Reading Goals

image by Manfred Artranius Zimmer courtesy of

At the turn of the year, I saw numerous posts about reading goals. I’m always happy when I see people commit to read more – and even happier when I see them actually doing it.

I read a lot. I carve out reading time every day. Often, it means not watching TV or videos, which is just fine with me. In the days when I wasn’t staying at home due to the pandemic, I made sure to carry a book (or my Kindle) with me at all times, so that anytime I was stuck waiting – or commuting on public transportation – I had something to read. I carry a notebook and pen with me, too, in case I decide to get some writing done, but that’s a different post for a different day.

I learned my alphabet early. My mother still tells the story of us being on a bus in Chicago when I was about 18 months old, and I pointed out the different letters in the signs on the bus (loudly). I remember leaning to read from the book GREEN EGGS AND HAM – my mother tells me I was just over two years old when she taught me to read.

Both parents were big readers (my mother, at 96, still reads for several hours every day). So, of course, I was a reader, too. And going to the library became a favorite adventure when I was little. I got my first library card at the Rye Free Reading Room in Rye, NY, when I was six years old – the earliest it was allowed.

I don’t trust people who don’t have books in their living or working spaces.

Someday, I will live in a house big enough so I can unpack all my books.

I don’t post my reading totals at the end of the year, because people wouldn’t believe them, and I’m not arguing with them. I’d rather spend that energy. . .reading.

From January to May, for instance, I read – yes, actually read – over 100 books for a contest I judge. And I’m a paid reviewer for a publication, so I read regularly for those assignments.

But that doesn’t stop reading as much as possible for pleasure.

Last Sunday, for instance, I read three books. My body needed the rest, and my soul needed the restoration. I read the remaining two books in a mystery series I’ve enjoyed; in between, I read a small nonfiction book that was recommended to me, but I found filled with privilege and making excuses for it. Glad I read it; didn’t like it.

It was a good day.

I did some puttering around and some cooking. Some percolating on writing for the coming week. Too much time on social media, waiting for damn Congress to hold the domestic terrorists accountable.

But mostly, I used reading to restore my wounded soul, and rest my body.

Had the weather been warm enough, I would have read outside, on the covered deck, where I spend as much time as possible in spring, summer, and fall. I love reading outside.

I used to take books to the Ashumet Sanctuary over in Falmouth and read amongst the hollies (which are among my favorite trees).

As far as goals, I don’t set a number of books to read. I think it’s great when other people set a number and then work to hit it, but that’s not how I like to structure my reading.

My reading goal is to expand my reading. I read a pretty wide range, but especially in the mystery/suspense/thriller genres, and I read a lot of nonfiction, especially when I’m researching my own writing.  I enjoy fantasy, steampunk, some science fiction, uncategorized fiction, historical fiction. I read some romance, but I’m more likely to read books with romantic elements. However, when I’m in the mood for an uplifting romance, I have a wonderful ensemble of authors I trust to give me a good experience, and I’m always happy to expand it.

One of my favorite things, when I worked as a librarian, was keeping up with new releases, and choosing a large variety of books that I thought patrons would enjoy.

Whether it’s for myself or others, a review of a book matters less to me than the blurb. If the blurb is interesting, chances are I’ll ignore reviews and make my own decisions.

My review assignments cover a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. Every time I pick up a book, whether it’s for review, or a contest entry, or something I ordered from the library – I hope to fall in love with it. I read books on recommendations from friends and acquaintances IRL or on social media. If I see a post about a book and it looks interesting, I’ll give it a try. I belong to my university’s online book club – the Voracious Violets of NYU. They’ve introduced me to books I might not have found on my own.

I miss being able to browse library and bookstore shelves – once I’m vaccinated, and things safely open back up again, that is one of the things I will add back in to my life as quickly as possible. I especially miss browsing secondhand bookstores. I’ve been introduced to some wonderful new-to-me authors by finding them on secondhand shelves, and then buying new releases as they come out.

