7 things I learned writing my book during NaNoWriMo 2018

NaNo-2018-Congrats

For the first time ever, I decided that 2018 was my year to tackle National Novel Writing Month . If you’re not familiar with ‘NaNoWriMo’, it’s an annual global event that encourages authors-in-the-making to thrash out the first draft of that novel they keep putting off.

I’ve never seriously attempted NaNo before, so this year I decided to just DO IT, partly because I’m a glutton for punishment, and partly because I had an idea for a witchy novel (oh yes) that I was desperate to try on for size.

In all honesty, 30 days later, I’m a mess. But it ended up being an… interesting challenge. I only just managed to hit that 50k on the final day of NaNo, but I’m so glad I took the plunge because now I have 50k of a new novel. Here are all the things I learned…

1. A little planning goes a long way
There’s that saying, ‘You’re a planner or a panter.’ In reality, I fall somewhere in the middle. I can usually scratch out a few chapters of something before I’m chewing on bricks, but it’s always useful to have a roadmap. There’s nothing more terrifying than a blank page and a blinking cursor.

So I spent the first two days of NaNo writing character profiles, planning plot beats and generally immersing myself in the world of the book. Although it meant that, at first, I was writing zero words towards my word count, those days were invaluable in helping me figure out my story – and then formulate a skeletal outline so I always had some idea what to write.

2. Finding time is difficult – but prioritising writing is worth it
We’re all busy. We all have to food shop and brush our teeth and sometimes even work. We might occasionally think about seeing our friends and family. Those are all things we have to do, but that’s the great thing about NaNo – for once, you have to write. If you don’t, you’re not going to birth that book baby you decided to have.

There’s something special about carving out the time to write. Making it a priority. And then seeing what you’re really capable of.

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3. When in doubt, just write
I’m a perfectionist. A part of me doesn’t want to even think about writing unless I know I’m crafting pure word-gold.

Of course, ‘perfect’ is notoriously hard-won, and at the start of NaNo, I really had to give myself the ‘bullshit talk’. As in, “This is probably going to be bullshit, but that’s OK. You can make it better later.” That really helped me to loosen up on the perfection leash and just write. My motto: Write badly. Edit goodly.

4. It helps you focus
I’m guilty of being a bit of a fair-weather writer. I often get intensely interested in a project, and as soon as it becomes difficult for whatever reason, be that plot or character, I find a new shiny toy to play with.

NaNo cuts that bullshit right to the bone. You choose a project and you stick with it until the bitter end (of the month), and oh how bitter you may be, but that sort of commitment is exactly what I need. No bailing, no getting distracted by something newer. This is your project for the month and you have to battle through no matter what.

5. Don’t compare!
Some people are sprinters, some people are long-distance runners. Others are amblers. It’s all good. Although it’s tempting to check in on how other writers are doing, or begrudge them their rejoicing when they’re all “I wrote 50k in a week!”, you’ll only drive yourself crazy.

Celebrate your milestones (NaNo handily gives you badges every couple of thousand words that you can flash around if you so wish), and celebrate the milestones other people reach, too. We’re in this together!

6. Quitting is oh-so tempting
Writing is exhausting, especially when you’re using all of your normal ‘down time’ to do it. By week three, I was sorely tempted to jack it all in.

Luckily, I have an amazing support network – my boyfriend (hi, Thom!), friends and other writers were all great cheerleaders who encouraged me along the way. So no. Don’t quit. You can do it. It may be painful but it feels SO GOOD when you finally hit 50k.

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7. You don’t have to finish a whole book
THIS IS THE BIGGIE. You’re writing 50k, but most books average out at 80k, so it’s unlikely you’ll have a full first draft by the end of NaNo (unless you set a different target or had different objectives, like redrafting an existing project).

About 20k into my witch book, I knew the first draft was going to be way over 50k. That disheartened me at first because I knew that even if I ‘won’ NaNo, I still wouldn’t have an entire finished draft to work on.

In the end, though, that was sort of freeing. I decided to just write whichever scenes I fancied and fill in the gaps later. So even though I don’t have much of the third act written, I do have the final chapter done. And I have two thirds of a pretty solid draft. WHOOP!

