Author Charles Rosenberg has been a partner in several law firms including a large international firm and is currently a partner at a three-lawyer firm. Rosenberg’s love of the law and a good thriller can be seen in his new international legal thriller, Paris Ransom. We asked Rosenberg to shed some legal insight on differences in international law, and what to keep in mind when making a trek oversees.
A friend of mine was recently detained at Heathrow airport in England for carrying pepper spray. And, no, she wasn’t trying to board a plane with it. Instead, realizing that it was in her purse, she was in the process of disposing of it in a trash can specially marked for aerosols. Which is when she was nabbed by the airport police. It turns out that possessing pepper spray in England is illegal. In fact, it’s a felony. Really? Yes, really.
She was surprised (and I was surprised to hear about it) because pepper spray is lawful in most states in the U.S. and is often recommended for self-defense.
It all worked out in the end, though. After keeping her for over an hour security officials let her go because she persuaded them that she really didn’t know that pepper spray was illegal in England (which she didn’t). But don’t risk trying to take it into England, even if it’s packed away in your luggage. If it’s found, there’s a high chance you won’t be able to persuade anyone of your lack of knowledge ), and you’ll go directly to jail (without passing GO or collecting $200).
My friend’s experience made me wonder: What other unknown laws could I easily get caught in overseas.
Not surprisingly, it’s mostly about guns. Most of the guns you can buy in the U.S. are illegal in England. For example, if you can obtain a gun permit to own a pistol, it will only be for a so-called long-barreled sport pistol. How long? One that’s at least two feet long overall with a barrel that’s a minimum of a foot. Hard to conceal in your boot, eh?
There are a lot of other weapons import restrictions, too, many having to do with knives—no switchblades, gravity knives, knives that lock when unfolded (pocket knives with non-locking blades of 3 inches or less are okay) or fixed knives of any kind. My favorite blade restriction, though, is the ban on the importation of any samurai sword over 14 inches long.
Perhaps more interesting, if you do get prosecuted for trying to bring a weapon into the country, you’ll be in for a lot of surprises (beside the fact that the lawyers and judges wear wigs and gowns). When you go to trial, the following things are likely to surprise you:
To avoid those kinds of procedural surprises, leave your favorite samurai sword at home.
Charles Veley, author The Last Moriarty, shares how he re-imagined Doyle's Sherlock in his new book.
About two years ago I was mid-way through writing The Last Moriarty when I had some misgivings. Oh, it was great fun living my first hours every morning in the London of Sherlock Holmes, where it’s always 1895, more or less, the world is bright with promise of new discoveries, and the game’s always afoot. I loved my imaginary travels at Sherlock’s side with Watson, on high adventures that could save the Empire. And I knew the first rule of writing is to write what you love and never mind the consequences. Who cares if your book never gets published - the writing itself is its own reward!
But, dang. If I was going to finish a book, and show it to the public, I still wanted reassurance that someone (other than my wife – who’s highly literate but, thank goodness, hardly impartial) would actually want to read it. I knew Sherlock was already in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most portrayed movie character of all time. He’s also the hero of more than a hundred spin-offs from the original tales that people can buy today, right now, with one-click shopping. Writing fun aside, I thought, maybe I ought to spend my time with a project where the field wasn’t so crowded?
So I asked a good friend, a Hollywood screenwriter, to take a look at what I’d written. His response inspired me to keep going. He began it with, “I wondered what kind of original idea drove you to take this on.”
His words made me realize that I hadn’t just been living in 1895 London for the sheer fun of it. There really was something driving me – I had thought of a new idea and I somehow just had to explore the consequences. As in, “If that happened, what then? And then, and then, and then?” What I needed to do was to understand that I was being driven, and then tell my worrying other self to forget the crowded field and just get on with following the story where it led me.
Where did my new idea come from? It started from sheer curiosity. I had wondered about Sherlock’s past -- his pre-Watson days. I also wondered why he had such an affinity for the violin and if he had taken lessons. Having played a violin myself, and not very well, I thought the learning process probably hadn’t been easy for him. I also wondered why Watson repeatedly described Holmes as a cold, impersonal, calculating intellect. I wondered if Watson might be protesting too much. And I wondered what might have happened to Colonel James Moriarty, brother of the late Professor Moriarty, who Watson refers to in the opening paragraphs of The Empty House .