I read for pleasure, but, as a writer, every book I read teaches me something. When the author does their job well, I see the world in a different way, and I think about it far beyond the time the book is finished. I also learn craft from every book I read, even if it doesn’t work for me. How are the characters developed? Is the setting used well? Is the book structured well, with a strong, internal rhythm that’s as unique as a heartbeat? Does the author understand the genre enough so that, when breaking the formula, it’s a structured choice, and not just carelessness?

I started keeping a reading log a few years ago, in a black-and-white covered composition book. I note the date, title, author, publisher, copyright date, and from where I got it – library, if it’s a review assignment, if it’s one of my own books – and then I write a couple of sentences of impressions. I can go back and look things up, and see how my frame of reference was influenced by what else was going on around me.

A year or so ago, on this blog, I did a Readers’ Expansion Challenge, where every month, I tried reading something out of my usual repertoire, and encouraged other readers to do the same. I’m not doing anything as formally as that this year, but I do plan to continue to expand my reading so I’m not just reinforcing my standing opinions.

I like fresh perspectives on the world, and reading offers that in a far more intimate way than anything visual. Reading is internal, living in your heart and soul and brain, as much as it is the external of holding the material and having eyes translate it to brain. I like the intimacy.

Enjoy your year of reading!

The Joy of Re-Reading

I find it difficult to trust people who don’t re-read books.

“I don’t have time” when it comes to reading is just as invalid as when it comes to writing. We all have the same twenty-four hours. How we choose to use them defines us. Writers choose to carve out writing AND READING time. People who want to learn, be entertained, and experience different points of view, read.

“But there are so many books!”

Right. There are over 10,000 books published in any given year, and I’m afraid to hunt down the statistics on eBooks that never got to print, but remain in digital format. No one can read everything. That’s why writers are constantly forced to spend so much time marketing instead of writing the next book — because they’re trying to give readers the information about their book, and connect to readers who might enjoy it. Or at least feel some sort of emotion from it.

No one can read everything that comes out. We pick and choose.

So WHY re-read?

Because a good book always offers something new with each re-read. There are reasons the “classics” stay in the canon and we have to read them in school, century after century, and then, hopefully, re-read them as adults, when we’re not carrying the resentment of being forced to read them years before.

There’s a certain amount of re-reading I do to learn rhythm, structure, pace — to work on my craft. That’s a different type of re-reading. If I’m struggling with a piece, be it a play, a screenplay, a short story, or a novel, I go to the best writers in that particular specialty and re-read them. Why do those pieces work so well? I break them down on both technical and emotional levels, and see what I can apply to my own work in terms of craft. Not the words themselves, but the structure, the rhythms, the craft.

That type of deconstruction is a special, learned skill. For this piece, I’m talking about re-reading for pleasure.

Good books make the personal universal and the universal personal. They make specifics relatable. The relationship between writer and reader is intimate in a way it can’t be when you’re watching something in a cinema or on DVD. A reader BECOMES one or more characters in the book, when the writer does his/her job properly, and experiences all the emotions and the actions in the book

When one re-reads a book, one might experience them again. Or the experience can broaden and one can learn something new.

Shakespeare: I re-read Shakespeare constantly, throughout the year. I also read work ABOUT Shakespeare, his time, and his plays, fiction related to Shakespeare and his plays, and essays by actors and writers who have been influenced by Shakespeare and his plays. I always learn something new about humanity. Viola’s yearning for Orlando while he years for Olivia is just as relevant today as it was in the sixteenth century. Hamlet’s decision to “catch” the King by using the Players makes just as much sense, and is the jumping off point for decades of mystery writers. The Scottish Play’s message of what happens to corrupt politicians is what we wish, now, more than ever, to happen. The history plays teach us (somewhat) history, but even more about the human heart.

