Tag Archives: thrillers

Sherlock Holmes & the Red-Headed League: A Guest Post by K.B. Owen

I’m so excited to welcome mystery writer, K.B. Owen, to The Happiness Project today! She is on a whirlwind blog tour promoting her newest book, Unseemly Pursuits, and I asked her to stop by Wisconsin for some midwestern hospitality, and she obliged. *curtsy*
Since she knows redheads are some of the greatest people ever, she’s sharing some tidbits of history about Sherlock Holmes and “The Red-Headed League”.
There’s also a swag-a-licious giveaway at the end of the post, so be sure to leave a comment and you could win!
The floor is yours, Madam.

KB OwenK.B. Owen taught college English at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature. A long-time mystery lover, she drew upon her teaching experiences to create her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.

Unseemly Pursuits is the second book of the series. The first book, Dangerous and Unseemly, was published in early 2013.

K.B. currently lives in Virginia with her husband and sons, and is busily planning the lady professor’s next adventure.


Many fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories consider “The Red-Headed League” to be one of their favorites. The story was published in The Strand Magazine’s August 1891 issue, and later collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892).

red01Illustrated by Sidney Paget, 1891. Wikimedia Commons.

A brief synopsis:

A red-haired businessman, Jabez Wilson, consults Holmes about a curious incident. There had been an advertisement in the paper by an organization calling itself the “Red-Headed League” looking for red-headed male candidates to fill a well-paying position with light work. Wilson had won the job, and began earning a handsome salary for basically “busy” work, copying the encyclopedia during daytime hours. Since Wilson’s own shop mostly operated in the evenings, with his assistant on hand to take care of anything that came up while Wilson was gone, the red-headed man considered it a happy arrangement. But abruptly one morning, Wilson found a sign stating that the League was “dissolved.” Reluctant to let go of a good thing, Wilson comes to Holmes to solve the mystery.

Holmes and Watson are amused, and Holmes’ curiosity is piqued. He agrees to investigate.


Holmes eventually deduces that Wilson’s assistant, John Clay, has been digging through the basement wall of Wilson’s shop into the bank vault next door. Clay had thought up the “red-headed league” scheme as a way to keep Wilson away during the day while he and his cohorts did their digging. When the work was completed and they were making final preparations to break into the vault, Clay dissolved the league. Holmes, Watson, Wilson and the police wait in the bank vault for the criminals, and nab them when they come through.

red02Illustrated by Sidney Paget, 1891. Wikimedia Commons.

If you’d like to read this story online for free through Project Gutenberg, click on the link below and scroll down to the middle of the page to “Adventure II.”

The Red-Headed League

An outlandish story, yes? Ah, but wait: in 1874 (15 years before Doyle’s story was published), a New York bank experienced a similar incident – without the red-headed part – where crooks attempted to tunnel into the vault. Below is an excerpted account from the New York Times, regarding the scheme of bank robber John Clare (very close to the name Doyle selected for his criminal) and the sharp policemen who thwarted him:


For the rest of the article on the sentencing, and how Clare was eventually captured, click here: New York Times

In my searches, I have yet to find evidence that Conan Doyle based “The Red-Headed League” on any bank robbery incident, but the coincidence is interesting nonetheless.

Are you a Sherlock Holmes fan? If so, what is your favorite story?

Jess, thanks so much for having me! It was really fun. 😉

Thanks for teaching us about the Red-Headed League! Maybe I’ll start one of my own…


Now the for book info!

A deadly secret that won’t stay buried…

UnseemlyPursuitsCover 266x400It is the fall of 1896, and Miss Concordia Wells is hip-deep in the usual tumult of a lady professor’s life: classes, clubs, student pranks, and the unending drama generated by the girls she lives with on campus.  Complicating this normality is the new Lady Principal, whom the students have nicknamed “the Ogre.”  The woman seems bent on making Concordia’s life miserable.

And then there’s the exotic spirit medium, Madame Durand, who has befriended Concordia’s mother and has started a “Spirit Club” on campus.  Madame’s prognostications of doom are at first only mildly irritating – until events take a sobering turn.  An ancient Egyptian amulet donated to the college mysteriously disappears, the donor is found murdered, and his daughter – Concordia’s best friend – confesses to killing him.