All right, that was me, now what about you?

Did you take part in NaNoWriMo 2018? How did you do? Let me know below!

My next five reads

Hello fellow word lovers! How are you? Well, I hope. Me? I’m dreadful, thanks for reminding me. Kidding! It’s November, so I’m currently in the thick of NaNoWriMo 2018, which I’ve been really enjoying (19,000 words and counting), but pairing that with two weekends outside of the UK plus full-time work has kicked my ass slightly. Yes, I’ve come down with the fabled NaNo lurgy.

So while I take a break from trying to be hyper-creative, I thought I’d take a look at the next five books I have lined up on my TBR. Come with me, if you will…

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
The premise for this book had me at ‘dead cheerleaders’. (Anybody remember Heroes and “save the cheerleader, save the world”? Those were the days.) The Cheerleaders is Kara Thomas’ third book, and has been described as “a little bit Riverdale, a little bit Veronica Mars“, so of course I couldn’t possibly say no. It seems to have a little bit of a Buffy and Point Horror vibe going for it, too, so I’m IN.

Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
This author’s last book, Final Girls, consumed my life for roughly two days. I couldn’t put it down. (If you haven’t read it yet, go get it! You won’t be disappointed.) So I’m really excited to check out his next one, which I’ve slightly been putting off, because the copy I have is an enormous hardback, but I’m going to stop being such a wuss and get on with it. I don’t know anything about the plot because I want to be surprised, but if Sager’s previous book is anything to go by, this should be a fun, twisty ride.

Rosewater by Tade Thompson
I’ve seen buzz about this everywhere, and even though I’m not a huge science-fiction reader (I’m more on the fantasy spectrum), the premise for Rosewater is really intriguing and sort of reminded me of The Bone Season (in a good way). It’s come along at a time when black voices and stories are happily enjoying a huge surge in popularity, particularly within the realms of sci-fi and fantasy, and I’m excited to find out what has made people rave about this so much.

Dark Pines by Will Dean
Will Dean is enjoying huge success with this book, which is awesome – I’m only sorry I’ve not got to it sooner. But I finally have a gorgeous paperback copy ready and waiting (it has one of the coolest inner-front-cover quote spreads I’ve ever seen), and I can’t wait to meet Tuva Moodyson. If you know me, you’ll know I’m a Scandi nut (I even taught myself Swedish), so I’m really looking forward to reading this.

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Grady Hendrix is my number one at the moment. I inhaled My Best Friend’s Exorcism and We Sold Our Souls, and I just can’t get enough of his lean but colourful writing, and his thoroughly lifelike characters. Somehow, though, Horrorstör completely passed me by, so I’m going to rectify that in the next few weeks. The book’s laid out like an IKEA catalogue, which is genius. But then, this is Grady Hendrix we’re talking about, so OF COURSE IT IS.

Have you read any of these? What are you sticking in your eyeballs next? Let me know in the comments below!

#HalloweenFrights Day 2: Part One – Elizabeth & Katharine Corr’s rules for writing a wicked witch story

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Congratulations! You survived the first day of #HalloweenFrights! To celebrate, here’s a spook-tacular treat – today I have not one but TWO guest posts about witches.

First up, I’m handing over to author sisters Elizabeth and Katharine Corr, who recently cast a wicked spell with their Witches Kiss trilogy (which I loved). Because they’ve written three whole books about spellcasters, I asked them to reveal their six secrets for how to write an awesome witch story. Over to you, ladies…

When writing The Witch’s Kiss trilogy, we spent a lot of time researching all things witchy. Luckily, witches – like vampires – seem to have an enduring appeal, both in literature and on screen, so there was plenty of good source material. Here’s what we learnt…

1. Do your homework. In more recent history, witchcraft has been associated with the occult, satanic worship, cursing your neighbour’s cows and other generally bad stuff. In a modern context – and, funnily enough, if you go further back in history – it’s been associated more with healing and harnessing the power of nature. In our trilogy we’ve mixed elements of both, trying to pay homage to both versions of witchcraft.

hermione2. Make your witch believable – as a person first, as a witch second. A good witch story needs a believable protagonist. Think Hermione, Mildred, Granny WeatherWax. Each of these witches has vulnerabilities and strengths that we can relate to. Modern witches, even the wicked ones, tend to be more well-rounded than in fairytales (the Angelina Jolie version of Maleficent, for example). Have your witch be malicious and evil by all means, but also show us why.