These musings all brought me to an imaginary event in Holmes’s university days, right before he decided to pursue a career of detection. In TLM that part of his past comes back, not just to haunt him but to change his life. Now Sherlock must do more than solve a difficult mystery and defeat some very, very bad guys. He now must also look inward.
My friend had some kind and encouraging things to say about this new idea, which spurred me to get to the finish line. Since then a number of readers of the completed book have had similarly kind words. Quite a few readers have even asked for more, which is the happiest outcome I could ever have imagined.
So I’m glad I kept on re-imagining Conan Doyle’s classic hero. As a bonus, these days in my first hours every morning, I’m with Holmes and Watson again. Lucy James, a character from TLM , has joined us. It’s now 1896, and we’re in Holmes’s London, or in Dover, near the famous white cliffs, or in Bad Homburg, the spa town in Germany made fashionable by Prince Edward, the playboy son of Queen Victoria and uncle of that imperious troublemaker, Kaiser Wilhelm.
Oh, yes, the game is most definitely still afoot.
Dick Grayson has been many things over the years: the original Robin, a founding member of the Teen Titans, Nightwing. Now he's believed dead, and working as a spy. Writers Tim Seeley and Tom King and artist Mikel Janin discuss the new adventures of one of the DC Universe's most legendary characters.
TIM SEELEY: Well, genre-wise, it's obviously pretty far from the horror/crime/dark stuff I've typically done. This is high action, over-the-top fun espionage/superhero comics! But I think it shares that dedication to characterization and heart that I've maintained across my books, and it's even better because I'm teamed with Tom King, Rebecca Taylor, Mikel Janín and Jeromy Cox.
TOM KING: Really it’s the joy at the center of the book, at the center of the main character. Both in my comics and novels I tend toward heavy themes and twists on tragedy. But that tone and approach don’t work with Dick Grayson. Dick Grayson is the hero that goes through the worst comics have to offer and comes out smiling, ready for the next fight, ready to do good. His story can’t be bogged down in misery and suffering; it’s just not true to who he is. Instead, the books need to be built on the fun he has being a hero, the fun he has saving the day. The reader needs to be on the trapeze with him, feel the rush as his stomach drops, and feel the smile spreading on his face as he leaps across the gap.
What’s it been like reinventing a character like Dick Grayson—someone who has such a loyal and dedicated fan base in the world of comics?
TIM: It was definitely stressful at first. A lot of people instantly wrote us off, even before they'd read a single word. We got some pretty hateful tweets! But, once they actually read the book, I think most of our detractors came around. And, with DC being awesome about supporting the book, it's actually been one of the most exciting and pleasurable experiences I've had in comics.
There’s something about a man in uniform. Some of the most recognized cultural images are of our
fighting men. Nonfiction books by Navy SEALs such as Lone Survivor, The Red Circle, American Sniper and Powerful Peace have large audiences in nonfiction circles and within romance, heroes like Navy SEALs remain a perennial favorite. Not a week goes by that there isn’t another new military romance touting a hero that wears combat boots and has those iconic dog tags draped around his neck.
But what is it about military men that draw readers to their stories time and time again? And what is it about military men that make them such powerful romance heroes? The uniform, the dog tags and let’s face it, there are some damn fine shoulders running around in these uniforms. These are all compelling reasons to be drawn to a man in uniform but ultimately, I think it’s something deeper, something more fundamental about what it means to be a member of the military beyond the physical characteristics. We don’t see a lot of body lifting heroes so clearly, it’s something that transcends the physical domain.
