Comfort, Then and Now

By James Alexander Thom

We modern Americans have so many comforts of all kinds that we can hardly imagine what hardships our ancestors endured just to get through their days. That is an important truth that a good historical writer should strive to reveal in the course of telling a story. Our forebears deserve our admiration.

Think of it:

Until steam and internal combustion and electrical engines, all work had to be done by muscle power: our muscles, and the muscles of slaves or animals. That means that through all the millennia until one or two centuries ago, labor and toil were simply the costs of survival.

Needing water, you had to bring it up and carry it; you couldn’t just turn on a faucet. If you wanted hot water, you had to find and cut wood, by muscular effort, and make a fire to heat the water.

Without electricity and furnaces, you needed candles, lamps and wood or coal fires to give you light and warmth, and you had to make or fetch the fuel.

There was no warm indoor bathroom, no flush toilet. It was like camping your whole life long, in that regard. Add that there were no deodorants, and smells were discomforts of their own sort.

Food had to be grown, harvested, husbanded, herded or hunted, and butchered, transported and prepared by hand, without electric toasters, blenders, microwaves, and preserved in many toilsome ways, including the cutting and carrying of ice.

Clothing had to be spun, woven, sewed by hand, houses built and household utensils crafted.

Just getting from place to place required effort, and there were few roads, and the traveler was subject to the weather. Imagine crossing a county or state or continent without a climate-controlled car, train, bus or plane.

Doctoring was so primitive that pain and death were what you had to expect if you got hurt or sick.

In combat there were no helicopters to lift the wounded off the battlefield, there were no anesthetics or antiseptics. There were lice and fleas everywhere, and no insecticides.

You become aware of all those efforts and discomforts when you heed any story from the past.

And it might occur to you that one of our greatest modern comforts is not a physical one:

Back then, you could not just get in touch with a loved one by dialing up a voice or tapping a keyboard. If someone was away on a voyage, or at war, you just had to wait, weeks or even years, to learn by a letter or word of mouth, whether that dear one was even still alive. In those days, anyone away from home was a missing person.

Reading well-researched history, if nothing else, should make you thank your Creator for the modern comforts.


In Once Upon a Time It Was Now, best-selling author James Alexander Thom (Follow the River, From Sea to Shining Sea, Sign-Talker) gives you the tools you need to research and create stories born from the past that will move and inspire modern readers.

James Alexander Thom is an Indiana-born Marine veteran, and was a newspaperman, magazine freelance writer, and Indiana University Journalism School lecturer before he became a full-time historical novelist, known for his thorough research in archives and in the field. His American frontier and Indian war novels have won national awards and sold more than two million copies. Two were made into television films, by Hallmark and Ted Turner. Thom’s family history drew him to the Civil War era.  His namesake was killed in the Battle of Fredericksburg, and his great grandfather survived the deathly Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp. Several years as Ohio River historical lecturer for the Delta Queen line provided technical knowledge and riverboat lore for this book. The author is also an artist and sculptor. James and his wife Dark Rain live in a 170-year-old log house near Bloomington, Indiana.

How to Prepare for a Teacher Interview

It’s Teacher Appreciation Day! To all teachers out there, we wish you a happy and healthy day. You work hard to offer others the knowledge you have and we thank you for that.

Some of you may not yet have a teaching position and are currently looking. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Day, we have some helpful hints for you to ace your teacher interview.

By Anthony D. Frederick, Ed.D., author of Ace Your Teacher Interview, 2nd Edition

How to Prepare for a Teacher Interview, from Ace Your Teacher Interview, 2nd edition

Ace Your Teacher Interview

Ace Your Teacher Interview

The time and effort you put into getting ready for an interview will often be reflected in the success you will enjoy in an interview. And, please take my word for it, an interviewer will quickly know who

has taken that time and who has made that extra effort to get ready for an interview. That effort will be revealed in the depth of the responses and the breadth of experiences brought to the interview.

Thorough preparation before an interview is just as important as what happens in an interview. Ignore the preparation and you are essentially “shooting yourself in the foot” – putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage even before you say your first word or answer your first question.