3. Dress them right. Actually, dress them any way you want to as long as it fits with your setting. Personally, we love a pointy black hat. But witches, like everyone else, come in all different shapes and sizes. Some witches have wands, brooms and all the traditional witchy paraphernalia. Some have the latest technology and do power dressing. Our hero, Merry, lives in modern day Surrey and looks like a regular teenager. Her gran – the head of the coven – has a smart bob and pearl earrings; not a wart in sight. There are no rules regarding witch fashion.

3. Think outside the box: witches don’t have to be women or belong to a coven. There are modern male witches that would be very unhappy to be called warlocks (if you don’t believe us, Google it). We have a powerful male witch in our trilogy, who, unlike the wizards in our books, inherited his powers straight from his mum. Again, some witches enjoy being part of a group, whilst others are solo artists. Your witch doesn’t have to be part of a coven. Merry definitely didn’t want to be part of hers.

5. Know your powers. Magical powers vary. Some witches use cauldrons, wands and spell books. Granny Weatherwax prefers ‘headology’ (basically outsmarting your opponent by getting inside their headspace). Some witches make human/animal sacrifices, whilst others use the power of the land and, where possible, fresh herbs. If your witch casts spells, try to make them sound convincing. We spent a lot of time researching stuff in Latin and other languages.

6. Have a good antagonist. Harry Potter wouldn’t have been quite the same without Lord Voldemort, and a witch is always at her best when she’s in mortal danger. Either through clever spells or pure courage, facing down the Big Bad is when she comes into her own.

Big thanks to Elizabeth and Katharine for this. You can follow them on Twitter by clicking their names (ooo, magic), and make sure you check out their books if you’re a fan of all things witch-y. Want more spellbinding stuff? Check out part two of the #HalloweenFright witch special later today.

Vicious Rumer blog tour – with exclusive audiobook!

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The time has finally come to get this show on the road! Yep, Vicious Rumer is out THIS MONTH – cue screams even louder than those reserved for Justin Bieber fans. Want to get exclusive interviews, insight into the writing of the book, and more reviews than you can shake a tattered old paperback at? Just follow along with the blog tour, which will be rolling out over the next 20 days at the above locations. Yeah, count ’em!

To kick things off, I have a very special treat – the first three chapters in audiobook form! My very good friend Bobby Brook offered to lend us her rather lovely pipes, not to mention her considerable experience of working in the theatre, to give Rumer a voice! It was pretty surreal watching her record this (I couldn’t help peering over her shoulder a bit, much to her horror), but she made the book sound SO GOOD. Way better than I ever imagined it could.

So, without further ado, plug in, put up your feet, and say hello to Rumer…

Thanks also to Robert Gershinson for his impeccable editing skills.

And now on to the rest of the tour. What terrors will it bring? Well, only one way to find out…

New Sentinel novella Witchpin now available!

Witchpin COVERHey everybody! I hope you’re all having a fun 2018.

Earlier this year, I promised some exciting things in the Sentinel camp, and today I’m thrilled to reveal that Witchpin, a new Sentinel novella, is now available on Amazon!

Set before the events of the Sentinel Trilogy, Witchpin dives into the past to reveal the secrets of Jessica Bell and Isabel Hallow. Ever wondered how they met? All will be revealed!

You can head over to the Witchpin page on the ST website to read more about the book (including a Q&A with yours truly), or if you can’t wait any longer to get your hands on the book, head over to Amazon UK or Amazon US to grab your copy.

And be sure to leave a star rating and/or short review on Amazon and Goodreads when you’re done.

Thank you and remember, the Sentinels are always watching.