Desperate for answers, Concordia unravels a 20-year-old secret, closely guarded by men now dead.  But such secrets can be dangerous for the daughters left behind, including Concordia herself.  Can she make sense of the mystery that has bound together their fates, before it’s too late?

Where to buy Unseemly Pursuits:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Unseemly-Pursuits-Concordia-Wells-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00H3JVSYI

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Unseemly-Pursuits-Concordia-Mystery-Volume/dp/0991236807/

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/unseemly-pursuits-k-b-owen-kb-owen/1117562781

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/384345

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/unseemly-pursuits

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/unseemly-pursuits-concordia/id775422084?mt=11&uo=4

I so want to read this book!


SwagKitDuring K.B.’s Unseemly Pursuits book tour, which goes through the first week of March, there’s a giveaway at each blog stop (including here!). The winner, randomly drawn from the commenters at each stop, will get a free ebook copy of Unseemly Pursuits. At the end of the tour, she’ll hold another random drawing from among the ebook winners for the final prize: a special Concordia Wells series swag package! It includes customized mug, keychain, JellyBelly mini-tin, and signed paperback copies of the first two mysteries: Dangerous and Unseemly and Unseemly Pursuits. You can read, sip your coffee, and snack on candy in unseemly style. Check the sidebar on the home page of kbowenmysteries.com for the full tour schedule and other info.

Valentines For Pets – And People!

Today I’m pleased to welcome pet expert and thriller writer, Amy Shojai, to The Happiness Project! I’ve read Amy’s book, Lost and Found, and LOVED it!
She’s got bite – I mean, a great voice!
So please welcome Amy and her purr-fect Valentine’s tales!


If you really want to please your partner this Valentine’s Day buy catnip and chew toys (and pet-centric books!) instead of chocolate. Love me, love my pet is the new Valentine rule of paw.

Cats and dogs show affection and devotion in very different ways. What some folks might find objectionable actually is the ultimate in a kitty or canine compliment! Here are a few examples:

  • Cats hop on our laps—then present their ass-ets for a sniff. (It’s sort of a backwards kitty compliment).
  • Dogs jump up and knock us down or ruin outfits. They’re trying to reach/lick your face, a way of saying “you’re the boss, I love you.”
  • Cats claw your most favorite chair—marking something that smells like you as their most favorite territory.
  • Dogs chew up your favorite purse—again, it smells like you and he wants to be close to his beloved.

I’ve written and lectured and been quoted about dog and cat behavior and care more times than I like to admit—in dog years, I should be dead! Lately, though, I’ve branched into fiction writing to bring the “good news” about pets to a whole new audience. People who have no interest in a how-to pet care/behavior book lap it up like BACON when presented as doggy (or kitty) litter-ature.

My dog viewpoint thrillers feature a German Shepherd service dog, a trained Maine Coon cat, and an animal behaviorist. The newest HIDE AND SEEK was just released, and here’s a teeny BACON-flavored taste to tempt you to learn more:

Hide and SeekHIDE AND SEEK masterfully blends ripped-from-the-headlines urgency with an emotional story of real characters in escalating dangers. Written with authority and deft brilliance that any lover of animals or nerve-jangling thrillers will cherish.” James Rollins, New York Times bestseller of “The Eye of God”

HIDE AND SEEK is a creepy must read mystery for animal lovers. Animal behaviorist Amy Shojai knows her stuff.” J.T. Ellison, NYT bestselling author of “When Shadows Fall”

“A shocking betrayal, a reality TV show gone horribly wrong, and murders related to an unthinkable cause, HIDE AND SEEK is a mystery/thriller you won’t be able to put down!” Alan Leverone, best-selling thriller author of “Mr. Midnight” and “The Lonely Mile”

“Recommended for anyone who likes a ‘bite-your-nails, hold-your-breath’ kind of thriller.” Dr. Lorie Huston, veterinarian and Cat Writers’ Association president

I adore my main characters in these stories (the first was LOST AND FOUND) because they’re real to me. Shadow the dog and Macy the cat love their human, September Day (a behaviorist) unconditionally just like my “real” pets Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty love me. What we’d do for those we love—human and furry—really drives these thriller stories. And in real life, we love our pets back. Some of us wish our human loves were more like the pets.