One of the most important things you can do in advance of any interview is a self-assessment. This evaluation of your abilities, skills, and talents will help you know what you are good at, and is essential in communicating that information to interviewers. With this list you will be in a better position to demonstrate how your unique set of abilities can be used to educate youngsters in a particular school or district. Arrive at an interview with your strengths in mind and you’ll arrive with the confidence to do well.

Getting ready for an interview may be just as important as the interview itself. Take the time to practice, prepare, and practice again and you will give yourself a decided advantage over all the other potential candidates. The amount of work and effort you devote to the interview before it occurs frequently reaps incredible benefits after the interview is over.

Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D

Anthony Fredericks is a nationally recognized educator well known for his practical teacher materials and stimulating and engaging conference presentations.  A professor of education at York College of Pennsylvania, he is an award-winning and best-selling author of more than 150 books, including teacher resource materials (Guided Reading in Grades 3-6), children’s books (Mountain Night, Mountain Day; The Tsunami Quilt), and adult non-fiction titles (The Secret Life of Clams).  His extensive background includes experience as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, professional storyteller, curriculum coordinator, educational consultant, and staff developer.

A Tribute to Steelers Owner Dan Rooney

By Andrew Conte, author of The Color of Sundays, 2017 Blue River Press

The Color of Sundays tells this uniquely American story by tracing Bill Nunn Jr.’s life story.

A few months after Bill Nunn Jr. died, his former boss Dan Rooney saw me at Steelers headquarters one day, smiled and told me, “Well that worked out perfectly for you.”

It had taken me months to resume work on the book, The Color of Sundays, after Nunn died, and I was unsure what Rooney meant. “How could that be?” I responded.

“Well, he told you all of his stories,” Rooney said, “and now that he’s dead, you can say whatever you want.”

He laughed as he said it, and I joined with him. It was true that Nunn had been particular about what I intended to write about him, shying away from all of the attention the book was sure to bring.

In the days, weeks and years ahead, much will be written about Rooney too, now that he has died, Thursday at age 84. The highlights are many: He transformed the team started by his father, Art Rooney Sr., from a losing franchise into one with more championships than any other. In later life, he served a meaningful role as the United States’ ambassador to Ireland. And, of course, he privately loved his large family and a wide circle of friends.

His largest legacy, however, might be the impact he had on integrating professional football and life. One year after the Steelers had formed in 1933, the league owners unofficially collaborated to remove blacks from the game. Art Rooney had gone along with it, and the Steelers lost their one black player, Ray Kemp.

Art Rooney had many African American friends and spent much time in the Hill District with people such as Gus Greenlee, a numbers runner who started the Pittsburgh Crawfords Negro leagues team.

Still, his son, Dan, seemed to feel the need to atone for what the Steelers and the league had done in those early years. He had seen the injustice – and the impracticality – of keeping blacks from the National Football League.

Dan had made the decision to hire Nunn, who used his knowledge of historically black colleges and universities to discover African American players who otherwise might never have found their way to professional sports. I make the case that Rooney’s decision and Nunn’s contribution, more than any other, turned the Steelers of the 1970s into four-time Super Bowl champions.

Later in life, when the player ranks were fully integrated, Dan Rooney realized that the coaching ranks remained racially divided. He was among the team owners who pushed for change, leading to the “Rooney Rule,” a measure requiring teams to interview at least one African American candidate before hiring a new coach.

The league had to acknowledge it had a problem and then take steps to address it – rather than just ignoring reality. The rule also led to the Steelers taking a closer look at an African American coaching candidate, Mike Tomlin, before hiring him in 2007. He has led the team to two Super Bowls, winning one.

In the end, no matter what people say about Dan Rooney, his legacy will endure as someone who pushed football – and society – to acknowledge its shortcomings on race and to do better.

Andrew Conte


Andrew Conte is the author of is the author of the best-selling book Breakaway: The Inside Story of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Rebirth and the Silver Benjamin Franklin Award-winning book, The Color of Sundays. Andrew is a graduate of Dickinson College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.



Saint Patrick’s Battalion – Padraic Quinn’s Diary

New Orleans ✴ June 15, 1845

Since God and my mother saw fit to make me literate, I have made up my mind to keep a diary. This is the beginning of it. Nothing much is happening to write about at this time, but it appears the

United States Army will be going to Mexico pretty soon, and I’ll be going along with it. I ought to keep a diary.