I think it has to do with belonging. Being part of a something bigger than yourself is arguably the most basic human need. We are born needing to connect with someone else. And what is romance if it’s not about connecting at a fundamental level with another human being? Being a member of the military means these heroes belong--they know the strength that comes from being a member of a group. The heroes tend to have a powerful sense of belonging to their group and when they finally fall for the heroine, they bring her into the center of their world. There aren’t many words out there with more power than “you belong to me.” That feeling that there is someone out there that’s waiting for you at the end of the day, who will be there when things are great and when things are not so great. These are ideas at the heart of romance. The other half that makes you whole.
It’s not just belonging, though, that makes military heroes so compelling. It’s also about their willingness to sacrifice everything, even their lives, for those they love. The idea that the romance hero would do anything to protect those they love – that protectiveness ties back to the sense of belonging and creates a powerful bond that transcends all others. And you know that when the military hero says “I love you,” he’s speaking from a place that truly knows the meaning of the word love. A love that is overwhelming in its strength.
Of course, the military hero automatically assumes a physically fit man in his prime and let’s be honest, if you’ve ever done physical training at Fort Benning, the home of the Ranger panty, you’ve seen some very nice future romance cover models running by. But the physical aspects are just one facet of the complex military hero. I think it’s the deeper notes, the subtle underlying tension between his desire for the men he serves with and his desire for the heroine that ultimately completes the military hero. And when he finds that true love, it’s truly the love of a lifetime, something that fills in the piece of his heart he didn’t know was missing.
DC Comics is enjoying great critical and commercial success with the Bat-Family of titles. BATGIRL writer Brenden Fletcher and artist Babs Tarr talk about their take on the iconic heroine, and moving her out of Gotham.
Burnside has a completely different feel than Gotham. Which real life cities/neighborhoods inform its character?
BRENDEN FLETCHER: When I was hired to write the new arc of BATGIRL I was living in Montreal. My co-writer Cameron Stewart was in Berlin. Both cities held some influence on our decision to move Babs out of Gotham central and into the borough we created called Burnside. Though Montreal and Berlin were our primary reference points, Burnside was always meant to be to Gotham as Brooklyn is to Manhattan.
BABS TARR: It's very much inspired by Brooklyn, Williamsburg really informs Burnside! It's any trendy young neighborhood that would be in any big city.
BRENDEN: She doesn't!!
Just kidding, just kidding!
But seriously, it's one of her primary conflicts. She feels very strongly that alternative solutions to the crime problem plaguing Gotham City can be found. Growing up a policeman's daughter, she's always been aware that more can be done to protect the city she loves. It's one of the reasons she donned the mantle of the Bat at 16 years of age. But now, as a young woman with more experience, Barbara is exploring other means of analyzing and "curing" the ills of Gotham. The research she's undertaken as part of her master’s degree is an integral part of that exploration.
BABS: She is constantly trying to juggle both, it's really fun to draw both sides.
Batgirl’s look has undergone a fairly drastic transformation. What led to the new style choices?
BRENDEN: New town. New pals. New threads.
Since we were changing up Babs' status quo, guiding her to a brighter day, it only made sense for her to leave the dark armored look behind in favor of something befitting the lighter tone of the series. Cameron designed a brilliant new look for Batgirl with the help of series illustrator and ultimate Sailor Moon fan Babs Tar that completely personifies the new tone of the series.
This is the funniest book you’ll ever read about death and was this year’s winner of the Sundance U.S. Dramatic Audience Award and Sundance Grand Jury Prize. How did author Jesse Andrews get this book to the movies?
Stop me when this gets confusing: Greg Gaines, the teenage protagonist and narrator of my debut novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (now a movie, coming to theaters June 12), is himself a filmmaker. But he has retired, because he thinks his movies are terrible. So he’s telling his story in book form instead.
He doesn’t think the book is any good, either. And he definitely does not think it should ever be adapted into a movie.
“God only knows what would happen if you tried to convert this unstoppable barf-fest into a film,” he muses, toward the end. “There’s a chance you could consider it an act of terrorism.”
So it was with some trepidation that I, the actual author—a person who has a lot in common with Greg, way more than I would like—set off on the task of adapting my book into a screenplay. And indeed, the first draft of the script was not great.