For those of you who had a negative introduction to Shakespeare, start with Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare. Yes, Asimov the sci-fi writer. He wrote one of the best books about where Shakespeare stuck to history and where he veered off and why. Read a chapter. Read the play it discusses. Whole new worlds will open out for you.

Another book I keep re-reading is A.S. Byatt’s POSSESSION. I bought it in hardcover the day it came out, and I keep going back to it. Why? Because I love books about finding lost manuscripts. I love how she wrote in the style of several different authors, and we get to read those lost manuscripts while her characters investigate them. She wrote a book about one of my ongoing fantasies — to find a diary or a lost manuscript — and ran with it in a unique, intelligent, and beautiful way. It reminds me of the path not taken — when I had the choice between becoming a literature scholar, and made the choice, instead, to go into theatre, both as a technician and a writer, although I never stopped writing prose. Even though the chances of my ever finding a lost manuscript are less than one percent — I like the fantasy of it. I like the details of how the scholars do their work. I like the reminder of the smell of old books and archives, the feel of the paper. I love entering the characters’ skins.

For a similar reason, I regularly re-read THE NORTHBURY PAPERS by Joanne Dobson. The journey she takes in finding and researching the manuscript excites me. It is a fantasy of mine that I get to live for the hours I read and re-read the book.

I re-read Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde series and Rosemary Edghill’s Bast series to remind myself where I was in New York City in the mid-1990s. A time before 9/11 destroyed so much, including belief that the world is a wonderful place and that people are basically good (this last election really proved the latter is not true at all). Those books remind me what I hoped and dreamed for, and the decisions I made in my career, why I made them, and they remind me that, although I chose a difficult path, I made the right decisions for me. Not just at the time, but also in the context. Even though I’m frustrated by certain things in my life now and in the process of changing them, those decisions that brought me here were right for me, and I’m glad I made them. When I get tired, when I get disheartened — these books remind me. Yes, those books are what is now called “Urban fantasy” and what was then called “paranormal mystery”. But they were rooted in a reality of time and community that was part of my daily life. They matter.

That’s why I re-read. To learn more, to experience more, to indulge and re-indulge in some of my favorite fantasies, and to remind myself of my journey.

Why do you re-read?

Non-Fiction E-books and Topic Workbooks

Creative Stimulus Cover

The Non-Fiction Books and Topic Workbooks

I’m doing a little shameless self-promotion here, because, well, I can!  😉

I often talk about my fiction.  The past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time teaching.  I’m a tough Tiger Mom of a teacher, and I have a no-tolerance-no-excuses policy.  You must do the work and turn it in on time, or you’re wasting everyone’s time.  There’s no such thing as “no time to write”.  Writing is always a choice.  Not writing is always a choice.  If you choose not to write regularly, re-think about whether or not you really want this type of career.

Books don’t write themselves.  You have to sit down and write them, with a combination of imagination, determination, perseverance, and craft.  Your JOB is to learn the craft, and use it as the foundation so your imagination can fly.  Every choice of punctuation changes the emotional experience of the sentence and the scene for the reader.  Every choice of detail means something different.  The reader can only respond to what you actually have on the page, not what you thought you meant.  While in my classes, you are expected to write a LOT.  My classes are not theoretical; they are practical.  I expect a minimum of 1000 words per day, 5 days a week, no excuses.

Students who survive my classes, put in the time and effort to do the work, generally do pretty well.  I’ve had people who didn’t think they “could” write short stories not only write excellent ones, but get them published.  I’ve had a good number of my students sign book contracts.  Every time one of them lands the contract and comes that much closer to living the dream, I’m thrilled.

I truly believe there cannot ever be too many good writers.  Humans have an insatiable need for stories, and there’s always room for another well-told story.  Learn how to tell it well, and you fill a deep need in the human psyche.

As I grow as a writer, my own opportunities are expanding.  Therefore, I must choose the whens and wheres of teaching more carefully, and screen private students more thoroughly.  When the time/money ratio doesn’t work, I have to cut back.