Happy (belated) Halloween from Rumer

Hey everybody! It’s been exactly a week since Vicious Rumer hit 100% funding on Unbound. I still can’t quite believe I get to write those words. This book has been skulking in the shadows for over a year, so to know that it’s going to be published – and not only published but read by lovely people like you who pre-ordered a copy – is both surreal and unbelievably exciting. So thank you. This only happened because of you. I owe you all alcohol and hugs.

So what’s next? Well, in the past week I’ve been paired up with my Unbound editor (hi Craig!), chatted to him all about Rumer (I’ll admit, the phone call made me shake), and received his feedback on the manuscript (the man’s a power-reader).

As I write this, I’ve just made a start on his edits. I’m refining Rumer’s story to make it as scary, funny and thrilling as possible. I’ll admit, I’ve not read the manuscript in months, and it’s fun getting back into Rumer’s head (although there’s some pretty odd stuff in there). After I’ve made my edits, Craig will take another look at the manuscript before it goes through some heavy duty proofing – the book equivalent of a shave and a haircut.

The timeline on the project remains a bit of a secret, but there’s every chance that this time next year you’ll have a copy of Vicious Rumer in your hands.

If you can’t wait that long for some creepy fiction, here’s a belated Halloween treat – you can read my short story Dead Air for FREE when you sign up to my mailing list at http://joshuawinning.com. (I promise I won’t spam your inbox to oblivion. In fact, you’ll only hear from me when there’s big news.)

Meanwhile, happy belated Halloween from me and Rumer, and thanks again for going on this weird and exciting journey with us.

Josh x

08.02.18: Amended to change the title of the book to Vicious Rumer, woo!

Spread the Rumer! How to support Vicious Rumer

3D-Rumer NO BGYour support for Vicious Rumer, which is OUT NOW!, has been truly overwhelming. Between your pre-orders, shares, reviews and lovely words, my shrivelled little heart has been warmed and renewed over the past few months.

A lot of you are asking just HOW you can help to keep spreading the Rumer, so here’s a handy post to give you an idea of what you can do…

If you do even one of these things, from the bottom of my chest cavity, THANK YOU!

Write a review!

The number one thing you can do to help spread the Rumer is leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. That instantly pushes the book up those sites’ mysterious algorithms, thereby letting even more readers know about it.

Don’t worry, a review can be as short or long as you like (sometimes the one-line reviews are the best!), and it doesn’t have to be a work of critical genius. If you fancy leaving a review, here are the links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Vicious-Rumer-Haunted-Hunted-Cursed-ebook/dp/B07CGVDQVW

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39291901-vicious-rumer

Thank you!


Share these!

If you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or even THE MOON, why not spread the Rumer by dropping one of these lovely quotes on your page?


Use hashtags!

Firstly, if you Tweet or Instagram about Vicious Rumer, THANK YOU. You’re amazing and I owe you a shiny bauble (or at least a social media follow) in return.

If you ARE sharing stuff about the book, please consider hashtagging that mofo to the heavens.

The biggies: #ViciousRumer #RumerHasIt

Others you can try: #YAlit #booknerd #amreading #bookworm #bibliophile #bookstack

And be sure to @JoshWinning so I can retweet you.


 Get arty!

The fantastic artist Eli Allison created this really rather brilliant (and only a little bit disturbing) graphic novel-style panel based on the first few chapters of Vicious Rumer. If you like it, show people! And if you’re an artist, why not do a little doodling yourself and chuck the results at me on Twitter! For now, though, really do go check out Eli’s site. She’s phenomenal.

Vicious Rumer(Click for hi-res)


Email your buddies!

Yes, some people still use email to catch up and stuff. So if you enjoyed Vicious Rumer and you’ve been meaning to email Cousin Gerald in Austin, Texas but you keep putting it off because, y’know, Cousin Gerald can be a bit weird, HERE’S AN EXCUSE TO DO SO! (I mean, I’m sure Cousin Gerald is great, but seriously, what is with that goatee?)

Tell Cousin Gerald this: Vicious Rumer is a YA thriller with witchy elements. It’s a bit Jessica Jones, a bit Lisbeth Salander, and follows a badass teenage girl who’s thrown into a world of gangsters and the occult. HE’D BE MAD TO MISS IT.