“This first draft is great,” my producer, Dan Fogelman, cheerfully lied on our first Notes Call. We then went through the script page by page, for four hours, discussing in detail everything that needed to be changed, which was everything. “It’s a great first draft, though,” concluded Dan, who hung up and immediately shotgunned an entire bottle of Scotch.
After a ton of work, we got the script to the point where actual directors were interested in it. One of them was a profoundly talented, thoughtful, funny guy named Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
This is probably where I should describe the story in a bit more detail. Greg has only one friend, Earl, and their friendship consists of eating Greg’s dad’s weird food, watching Criterion Collection filmmakers like Kurosawa and Kubrick, and making violent/potty-mouthed take-offs of those movies, e.g., Eyes Wide Butt. The story begins when Greg’s mom forces him to hang out with Rachel, a classmate who has cancer. He resists the deepening of their friendship at every step. There is no romance, and Greg claims to have learned nothing from any of it.
“It’s a very moving script,” Alfonso told me.
“Ha ha!” I agreed, assuming this was some hilarious deadpan joke.
But Alfonso saw something there. And I got to ride shotgun and watch while he made a beautiful, funny movie out of this strange story—out of these awkward characters and the connections they make that are so flawed, that are not nearly enough and yet way too much at the same time. I got to continually reshape and refine the script with Alfonso and the producers and watch incredible actors figure out how to deliver my weird dialogue. I even got to see film crews in my old high school and my childhood home. They turned my old bedroom into Greg’s bedroom.
(“I remember when you used to do that in there,” said my mom, about a scene in which Greg’s mom enters his bedroom and catches him looking at questionable pictures. My mom was getting kind of teary, recalling it. Being the mom of a boy must be the weirdest emotional experience there is.)
Production was hard work. But it was also full of funny, generous, brilliant people, and every day it felt like we were on to something good. And a few months later, we were showing the film at Sundance, and we got a standing ovation at our premiere. We all walked out onstage—Alfonso, Dan, producers, cast, crew, me—and squinted into the lights and wrapped our heads around the idea that maybe we had succeeded in making the thing we were hoping to make.
Kind of stupidly, I was wondering what Greg would have thought if he had been there with us.
Then I realized that he would have hated it.
Greg is a moron. I’m glad he’s not real.
He’s not me. I swear.
Laura Rose Wagner, author of Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go, contemplates how her life has changed through her experiences in Haiti and by founding a creative writing group for young people there.
This is an interesting question, because I'm resistant to the quasi-religious notion that living in Haiti, or any poor and unjust place, is somehow redemptive or salvational to the middle-class white foreigner who chooses to be there. I did not find peace or God or meaning, and even if I had, it would not be very interesting. The suffering is not about me. The injustice is not about me.
All that said, the experience of the earthquake [in 2010] and the immediate aftermath affected my beliefs about human nature. The quake was a horrible event – an incalculable setback for Haiti, and a terrible personal loss for so many people – but it was also a moment in which we saw what individuals and a society are truly made of. Ordinary people responded to the disaster with extraordinary decency and heroism. Most people who were, like me, trapped in collapsed buildings and buried in rubble, or otherwise injured, were saved by ordinary people. An undeniable courage and selflessness shone through that night and the days that followed. For maybe two days, it was as though there was no social class in Haiti. People stopped being afraid of each other, and shared whatever they had, and stayed with one another in the streets. There was instinctive kindness and effortless solidarity. For a brief, terrible moment, the walls came down – both literally and figuratively.
Naturally, predictably, one of the dominant narratives of the international media right after the earthquake was of "looting," disorder, and violence, which is the standard racist story North Americans expect to hear when law and order "break down" in poor places populated by people of color. But that's not what I saw.