Don’t believe me? Get a load of this! A few years ago, a joint global poll by Reuters/Ipsos of 24,000 people in 23 countries found 21 percent of adults would rather spend February 14 with their pet than their spouse. And the American Kennel Club (AKC) surveyed dog owners and found even more startling results. Nearly 90 percent of women wish their boyfriend or husband was more like their dog. More than a third of women said, “If my dog was a man, he’d be my boyfriend!”

Men also wish their significant other shared some of the same qualities as their dog, especially the quality of “always being in a good mood.” Only 23 percent of men surveyed agreed with the statement, “If my dog was a woman she’d be my girlfriend.”

Based on the results, men and women should go to the dog for hints on pleasing the special humans in their lives. In fact, people have such strong bonds with their dogs and cats that the human in your life may become jealous. Reasons include dedicating “too much” time to the pet, preferring to cuddle with the dog rather than their mate, or that the dog “likes me better.”

Canine qualities women look for in men include a perennial good mood, willingness to spend time together, eagerness to cuddle on the couch, and being happy to eat her cooking without complaint. The survey also indicated women appreciated how dogs helped motivate them to exercise. Canine qualities that men appreciate in women include being as happy to spend time at home as out on the town, offering enthusiastic greetings when he returns home, and not getting mad when he wants to watch sports. Men also liked it that dogs were “up” for anything he wants to do.

So this Valentine’s Day, let your romantical inclinations take into account the cats and dogs that your two-legged honey adores. That’ll have them wagging their virtual tails in purrfect bliss!

Amy&Magic&SerenloresAmy Shojai (www.shojai.com) has been reinventing herself for years. She’s a certified animal behavior consultant, and the award-winning author of 27 best selling pet books that cover furry babies to old-fogies, first aid to natural healing, and behavior/training to Chicken Soup-icity. She is the Puppies Guide at puppies.About.com, the cat behavior expert at cats.About.com, and hosts a weekly half hour Internet Pet Peeves radio show. Amy has been featured as an expert in hundreds of print venues including The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and Family Circle, as well as national radio and television networks such as CNN, Animal Planet’s DOGS 101 and CATS 101.

HIDE AND SEEK published by Cool Gus Publishing is available in Trade Paperback for $11.99 and all Ebook formats for $4.99 (for Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.). You may order the book via online stories such as amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Find out more at Amy’s Bling, Bitches & Blood Blog at http://amyshojai.com

Guest Post by CJ West: His 10 Chocolate Guilty Pleasures

And we’re back!  This past Tuesday, I had thriller writer, CJ West over talking about his new short, Thugbook!  Today, CJ’s back at the Happiness Project reminiscing about his 10 untouchable guilty pleasures, and they all have to do with chocolate!  You see, CJ is working out for his upcoming debut on MANday, but a guy can be guilty once in awhile.  Check out his faves!

My Ten Chocolate Indulgences

I’ve been a chocoholic since birth so my ten indulgences had to be chocolate flavored. For those of you who follow me, you know I’m working out hard to get ready for the MANday wager I’ve got going on with Jillian Dodd. We have a bet that I can get in good enough shape to show off my abs on her blog in July.

Needless to say, I’m not eating a lot of chocolate right now. At least I can share my love in pictures. Drool with me.

#1 Chocolate Ice Cream

Before MANday, chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips and chocolate sauce was a regular treat. No special occasion required. Just open the freezer and there it is waiting for you to dig in.  Everyone has a little stress, right?

#2 Hershey’s Special Dark

At some point in my chocolate loving life, I moved on from milk chocolate to dark chocolate and I never looked back. Hershey’s makes this giant bar that is way too much for one person to eat in one sitting, but when you sit in front of the computer for hours typing away, it is quite possible to eat the entire bar without realizing.

#3 Nestle’s Toll House Morsels

Once upon a time I always had a bag of these in the house, not the little bag, but the giant bag. Okay, I admit it, I usually had two or three. They are great kept in the freezer. They don’t stick to your hands that way. You can carry them around for 5 minutes or so before they are all gone. If chocolate was a vegetable, there would be no need to stock other foods.