Submissions Cover 6X9 PDF

Yet students still want the information from the classes.  So I’m developing some of my workshops into non-fiction ebooks and Topic Workbooks.  They contain the information from various workshops, plus some additional information and resources.  They have lectures, exercises, reading lists, resources. I try to keep them reasonably priced.  Your writing doesn’t get the line editing and word-by-word commentary that you get within class, but you work at your own pace.  And within these topic workbooks is information you can refer back to for years.

CREATIVE STIMULUS contains updated material from my “5 in 10” and “Sensory Perceptions” Workshops, along with the “Writing Rituals” booklet, resources, and the infamous Tip Sheets I use in many of my classes.  “5 in 10” is a series of exercises where you write, revise, edit and submit a minimum of 5 short stories in 10 weeks, based on found inspirations.  Each piece has different guidelines and focuses on different elements.  There are also optional exercises, where you can expand your stories, or create more than 5 short stories.  This is a popular workshop of mine, lasting 2 1/2 months, demanding solid pace and juggling multiple projects.  “Sensory Perceptions” has a parallel line of projects.  One is a story that is layered over the weeks of the exercises, adding in each individual sense.  The others are sense-specific, and we explore all five sense and intuition.  “Writing Rituals” has ideas to help you past blocks, get you started, and give you confidence sending things out.  The Tip Sheets cover things like dialogue, tags, paragraph structure, scenes, and internal cuts.

SETTING UP YOUR SUBMISSION SYSTEM is one of the Topic Workbooks, based on a popular seminar of mine.  So often, writers lose opportunities because they don’t have a system in place.  Every time they want to submit, they re-invent the wheel.  This book walks you through setting up a Submission System that is logical, easy, and that you can use as you complete each project.  This way, any time an opportunity lands on your desk, it takes minutes to put together a packet, not hours or days.  And, when you have a novel that is ready to go, you have all the pieces assembled, so whatever individual agent or publisher guidelines request, it’s just a case of popping in the right piece.

THE SERIES BIBLE: CREATION AND MAINTENANCE, another Topic Workbook, contains step-by-step instructions how to create your series bible, a vital document to anyone who’s writing a series.  Inconsistencies in characters or habits or settings need to be choices, not mistakes.  Readers catch mistakes, often with more of an eagle eye than writers.  Keeping track of the details makes the entire creation process of a series stay on track, and helps enormously through the editing and production stages of the book.

Series Bible Cover 6x9 JPG

More topic workbooks will be released over the coming months, covering topics such as Dialogue, The First Three Pages, The Graveyard of Abandoned Projects, Journal into Fiction, Dissecting Submission Guidelines, and more.  They are created with an eye to be useful for years to come, and I hope you enjoy them.

If you have any ideas for workshops or topic workbooks you’d like to see, please leave them in the comments section.



Creative Stimulus:

Setting Up Your Submission System:

The Series Bible:  Creation and Maintenance:

Sharon Buchbinder & KILLER KISSES

We kick off the fall season on A BIBLIO PARADISE with guest Sharon Buchbinder and her newest release, KILLER KISSES.

Devon Ellington: First of all, I love the premise of each and every one of these stories. Over how long a period of time were these stories written?

Sharon Buchbinder: Thank you for your kind words, Devon. I started writing these stories in 2006 and published the first one, CATASTROPHE, in 2007. About one came out each year until 2010. About that time, I asked for the seven stories to be put together in an anthology, but for business reasons, the publisher declined. I really wanted a collection of my short stories, so when my contracts expired, I asked for my rights back so I could re-issue them under one cover.

DE: Are these characters one-offs? Are they tied to other works, or is there a potential to meet any of them again?