Working with a group of young Haitian writers from 2010 to 2012 was a huge honor and a revelation. Creole is a beautiful, lyrical, playful, and evocative language even in everyday situations. There are so many examples, I can't even decide which one to give, but just to give you an idea: The word "tchouboum" means a deep, dark abyss, a hopeless, irretrievable place. And doesn't the word just sound like what it means? So if Creole is so poetic in everyday situations, it is all the more inexpressibly lovely and powerful when used to write texts, stories, and plays. I learned a lot about Creole by working with the writers, particularly the expressions and language of young people in Port-au-Prince's poor neighborhoods. And obviously I learned a lot about how they conceptualize their own experiences. There was one young man who wrote this fantastic poem called "Ghetto" about the ways people in Cité Soleil share, collaborate, and enjoy life together, even as people outside their community wrongly assume they're all criminals. There were a lot of critiques of NGOs and the international community. There was a lot of nostalgia for a beautiful, verdant, prosperous Haiti that those young people have never themselves known. The fact that a group of young people from those marginalized areas of Port-au-Prince cared as much as they did about creative expression flies in the face of what a lot of people might believe about human needs – that creativity can be a priority, even as basic, bare life remains uncertain.
A lot of people might ask, "Why write poetry when life is precarious? Why write poetry when you're hungry?" The short answer is that expression matters. Community matters. Being heard matters. Being human matters. It is not enough to merely remain alive.
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Just in time for June weddings, Debbie Mason asked five New York Times bestselling contemporary romance writers how their husbands popped the question:
Robyn Carr, author of Never Too Late
My boyfriend took me on a little canoe outing down a river in Minnesota, in which the mosquito is the state bird. The river was speckled with little islands where one could lounge and talk and be romantic. He brought a pillow and blanket, and the mosquitoes were eating us alive. I slapped and complained, and we went to isle after isle up and down the river and within an hour looked like we had chickenpox. There was no lounging, no romance, and I begged to go indoors while I scratched and swatted, which led to a fight, which led to him throwing the pillow at me and telling me I'd complain about a million dollars. And inside the pillow was a lovely little engagement ring. We got married the following June and have sworn off canoe trips, especially in Minnesota.
Kristan Higgins, author of Waiting on You
McIrish, being a man, is not exactly a master of subtlety. Though we’d only dated six weeks, I knew the guy was crazy about me (it was mutual), and we wanted to be together forever. Unfortunately, the lad wanted to take me to see the full moon rising over the East River. So we walked over to the United Nations, choking on the exhaust fumes from the East Side Highway, and there, in front of the building that represents, uh…getting along and not fighting and stuff…he popped the question. Forgot to buy a ring. It was okay. I said yes. I’d give him a D for proposing and an A+ for husband.
Brenda Novak, author of This Heart of Mine
I was only nineteen when my husband proposed (he was twenty-four). We were living and working in Los Angeles—where I knocked on doors, setting up appointments for him to sell insulation on a summer program for college students, which proves true love right there—when he bought me a ring. He had only $600 and bought a ring from a pawn shop, which he carried in his shoe (since he didn't have any pockets) while we were visiting Mexico with a group of friends. I could tell something was going on with him and his buddies, but it wasn't until he took me out to a seafood restaurant that night (a big splurge since we didn't get paid until the end of the summer), and that was where he proposed. We now have five grown children and have been married more than thirty years!
Jill Shalvis, author of Still the One
I’d just had one of those days where I’d locked my keys in my car (while it was running) and I’d been let go at the bank where I worked (low man on the totem pole) and I was pretty sure life sucked beans. Alpha Man rescued me (and my car) and made me dinner and then we had an earthquake. A small one, and because this was L.A., neither of us were surprised. But it was sort of the last straw for me, and I said I was going to go to bed until life straightened up or until someone brought me cookies, whichever came first. Alpha Man brought me cookies. And a ring… and said he’d keep bringing me cookies for the rest of my life if I married him. I’m not stupid; I married him!
JoAnn Ross, author of You Again
When I was eighteen, my boyfriend bought me a bag of saltwater taffy at Depoe Bay on the Oregon Coast, then we strolled across the street to the sea wall. And as we watched the resident whales, he proposed. 0f course I said yes! (Back then the girl could be had for taffy. LOL) Everyone said it'd never last, but we're celebrating our 50th anniversary this June. We visit often because it's still our most romantic place on earth, which is why I set my Shelter Bay books there.