And share this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Vicious-Rumer-Haunted-Hunted-Cursed-ebook/dp/B07CGVDQVW/


Retweet these!

Lots of lovely magazines/readers/authors have tweeted about Vicious Rumer (some of them even when it was going by the name Killing Rumer), so pay them back by giving them some support (and a follow!) and retweeting these.

If you tweet, be sure to @JoshWinning and use the hashtags #ViciousRumer and #RumerHasIt so I can find you!


Share banners!

Want more banners?! Well, if you insist… My good friend and amazing designer Louise Brock created this awesome postcards featuring one of Rumer’s more choice lines of dialogue. Do you love it as much as I do? Feel free to share far and wide!

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Killing Rumer update: blogs! blogs everywhere!

Hey all! Thought it was probably time I wrote another update on the Killing Rumer campaign at Unbound because (huzzah!) we’ve hit the two thirds mark! Thanks so much to the 146 people who have supported Killing Rumer over the past month, and continue to be calm, kind voices in the dark wilderness of crowdfunding. You’re amazing. I owe you all hugs and pubs.

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Innway, yes, we’re at 66%! We’re 44 days in to the campaign, which means I have 46 more days to hit 100%. Can you help? Why, thanks for asking! If you’re active on Facebook and Twitter, why not share some of the blogs that I’ve been squirrelling away at?

But wait, there are other things you can do to help get Killing Rumer in print and put a giant goofy smile on my face:

  • Share share share! If you have the time to email or message one person who likes quirky crime thrillers and kick-ass heroines to ask them to support the book, that would help HUGELY. One-on-one messages are the best way to tell people about the campaign, and be sure to include this link: https://unbound.com/books/killing-rumer
  • Tweet/Facebook/socialise to your heart’s content. Use the hashtag #KillingRumer and @ any of your book-loving buds. If you can share this banner, you might catch a few eyes (in a non-violent way): https://www.dropbox.com/s/dkoo0uxa3fldugq/Logo.gif?dl=0
  • Upgrade your pledge. If you ordered the ebook but you’ve decided you really want a paperback as well, that doesn’t mean pledging twice. To upgrade your pledge, simply click on the new reward you want, and rather than being charged twice, you’ll only pay the difference for the new pledge: https://unbound.com/books/killing-rumer

Oh yeah, did I mention I WAS IN THE PAPER! There’s my mug there in the Bury Free Press, looking a bit stern and stuff, but secretly smiling on the inside.

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Thanks again for your support. Until next time.

Support Killing Rumer by pre-ordering your copy of the book here!

Top 10 tips for crime thriller writers

FF 1As part of my blog tour to promote my new book, Vicious Rumer, which is available from Unbound here, I came up with 10 essentials for crime writers over at Female First. Check out their website here and read on below for my tips…

Decide what sort of crime thriller you want to write. It sounds straightforward, but genre can be flexible like plasticine; and that’s especially true for the crime genre. Are you writing a murder mystery? A gangster thriller? A heist story? A serial killer potboiler? A mixture of all four?! Knowing what sort of thriller you’re writing enables you to play around with tropes and shape something genuinely surprising.

Don’t JUST make it about crime. Sure, crime is an integral part of the plot, but the best thrillers have a lot more going on than that. Gone Girl is about mistrust and marital crisis. Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is about injustice and vengeance. Aside from a juicy crime plot, what do you really want to write about?

What’s your MacGuffin? That term was coined by screenwriter Angus MacPhail to describe an object or goal that drives the plot. In The Maltese Falcon, the MacGuffin is the titular priceless artefact. In my book, Killing Rumer, the MacGuffin is an occult relic called the Crook Spear; but what is it and why does everybody want it? Those questions keep the action clipping along.

Write what scares you. Clearly, a thriller is nothing without thrills, so think about the things that get your heart racing. If you suffer from claustrophobia, trap your character in a coffin. If you’re scared of the dark, smash all the lightbulbs in your character’s apartment. By writing something that puts you on edge, you’re likely to illicit a similar response from your readers.