SB: There is a full length book related to this anthology. BONDED FOR LIFE has Isabel Ramirez as Lola Getz’s cousin. She appears off stage. In DESIRE AND DECEPTION (Red Sage), Isabel was a main character.
The 2 reunion stories grew out of the genius of Kathy Cottrell, the Senior Editor for the Last Rose of Summer line at the Wild Rose Press. She came up with the Class of ’85 Reunion for Summerville High School and some key characters (e.g., Richard and Elizabeth Heade). The authors then had the pleasure of populating her fictional town with characters and giving them life. The only thing we had to include was the invitation. If you enjoyed BONDED FOR LIFE and AN INN DECENT PROPOSAL, please be sure to check out the other wonderful Class of ’85 stories at the Wild Rose Press.

DE: Is there such a thing as a “typical writing day” in your life, and, if so, what’s it like?

SB: These days, it’s more like writing sprints. I’m an academic and in 2010, I quit the day job as a tenured full professor and department chair and became a full time consultant and writer. A year later, my consulting role led me to a part time teaching position in nursing. I realized how much I missed teaching, so now I’m back to work full time and love my job as a full professor and program coordinator for the MS in Healthcare Management program at Stevenson University. Now my writing occurs either early in the morning or on weekends. My next project is huge and I’m very excited about it. That will keep me getting up at 5:30 am to write.

DE: Do you prefer to work on one project at a time, or juggle multiple projects?

SB: My life is inherently about juggling projects. Right now I’m deep in reviewing copy edits for a textbook, CASES IN HEALTH CARE MANAGEMENT, which is due out in spring 2013 from Jones and Bartlett Learning. And, I’m building a new MS in Healthcare Management program. And, I’m working on the epic novel. I like to use both sides of my brain, the logical scientific side and the creative, world building side. They feed each other.

DE: You mentioned participating in Maryland Romance Writers and RWA. Are you part of a writing group that meets regularly? How have all of those connections supported and strengthened your writing?

SB: I belong to a wonderful critique group that meets once a month. There are six of us in it, and we critique everyone each month. It keeps me moving forward, doesn’t allow me to slack off. We are cheerleaders for each other and celebrate each accomplishment. We are also very picky about our writing. We have high standards and hold each other to them. It makes our work stronger.

DE: What’s next?

SB: I have a 3rd book under review with a publisher (fingers crossed). It is a paranormal romance. In OBSESSION, a recovering addict must work with a Mexican drug lord to rescue her one-year old son from the clutches of a cult leader who believes the child is the Chosen One.
And, I’m beginning to write the sequel to KISS OF THE SILVER WOLF. KISS OF THE VIRGIN QUEEN is the story of the epic romance the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon and the impact of their relationship on their descendant, Eliana Solomon. It will be a paranormal romance.

Thank you, Sharon, for spending time with us!

Sharon Buchbinder has always been a story-teller. As a child, she got into a lot of trouble for “making things up.” Now, she is rewarded for making things up. She’s been writing fiction since in middle school and has the rejection slips to prove it. After graduating with a BA in Psychology and no job, she realized her dreams of working in the attic writing great prose would have to take a back seat to the simple pleasures of eating, drinking, and having a roof over her head. After working in health care delivery for years, she became a researcher, an association executive, then an academic. She had it all– a terrific, supportive husband, an amazing son, and a wonderful job. But that itch to write (some call it obsession), kept beckoning her to “come on back” to writing fiction. She found friendship, support and the opportunity to develop as an author with the Maryland Romance Writers and the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Since romance has over a dozen sub-genres, she was able to turn her fascination with horror and mystery into paranormal romance and romantic suspense. When not writing she can be found reading, fishing, working out, golfing or enjoying a good meal and laughter with friends and family.
On Twitter: @sbuchbinder


Killer Kisses is a collection of Sharon Buchbinder’s tales, ranging from contemporary, short and chaste to paranormal, long and spicy.

In A Peck on the Cheek: Hurricane Jason, a female private investigator searches for a two-timing husband, but lands in an hurricane shelter. Does she get her man?