Debbie Mason is the bestselling author of a contemporary romance series set in Christmas, Colorado. Her husband proposed to her on Christmas Eve, of course!
Daniel Palmer, best-selling author of Trauma, shares his top five favorite suspense novels and why there so great.
Let’s face it—most of us (if not all) are dealing with some form of information overload. Our phones can execute millions of calculations a second. Smart televisions make picture-in-picture technology seem like a cute parlor trick. Even our watches can send updates from CNN along with our heart rate.
One downside to all this whiz-bang gadgetry is how technology and its many distractions have altered our working memory by zapping our attention. When we count on a computer to remember something for us, we tend not to remember it for ourselves.
Some experiences, however, do seem to avoid this techie mind trap. Some things get lodged so deep in the crevices of our gray matter we can’t forget them even if we tried.
When it comes to picking five suspense novels to share, I went for books whose stories I had no trouble recalling despite all the information I’ve crammed into my overwhelmed noggin. In no way is this quick list comprehensive of the best of the best. The omission of Stieg Larsson, Tess Gerritsen, Joe Finder, Lee Child, Karen Slaughter, Lisa Gardner, Harlan Coben, Patricia Highsmith, John Grisham, Katherine Neville, a bunch of others — heck even my own father, Michael Palmer — has to do only with the constraints of this assignment.
That said, here are five top-notch suspense novels whose stories have stuck with me through the years and whose level of craft is unquestionable.
Dean Koontz’s Watchers
Ask me to pen an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that must include a golden retriever named Einstein (who can play Scrabble), and I don’t think you’d be thrilled with the results. Thank goodness we have Dean Koontz! Good (capital G) and Evil (capital E) are on full display in this cautionary tale of genetic engineering gone wrong. Koontz can craft a sentence with the best of them, but the action jets, thanks to his crisp and economical prose. When I first read Watchers as a teen, The Outsider character thrilled (or scared) me no end. It was, however, the slow reveal of Einstein’s exceptional gifts and the bond between man and dog that made this remarkable book an endearing and suspenseful read.
Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs
The serial killer aspect of Harris's masterpiece is truly frightening, but it's the psychological warfare between Starling and Lecter that makes this novel a classic. The relationship surpasses the plot, or the plot is there to serve the relationship. Clarice is both pupil and teacher, and it's through her the book's core message comes clear. The monsters to fear most are the ones lurking in our minds. Like Clarice, we strive to solve problems, to prove ourselves, but all we truly want is for the lambs to stop screaming in our heads.
Ken Follett’s Eye of The Needle
The stakes here are inarguably high: the true-life deception of the Allies’ “Operation Fortitude” might decide the fate of the war. The hunt for the master German spy, Henry Faber (aka The Needle), who carries proof of the American plan, escapes pedestrian spy thriller territory thanks to its unlikely heroine. I can’t help but wonder if someone bet Follett he could not write a novel in which a lonely housewife wins the war. Lucy Rose was not only a compelling heroine; she was an utterly believable one. If Follett did make that bet, he won it handily.
Stephen King’s The Stand
Read the news today, and it’s easy to take a gloomy outlook. King felt a similar sense of doom when, in the mid-1970s, he penned his Lord of the Rings-like epic on an American landscape. We love archetypes, perhaps for the same reason we’re addicted to those dang Buzzfeed quizzes; in them, we hope to catch a glimpse of our better selves. When scrubbed of what defines us (our possessions, our jobs, etc.), what’s left is our character. King’s masterwork makes it easy to imagine that we too could be as bold, as brave, as amazing as the archetypical heroes who face the ultimate evil in humanity’s final stand.
Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October
When you start a book with a Russian sub being chased by the Russian fleet, you know you’re in for a thrill ride. Clancy is deft at conveying the claustrophobic feeling of life below sea level. What makes the book something truly special is how he blends an explanation of gadgetry with a plot as propulsive as any torpedo. It reads like non-fiction, which in some ways is the highest praise one can bestow on any fiction writer.
Charles Rosenberg, best-selling author of “Paris Ransom,” discusses law aboard and what to leave at home.