teaching, running, or writing.
Therefore, I need HBO (Game of Thrones) and Starz (Outlander) in order to maintain my sanity through the Spring doldrums, so to speak.

Now, about Outlander. They’re going to Paris this season, and we get to see the next chapter, featuring political intrigue on a massive scale. This is where Jamie and Claire will try to subvert the efforts of one of the most unlikable characters I’ve ever read.

Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Gawd, what a prig. He bitches about women, and hunting, and his throne, and his clothes, and money, and he does it all in a powdered wig. He’s the definition of spoiled, and his actions are going to kill a lot of innocent people. So, yeah, He’s an asshole.

However, this is also the season that brings us, for my money, the most important characters in that they’re going to create the Jamie and Claire of the future. 

But first, for the female fans of Outlander, this public service announcement:

Moving on. 

I love Master Raymond. He’s interesting, and looks sort of froglike, and where will they ever find a French actor who can–

But of course. Vive le France.

Now, I want you to envision that you’re in high school, and you’re considering going to your Prom. Imagine that Outlander Season Two is on air. Ladies, I present to you the most popular prom dress in history, if that scenario played out: 

Or third. Sam’s a good looking dude, and they are, after all, in France.

Less than a month, now. How are you all holding out?

Also, newest Halfway book will be on sale next week, or just get it now and fund my Giraffe Money Account. You know you want to.

Get it here.
Cheers for now– check back next week, new blog, new giveaway, and I’ll be signing books in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nashville next month. Hope to see you at one of the events. Find out where I’ll be here: Book Signings and Shenanigans



2015: The Bestest Song of the Year

2015 saw the usual array of music.

Cool new bands. Good stuff from established acts. The glut of overproduced crap that LA churns out.

However: As a man who came of age in the 80s, there was a hands-down-no-hold-barred-Chess-King-parachute-pants-wearing-winner for my favorite song of the year.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Walk the Moon: Shut Up and Dance.

For an 80s guy like me, this song has it all. This video has it all– the female star (Lauren Taft) is a perfect homage to the “it girl” of my generation ( the beat up sneaks? yep. perfect.)

The hook is so good, it almost made me dance without stretching for ten minutes in order to prevent injury.

What’s your fave song or album this year? Whatcha got?


The Truth About Santa

I was an early adopter of Santa, and then, a fervent believer. Reasons for this included, but were not limited to:

Our Jewish neighbor Ricky Blumberg (he was 20 years older than me, and a nice guy) came over on Christmas eve and said, “Can you ask Santa to get his reindeer off of our roof? They’re kind of loud.” This was 1974. I was six. I operated under the assumption that every Jewish male was a Rabbi. Rabbis do not lie. Ergo, this was all the proof I needed. 

I became a Santa Lifer.

Fast forward to 7th grade. I’m in the Yearbook Club. We do nerdy stuff that’s vaguely newspaper-reporter-esque. A kid named Hiroshi “interviewed” me, and when he gave his report to the class, his lead-in was this:

“If you believe in Santa Claus, then you need to meet Terry Maggert.”

*cue laughter of class, and lose confidence for the next two decades*

I’ve forgiven Hiroshi for his wanton cultural insensitivity ( I heard he went on to enjoy golf. I hope his game is horrible, but I’m not bitter).

Regardless, that effectively ended my holdout on believing in Santa– at least in one sense. I still believe in the power of Santa as a binder for our family joy, over and above any religious connotations that Christmas brings. 

It’s a win/win– I have a holiday that involves church, food, family, gifts, travel, film, cartoons, beverages, legend, memory, nostalgia, and happiness.

For me, that’s about as much as I can fit into one season. Hope yours is the same.

Until January, when things really start happening for me, see you!


New Family Member: Big Mike

We adopt, rescue, call it what you will. In any case, we have a herd of critters at any given time. I have experience with giant breeds, and find them to be sweet, goofy, and loving.

So, there was a need and we had room at the inn. 

Meet Michael Dean Carr-Maggert. He is a puppy. He is huge. He’s getting hugerer with each passing day.

He also has little regard for doggie gates. In fact, they aren’t doing much good at all.

Not to be outdone, our two additions prior to Big Mike, Dixie and Truman, are here to let you know that all is well. Should you need to speak to them, don’t. They’re napping.

Truman is ten, Dixie is six. They’re both gems. They do not, however, possess the destructive power of Big Mike. 

So that’s the update for All Things Dog as we come to a close in 2015.  More to follow– I still want a giraffe, and wouldn’t say no to a wildebeest, either.


Happy Thanksgiving! Now Let’s Eat Pie!

Is it just me, or does life get better as we get older?

Thanks to everyone who’s helped make this a memorable year (already) with six weeks to go. Thanks for the friendship, books, and kindness at so many author events. I’m looking forward to next year, and will have the schedule out soon.

Fun fact: I WILL be bringing pie to author events from now on. I make several so let’s talk flavor in advance to maximize our pie experience. Pie: SRYS BIZNESS.

I hope your Thanksgiving is warm and welcoming.