Here it is about me and the Army. I was with the soldiers in the last year of the Seminole campaigns in Florida. I was an errand boy in camp. Mostly I did servant work for the officers who didn’t have their own personal slaves. Officers are pretty helpless, so many of them being gentlemen and too good to shine their own boots or empty their own chamberpots, or go fetch anything they need, so there was always something for me to do to earn my keep.

Proud and doomed, Irish rogue cannoneers fighting against their former comrades-in-arms.

You see my handwriting is pretty good. Soldiers who can’t write asked me to write letters home for them, and I earned some pennies from them. They would tell me what they wanted their families to know about the Indian campaign, and I came to like writing it. It’s like storytelling, and I practiced making the stories sound the way the soldiers would have told them if they had the gift of words. Or what my mother called Blarney. It seemed to me that a man soldiering against those Seminole Indians in their great swamp, a man doing that would want to seem like a heroic sort of fellow back home. So I sometimes wrote some flourishes and maybe little exaggerations to make their folks back home admire them.

I never wrote any outright lies, such as, a fellow had been awarded a medal for bravery. But I might suggest in the letter that he deserved one.

Sure and they did deserve medals just for being down there in that mucky, prickly swamp with all the poison snakes and those mosquitoes. And officers who were meaner than alligators! The Seminoles themselves were scary, being cunning and in their own kind of countryside, where white folk don’t really belong, not having webbed feet. The Seminoles don’t really have webbed feet, either, but a body could believe they do, the way they get around in there. I don’t think we really won that Swamp War, but a couple of years back the government said it was over and we moved back into garrison on solid ground. What I am getting at here is that I regret I wasn’t writing down all those interesting events and occasions, so that I could remember them better. I was only nine then. I write much better now. I teach myself by reading everything I can get.

Lately our country and Mexico got to squabbling about their border with Texas, and pretty soon our Army moved here to New Orleans where we can load on all kinds of ships and go straight over to Mexico, if it comes to that. It seems the President is pretty determined to have a war against Mexico. You don’t do this much getting ready if you don’t really mean to do something. This city is all a-stir with soldiers and officers.

The above excerpt is from Saint Patrick’s Battalion, by James Alexander Thom, Blue River Press, 2008. Pick up your copy at right here and read the whole story!

Martin’s Great Words

All About Martin Luther King Jr.

All About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin’s Great Words

One of the privileges I’ve enjoyed through writing All About Martin Luther King, Jr., is speaking to children.  It is an honor to talk to children about Martin’s life and the grand ideas of equality and justice that shaped his life from beginning to end.  And when speaking to children, I always make a point of noting that Martin was a remarkable student–a fertile mind who could glean ideas from sources that, at first blush, might seem a far cry from struggles related to race, gender, or poverty.

As a child, Martin was a top student, and he graduated from high school in his early teens, having skipped three grades.  In college, Martin again graduated at the top of his class, and repeated the same in his graduate, Ph.D. studies at Boston University.

Children can learn many lessons from studying Martin’s life and his thought, but first among them might be the joy of education.  In many respects, Martin was a life-long learner, and his classroom became the streets and the conversations he was having with people from across America.  He always said that he was drawn into the Civil Rights struggles because of the bravery of Rosa Parks, and, even thought many people considered Dr. King to be first and foremost a Civil Rights leader, in his mind, Dr. King was always a pastor and a friend.  His vision transcended race and embraced everyone in the grand dream of equality and justice for all Americans.

Likewise, the most difficult portion of the book for me was deciding which of Martin’s words (his quotes) to include.  There are so many.  And so little time and space to honor them.

~Todd Outcalt

In addition to writing All About Martin Luther King, Jr., Todd Outcalt has written Husband’s Guide to Breast Cancer, and Indiana Wineries. 

Hosting internationally renowned author Rhys Bowen and celebrating 30 years of Sisters in Crime 

By MB Dabney

As the Speed City Indiana chapter of Sisters in Crime, we have always loved murder, mystery and mayhem. That love is the heart and soul of what we do.

With the help and support of our publisher, Blue River Press, we have completed four anthologies since 2007, with the newest, The Fine Art of Murder, hitting book shelves last October.