In Cat Nips: Catastrophe, a crazy cat lady is evicted by her drunken landlord and the lives of her cats are at stake. Will she and her rescues wind up on the street? Or will a secret admirer find a better home for everyone?

In Hot Lips: Lake Placid Cure, a woman finds her husband in a compromising position–again. Looking to recover her dignity, she sets out for a medi-spa, encounters a murder mystery and discovers that miracles still happen in Lake Placid.

In French Kiss: Pigmalion, a speech pathology graduate student needs one more subject for her research project to graduate. She runs into a hot guy with a heavy accent and tries to recruit him into her study. Will she teach him the language of love?

In Sizzling Smooch: Bonded for Life , a Mexican artist runs for her life to hide in the little town where she graduated from high school. She’s convinced no one will find her there. But a boy with a high school crush on her grew up to be a hunky cop–and he has her in his cross hairs.

In Delectable and Delicious: An Inn Decent Proposal
, a chef and a hotelier join forces at a foreclosure auction on an old inn and outbid a small time hood. The thug doesn’t like being on the losing end of the deal. Things heat up outside and in the bedroom. Can the couple make a go of it? Or will the hood destroy their dream?

In Release Your Inner Wild Women: Kiss of the Silver Wolf, a young woman searches for the truth about her brother’s debilitating disease. An intriguing man with silver hair and a penchant for long night runs insists she’s his life mate. How does this sexy man figure into her family secrets?

And the excerpt:

Prologue: The Hunt (Part I)

He leaned down on his front paws, relieved the kinks in his back, and shook out his thick coat. Beneath the cold air, a hint of spring tantalized his senses. Under the moist leaves, between the tree roots, alongside the chortling streams, the sleeping earth mother stretched her legs and wiggled her toes too. He gazed at the pearl white moon as she rose on the horizon, full and iridescent in the February sky. Only a few days left to enjoy this part of his life.

Time for a run. He began to trot, then broke into a long easy gait, loping around the perimeter of his territory, through trees and winter-bare brush. He picked his way across a snow-melt-swollen stream, past massive rock formations and darkened houses, enjoying the feel of his muscles as they kept pace with his pounding heart. This was what it felt like to be alive.

Too soon he reached the asphalt and the end of his fun. Panting, he turned away from the road and walked at a slow easy pace, back to the pack’s meeting place. Time to speak to the Old One about the future. Midnight runs no longer suppressed his primal feelings, the visceral urge he felt when the full moon rose.

Each month, the call to mate was stronger—irresistible as the pull of the moon on the oceans—and on him. The females in the pack were off limits, bonded forever to their soul mates. Besides, their scents didn’t arouse him. No, the one he wanted was far away, almost an unattainable being. The moment he saw her smoky-eyed image, he knew she was The One. Often when he was alone at night, he gave into his dark urges and fantasized about holding her and making her his own. But in the morning, he was still alone, his dream-mate a dust mote on a sunbeam. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and stepped into the apple orchard.

Half-hidden in shadows beneath the moonlight dappled trees, the Old One nodded his head, a knowing glint in his bright orange eyes. The younger male trotted over to him and bowed his head. Half a dozen adolescents tumbled over and around the Old One, bit his gray ears, and nipped his toes. When the smaller ones looked up and saw the younger male, they yipped, hobbled over to him, and threaded between his legs. The Old One’s mouth opened in a grin, and his tongue lolled.

The younger male fell to the ground, rolled on his back, and the six pups leaped on his belly. He chuffed and pawed at them, cuffing each one lightly. He enjoyed the role of honorary Uncle, but what he really wanted was his own pups to play with. After a few minutes, he gave a great sigh and flipped onto his belly. The little ones seemed to sense his change in mood and hobbled off to play with sticks.

He locked gazes with the Old One. When will I have my own mate? It’s not enough for me to watch the little ones play.