When these are in the house I eat way too many so I had to stop stocking them.

#4 Lindt Dark Chocolate Truffles

I discovered these about two years ago. Delicious. They melt in your mouth the way harder chocolates can’t. A great indulgence, but not a diet staple.

#5 Entenmann’s Chocolate Donuts

I did a horrible thing to my ex-wife. I introduced her to Entenmann’s Chocolate Donuts for breakfast back when I got tons of exercise and was young enough to burn off the extra calories. DO NOT start eating these for breakfast. They are like crack. Not as bad for you, but they are every bit as hard to give up. Just say no!

#6 Toll House Cookie Dough

In my mind there isn’t another kind of cookie. I judged a baking contest last year and tasted some great cookies. The winner was an amazing combination of nuts and cranberries and dark chocolate. Still, if it was up to me, I’d pick a basic Toll House Cookie any time. And before you can get to the cookie, you have to eat some dough. Could you really bake cookies without eating at least one spoonful?

#7 Toll House Cookies

Yes, I do bake some of that dough! In my younger days we didn’t get sweets unless we baked them ourselves. I can remember my brother and I, we were teens, eating an entire batch before they cooled!

#8 Devil Dogs

One of the few store bought treats we got as kids. Mom got them from the thrift store and froze them so they wouldn’t go bad (like that would happen).  We never waited for them to thaw before eating them and to this day I prefer them frozen. If you live in a place where they don’t have these, get in your car now.

#9 Peanut Butter squares

In tenth grade a friend’s mother gave me a recipe to make these. They are similar to a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup minus the preservatives and salt. To this day I can recite the recipe and whip them together in 15 minutes.  If there was a number 11 on this list, it would be a peanut butter square sundae with chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. Pure Heaven!

#10 Brownie Sundae

My ideal dessert wouldn’t look exactly like this one, but I chose the image because the brownies have chocolate chips! A must when you make brownies. I’d switch to chocolate ice cream and add a generous layer of whipped cream. Ahh.

Thanks for joining me in this virtual orgasm of chocolate goodness!

Thanks CJ for sharing your guilty pleasure list with us!  I had no idea what loving chocolate was like as I only eat 1-10 of those.  😉

Your turn!  What guilty pleasures sneak their way into YOUR cupboards?


Author Interview with CJ West: Why He Might Be Dexter Morgan’s Best Friend

Welcome to the Kickoff of June’s Featured Writer posts!  Every Tuesday I’ll be hosting a different author where they gush the gory details on writing and life.

CJ West

It’s a double dose of CJ West this week, whom many of you may know from the twitter #MANday challenge that’s been tweeting around.  CJ recently released his new digital short, Thugbook; his seventh publication.  He writes thrillers, and his blog is captioned Suspense.  Creativity.  Action.  You can also find him at his website or doing author interviews on his Blog Talk Radio Show.  But today, he’s here with us, answering  my questions about the writing life.  And, he’ll back this Friday, sharing his guilty pleasures right here on The Happiness Project!

CJ Answers Questions About CJ:

JW:  You have led a diverse pathway of careers.  You wrote your first book while still in school, pursued your love of golf and considered going pro, then got your degree in Business Management and made a living helping companies with computer networking, and then went back to writing.  What has each of these roles taught you about life?

CJW: In each of these things I was following a passion and I have been very fortunate thus far to work at things I love doing. My greatest lesson learned is to seek good advice. I grew up in an environment that highly valued independence. My life’s journey would have been vastly different if I had embraced the advice of knowledgeable people early in my life. I have worked very hard at each of my passions and with sound advice I could have achieved much more with all that effort.

JW:  As a novice writer with a time-sucking day job, I’m always curious know to how other writers did it: the switch to writing full time.  What was the game changing moment where you decided to focus on writing, and what struggles along the journey did you have to overcome?

CJW:  The big moment for me was when Sin & Vengeance was optioned for film. The offer came out of the blue and when it did, I began to believe I could entertain readers well enough to make a living writing books. The writing life for me is still a constant struggle. I don’t believe I’ve made it yet, but I have had the great pleasure of entertaining many readers and I’m thankful that I wake up and write every day.