While this chapter is only 15 years old, the Sisters in Crime organization this year marks its 30th anniversary of advocating for female mystery and crime writers, and advocating for diversity in the industry. And to celebrate, the Speed City chapter of SinC is hosting a day of fun on Feb. 25, with internationally renowned bestselling British author Rhys Bowen.

A winner of both the Anthony and the Agatha mystery awards, Bowen is the author of Molly Murphy mystery series and the Royal Spyness series, among other novels and short stories.

In a day filled with fun, Bowen will speak to the chapter at our regularly scheduled monthly meeting at 11:30 a.m., at the Barnes and Noble bookstore on River Crossing Boulevard on the north side of Indianapolis. Following that, the chapter and the College Park Book Club are hosting a British tea for Bowen at the College Park community center on Fordham Road from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Then from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., there is a book fair again at the Barnes and Noble store, with Bowen greeting fans and signing books.

Local authors with stories in the chapter’s mystery anthologies will also be on hand at Barnes and Nobel to sign copies of our anthologies.

In addition to the The Fine Art of Murder, the chapter’s collection includes Racing Can Be Murder (2007), Bedlam at the Brickyard (2010) and Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks (2013).

We are so proud to have Rhys Bowen in Indianapolis to help celebrate Sisters in Crime, which has been serving as the voice for excellence and diversity in crime writing for 30 years.


MB Dabney is a freelance writer and author. You can follow him on Facebook.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

All About Martin Luther King Jr.

All About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It was over a year ago when Blue River Press publisher, Tom Doherty, invited me to contribute to the All About series of children’s biographies. Specifically, he asked me to consider writing the biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But right away, he wanted to know if I knew anything about the Civil Rights leader, or at least enough to get started on the project.

Since I was born in 1960, I was rather young to remember Dr. King from direct memory and experience, but later in life I did find some rather interesting connections as I studied Martin’s ideas and his writing. I knew, for example, that Martin had attended a United Methodist related graduate school–Boston University–for his Ph.D. studies. I had also applied to BU when I was considering seminaries (I am a United Methodist pastor) and had been accepted to that school as well as to Duke University. And noting Martin’s doctoral dissertation–which was a paper on neo-orthodox theologian Paul Tillich–I realized that I also had written papers on Tillich during my graduate studies.

And then there were the other influences, such as Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau–a diverse duo that I, too, had read and studied years later.
But writing All About Martin Luther King, Jr. was most of all a learning experience. Writers often write in order to learn, and for me, writing this children’s biography was both captivating and challenging.

My hope is that children from all walks of life will gain much from studying about Martin and will come away feeling encouraged and empowered to make changes in their world. Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is just one facet of the book. Walking the walk is another.

~Todd Outcalt

A pastor, husband, father and writer,Todd Outcalt has written several books for Blue River Press including Husbands Guide to Breast Cancer and Indiana Wineries. When he is not busy helping others or writing, he enjoys time with his wife, reading, kayaking, and hiking.

Keep up with breaking news from Blue River Press by following ups on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


Ten Point Coalition Indianapolis and MLK Jr.

Be a Part of Your Community! Non-Violence at Work Ten Point Coalition Indianapolis and MLK Jr. at Barnes and Noble – River Crossing

Take this opportunity to learn what leaders are doing in the Indianapolis community. Come and meet Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition members at Barnes and Noble River Crossing on Saturday February 11, 2017. Coffee hour with 10 Point President, Pastor Charles Harrison takes place from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm. Enjoy free coffee, scones and conversation.  You will also get a chance to meet local authors Todd Outcalt and Amber Calderon, who are both supporting 10 Point Coalition through education and the new book, All About Martin Luther King, Jr. Todd authored this title and Amber illustrated the interior. They will be meeting, greeting and signing copies of the book from 1:00 – 3:00 pm. When you buy a book at this event, a percentage of the net sales will be contributed to Ten Point Coalition.

All About Martin Luther King Jr.

All About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most influential leaders in American history.  After completing his studies as a young adult, he dedicated himself to the Civil Rights Movement. He. began leading Civil Rights marches and giving powerfully influential speeches to Americans such as his “I Have a Dream” speech. Martin’s hope was that all Americans would come together to work for freedom and equality.

Through struggles and oppositions, Martin transformed his dream of equality into a law of equality and integration. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the course of history and the lives of millions of Americans, his influence is still felt today and he is forever regarded as an American hero.