The Old One winked and nodded. My job is to preserve the pack, to keep our people alive. I have chosen your mate. You know who she is. You have my oath.

The younger male shook his head. You didn’t answer my question. When? When do I get my mate and become Pack Leader?

The Old One leaped to his feet, glared at the younger one, and growled a deep throaty roar that belied his age. You dare to question me? Me? The one who saved you? Is that how you show your gratitude?

The younger male put his ears down and lowered his head, his nose touching the ground. Forgive me. I’m—I’m so lonely. My heart aches for a loving mate and my own pups. Every moon the urge gets stronger, the hunger greater.

The Old One came closer, grabbed the back of the younger male’s neck with his teeth. The large signet ring on his iron necklace clanked as he gave the upstart a small shake. The time is coming near. I promise. You will—

The unmistakable crack of a rifle sounded in the distance.

The Old One’s mate barked out orders to the other females. Grab the pups. Get them home. Hurry, hurry.

The younger male found a straggler hobbling along as fast as his legs permitted. He lifted him by the scruff of the neck. C’mon, little one. I’ve got you. You’re safe now.

A second shot rang out closer by.

The little one whimpered and shuddered in his grip. Please don’t let the hunters kill me, Uncle Zack. Please?

“I told you to hold your fire!” Special Agent Eliana Solomon stood by the abandoned mine and drummed her fingers on the butt of her Sig Sauer.

“Sorry, Sir—Ma’am…I thought I saw a wolf in my night scope.” The newbie looked downward as she glared at him.

“This isn’t a hunting trip with your buddies. It’s an active operation and I’m in command. One more shot and I’m taking your rifle away from you. Got it?”

He gulped, clutched his weapon, and nodded. “Yes, Ma’am.”

She had asked for experienced soldiers; instead they sent a bunch of green boys. She understood the Middle East took precedence, but didn’t the Army get the concept of domestic terrorists?

The mission of Project Aladdin was to find jinn, the portals where they came through from a parallel dimension and to shut the gateways down. Contrary to popular TV images of a pretty girl in a bottle, the jinn, or genies, were not nice. Powerful shape shifters, they hated humans and wanted to take over the world. If a terrorist ever found a way to conjure and command even one jinni, the world would never know what hit it.

Despite her obsession and round the clock investigations, she’d been unable to make any progress. With her evaluation coming at the end of the month, she had to find something. Otherwise, she’d be exiled to a desk and spend the rest of her professional life analyzing emails. She shuddered at the thought of death by tedium and twisted the heavy signet ring on her left hand.

Strange energy signatures had been seen on satellite images of this area and identified as the type associated with jinn. The abandoned mine was the logical place for a porta—but so far the scout they’d lowered down into the shaft hadn’t reported anything. She glanced at her watch. He’d been silent for twenty minutes. He was supposed to be reporting in on the quarter hour.

Mouth dry, she keyed her radio. “What’s going on down there?”


“Hello. Can you read me?”

A long burst of static was followed by garbled voices. A man screamed.

She wheeled on the pale-faced young corporal holding a rope. “Get him out of there!”

He leaned back and grunted, red-faced with exertion. “Something’s wrong, Ma’am!”

She raced behind him, screaming at the stricken-looking young men huddling together. “Get over here. Help us get him out.”

Three of them put their backs into the effort, finally bringing the scout up into view. Limp-limbed, the young man’s head lolled back, his camouflage uniform covered in blood. They hauled him onto the ground and rolled him over.

A soldier held a flashlight as Eliana pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his face off. Something was on his forehead. She dabbed at it and stopped. The words burned into the man’s forehead told her all she needed to know. She stood on shaky legs.

Bug eyed, the corporal turned to her. “What is it? What’s it mean?”

She chose her words with care. “It’s Hebrew. It says: GET OUT.”

She flexed her fist and rubbed the heavy signet ring inscribed with pentacles and letters from an ancient language. She was going to need help from a source that some people said didn’t even exist.

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