Who’s your hero and what drives them? Lisbeth Salander. Sam Spade. Clarice Starling. The crime genre is crammed with memorably flawed and fascinating heroes. What makes yours unique? Think about what shaped your character. Is she headstrong because she’s always had to fend for herself? Is he emotional because he’s lost so much? What is unique about your hero’s reaction to the plot’s sinister events and why are they so determined to uncover the truth?

Spend time brainstorming the title. An eye-catching title is the first battle for any book. Study the titles of books you love and ask why they work. For my book, I brainstormed a dozen different titles before I settled on Killing Rumer, which hopefully asks a question readers want to uncover the answer to. Then consider potential taglines: a title and a tagline should shake hands with each other. Chris Carter’s recent book, The Caller, played with a clever pun: Your life is on the line. If puns aren’t your thing, perhaps there’s a quote in your book you can use.

How will technology factor into the story? In a world of iPhones, CCTV, dictaphones and countless other technological doohickies, how is your story affected by modern life? How does technology limit or enable your character’s actions? Of course, you could eradicate that problem by writing a historical thriller instead, but that could open a whole new can of worms…

Don’t just read crime thrillers. Draw from everything and everywhere. Inspiration often comes from surprising places, so while it’s good to get a sense of genre by reading books similar to the one you’re writing, be sure to read around. Watch TV and movies. Read comics. Learn how to write different types of people and study why a story does or doesn’t work.

Speaking of, what makes your story different? This is particularly important when it comes to selling your book, whether that’s to a publisher like Unbound or to a potential agent. What’s the hook? Why should people shell out for it? What’s the inherent value of your story? If you’re able to pinpoint exactly what makes your story unique (its USP: Unique Selling Point), that’ll make talking about it to other people a lot easier.

Have fun! This crime stuff can get pretty dark, so don’t forget to bring a little levity to proceedings. Even The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo threw in a few snippy one-liners to relieve the tension, and lightening the mood in places can actually have the added effect of making the dark stuff more impactful. Frollo’s line in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame is especially apt: “Wait between the lashes. Otherwise the old sting will dull him to the new.”

 

Killing Rumer: we’re a month in!

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Hey everybody! How was your summer?! Over here at Camp Killing Rumer it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. The campaign to get the book funded launched on 1 August, and since then loads has happened. You lovely people pledged your support in huge numbers – as it stands, the campaign’s at 59% funded with 128 (I must say, rather beautiful) readers having contributed to Rumer’s story.

To all of you I can only say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. This character means so much to me, and you’re bringing Killing Rumer closer and closer to being an Actual Genuine Book. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

Had a busy month? Here are some things you may have missed…

  • The first review of Killing Rumer went live! The lovely Lynn at Book Reviews By Lynn got a very sneaky early review copy of the book, and her glowing review is up over here. In short, she said: Joshua Winning has written an intriguing crime thriller with a kick-ass heroine. I love his fast paced writing style, and the story flowed beautifully. He is one of only a handful of male authors who I have added to my favourite authors list and I can’t wait to see what he will come up with in the future.
  • Rumer joined Twitter! You can follow her here.
  • We have postcards now! You can get your hands on an extra special set of postcards (designed by the brilliant Louise Brock) when you select the ‘Awesome Extras’ pledge. (Already pledged but want the postcards? You can upgrade your pledge by logging in, at no extra cost.)
  • A few new pledge levels have been released! ‘Be Part Of The Story!’ gives you the option of having a character named after you. And with the ‘Superfan Special Collectable’, you can own a signed copy of my very first draft of Killing Rumer, complete with editorial scribbles (ooo, hello behind the scenes jiggery pokery).
  • I blogged! I wrote about the 5 women who inspired Killing RumerCheck it out over here. I also revealed a little bit about why I wrote the book in the first place – take a peek here.

There are other exciting things in the works, including a series of guest blogs around the internet, all to help get Rumer’s name out there.

So yes, you’ve all been fantastically supportive over the past month, and I’m so, so grateful. If you want to help even more, please do share this link with your book-loving friends and family members: http://unbound.com/books/killing-rumer Why not chuck them an email today?

Here’s to hitting 60% and beyond!

Pre-order your copy of Killing Rumer here!