Todd Outcalt is a pastor, writer, husband and father.  He has written for adults, children, cancer patients, and persons with disabilities.  He lives in Brownsburg, Indiana with his wife and enjoys reading, kayaking, and hiking.


ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR—–Amber Calderon is an artist pursuing a double major in Studio Art and Anthropology from DePauw University, and will be graduating this coming May. Amber has found a deep fondness for drawing and painting, and illustrating has become a big part of her studio practice. Much of her interest in making art is rooted in replicating, understanding, and manipulating the world around her through fantastical representations of reality. For the All About… series Amber is interested in showing the real reality of the lives of whom she illustrates in order to honor their memory and legendary accomplishments.


The All About Series books have helpful Teachers Guides too. Check them out!

To keep up-to-date on our new releases and older titles, like us on Facebook (Blue River Press) and follow us on Twitter @BlueRiverPress

All About Martin Luther King Jr.

One of the most influential leaders in American history.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most influential leaders in American history.  After completing his studies as a young adult, he dedicated himself to the Civil Rights Movement. His inspirations often came from Jesus, Gandhi and Thoreau. Dr. King was a motivator, and young readers will see as they read the pages of All About Martin Luther King Jr. and enjoy the illustrations (interior artwork by Amber Calderon) will also be motivated by him.

Martin Luther King Jr. began leading Civil Rights marches and giving powerfully influential speeches to Americans such as his “I Have a Dream” speech. Martin’s hope was that all Americans would come together to work for freedom and equality.

Through struggles and oppositions, Martin transformed his dream of equality into a law of equality and integration. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the course of history and the lives of millions of Americans, his influence is still felt today and he is forever regarded as an American hero.

The author is Todd Outcalt. He considered it an honor to study Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and write about him. Like Dr. King, Todd is a pastor, writer, husband and father.  He has written for adults, children, cancer patients, and persons with disabilities.  He lives in Brownsburg, Indiana with his wife, Becky, and enjoys reading, kayaking, and hiking.

Jennifer Mujezinovic is our inspiring cover artist. In every All About portrait she aims to embrace her own style, connect with readers, and reveal a bit of the personality of each subject. Look carefully at the cover to see hidden messages about the subject of the book.

Todd and Jennifer were interviewed about this book on IndyStyles WISH TV in Indianapolis. Check it out here: 

Young readers (and older ones as well) will love learning All About Martin Luther King Jr.

The Science of Meditation, Yoga and Prayer

There are various scientific health benefits for people who practice yoga and meditation. The Science of Meditation, Yoga, and Prayer explores and explains them. This book merges eastern practices of well-being with western science to produce a perfect blend of science, meditation, yoga and prayer.

Yoga has been demonstrated through scientific research to be a superior form of exercise for overall well-being and combatant of stress. Daily stress is nothing new and everyone experiences at some point. Chronic stress increases oxidative stress in the human body, which is related to many illnesses including heart attacks and strokes. Yoga and meditation are some of the most effective ways to relieve such stress.

Scientific research has shown that sometimes prayer can be effective in saving the life of a critically ill patient when all medical options are exhausted. Currently, some scientists attempt to explain healing power of prayer and distant healing which cannot be explained from known theories of medical science by using quantum entanglement theory. Throughout the book Dr. Dasgupta has cited original peer reviewed publications in medical journals to convince readers regarding many health benefits of yoga and meditation as well as potential power of prayer.

Praise for The Science of Meditation, Yoga, and Prayer

“This provocative and thought provoking book is an excellent resource for the medical professional or lay person seeking a deeper understanding of spiritual practices from a scientific perspective.” ~ Dr. Mariana Markell, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

About the Author

Dr. Amitava Dasgupta was born in Calcutta, India and came to the United States in 1980. He received his Ph.D in 1986 in Chemistry from Stanford University. He then completed his fellowship training in Clinical Chemistry from the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine at Seattle. He is board certified in both Toxicology and Clinical Chemistry by the American Board of Clinical Chemistry. Currently, he teaches pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Texas Medical School. Although a toxicologist by profession, Dr. Dasgpta learned yoga and meditation from his teachers in India. He tries to meditate everyday and use it effectively to combat the stress of everyday life including job related academic stress.