JW:  You host a Blog Talk Radio show called The Thriller-30, what authors have been the most inspiring to you on that show?

CJW:  Tim Hallinan was a wonderful guest and became a good friend after doing the show. Many of the authors really appreciated the time I put into preparation and enjoyed having their work highlighted that way.

JW:  I listened to your podcast with author Vincent O’Neil where you discussed his book Death Troupe, a book about a roving band of murder mystery actors.  I learned that you love getting involved in murder mystery theater!  How did you start that?

CJW:  I was invited to take part in a murder mystery show by a friend. I was hesitant to get up on stage as many authors are, but I discovered after about 5 shows that I really enjoy acting. I’m getting a bit better at being in front of a crowd and the great thing about the shows I’ve been involved in is that they are very interactive. The crowd gets involved and it is a great time playing a role and getting to know people.

JW:  So let’s talk about your readers!  You have some really innovative events and outings to connect with your readers.  What kinds of things have you done, and what events do you have coming up?

CJW:  I have put on dozens of fun events for readers. We’ve done everything from Advanced Driving Classes, Firearms training, Murder Mysteries, Poker Lessons, and of course I’ve been to most of the big conventions to speak to readers. I’ve hosted many online events and parties including an online murder mystery. Right now I’m getting in shape for a MANday challenge. If I lose, I’ll have to post pictures of myself half naked – a scary prospect for a writer!

CJ Answers Questions About His New Short, Thugbook:
JW:  You recently celebrated your birthday!  May 23rd you launched a twitter party and giveaway in honor of your new digital short, Thugbook!  Tell us about your book.

CJW:  Thugbook is the story of a social network gone wrong. Thugbook (a practical idea, I think) is a site where citizens post photos of criminals. The site soars in popularity and at the same time is engulfed in controversy. Criminals are turning up dead and the blame lays squarely on Thugbook. It’s an exploration of greed, revenge, and the power of technology to shape our society.

JW:  I was lucky enough to read Thugbook, and would you say “it’s part Big Brother, part Dexter, part Hustle and Flow and part The Social Network” is an accurate description?

CJW:  That’s a lot of parts! I think it certainly fits in there somewhere.

JW:  Do you think Dexter Morgan would approve of Thugbook?

CJW:  Dexter would love Thugbook. It would be the ideal research tool for him to plan murders!

JW:  The head honcho of Thugbook is a young CEO named Blaine.  He’s not very likeable when we start out.  What helped you create his character?

CJW:  People are motivated by different things and power changes people sometimes. Blaine started Thugbook to avenge the rape and murder of his sister. Along the way Fame and Fortune come to Blaine and the trappings of success change him.  I wanted to contrast this with Jones who is true to his mission to repay the criminals who have caused him harm.  The men accomplish great things, but their methods and the way they deal with success are very different.

JW:  The driving force of your story is that the reader never knows quite who to trust.  You have presented one story from several perspectives, always asking the question Is this right or wrong?  We know there are vigilantes taking the gang members into their own hands, but you ask us to think about issues like privacy and moral ethics.  What plotting tips can you share?

CJW:  I really enjoy plotting novels and my plots evolve with each new work. I think it is important for plot to grow out of character and if you start with interesting and motivated characters in conflict, good things will happen.

JW:  Well said!  What other writing tips do you recommend for writers?

CJW:  Get good advice. I also heard a great commencement speech by Neil Gaiman and his words of advice were, “Make Good Art.” That really hit me and I think it is what we all need to focus on.

CJ Answers Nonsense, But Fun, Questions:

JW:  We writers work hard, and often alone, describe your perfect day off.

CJW:  I must admit that I rarely take a day off. Maybe two or three a year.

An ideal day off would be a day on the water with my kids catching blue crabs.

JW:  What last words of advice do you have to share with our readers?

CJW:  Enjoy every moment of life’s journey. Drink in the wonders of nature and the complexities in the hearts and minds of the people you meet.

Thank you, CJ, for taking time to chat today and for sharing your new short, Thugbook, with us!

What other questions do you have for CJ?  What do you think of the idea of Thugbook?

And, don’t forget, learn more about CJ’s guilty pleasures this Friday! 

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