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  • michellebennington

Celebration! A Book Release and More!

Hey everyone! I just wanted to announce that today is a BIG DAY for me! My first ever book is being released by Level Best Books!

I have dreamed of being a published writer since the age of 13 and it has been a long and circuitous journey fraught with trials and struggles with scattered bursts of triumph. But here I am. And I'm ready to CELEBRATE my hard-won accomplishment. I hope there will be many more.

The book began as a seed in 2014 when I developed an idea for an adjunct instructor to solve crimes on a university campus. (I still plan to write that series). Plus, I wanted to set the series in Kentucky. While I maintained the Kentucky setting, the plot took a detour when I read an article about the famous Pappy Van Winkle heist in 2015 and attended a ghost tour at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky around the same time. I had a light bulb moment: What if someone were murdered at a distillery and someone who works there solves the crime? But who would solve the crime? That's when I developed Rook Campbell: a woman who I believe embodies both traditional and modern Kentucky. (Little fun fact: I named her after my maternal grandmother's favorite card game).

Then I began plotting, building character sketches, unwinding the first draft. I was a slow writer because I had two other manuscripts I was dealing with, full-time work, and general life obligations, but in time, I finished it. Then it was time to revise, send out to beta readers, revise again and get it in the best possible shape I could. Then I had a decision to make: traditional or indie publishing? I really wanted to begin with traditional publishing. I thought it would be a good way to really learn the ins & outs of the industry. So, I began querying agents. I received many rejections outright. Other agents asked to see the manuscript, but ultimately rejected me. I signed up for conferences, especially the kind that offered pitch appointments with agents. I went on pitch meetings and was rejected. The few times I received feedback, I used it to improve. I revised some more and sent it out again.

By June of 2019, I landed an agent at Blueridge Literary Agency and she began querying publishers. Again, I entered the rejection rounds. Finally, in January 2020, I landed my publisher. When they signed me, I had another 18 months to wait! UGH! It was so painful for someone like me to wait when I have one ounce of patience packed into the tip of my pinky finger. Some might say I wasted a lot of time messing with traditional publishing, but ultimately, I'm glad I did it. I think it made my book and me as a writer better.

When Level Best Books signed me, they agreed to take my book as a series (The Small Batch Series) and signed me for a three book deal: Devil's Kiss (2022), Mermaid Cove (2023), and Unbridled Spirits (2024).

But I have even more good news and cause to celebrate!

Before I wrote Devil's Kiss I had another manuscript that I was dealing with called

Widow's Blush. It's a historical mystery set in 1803 England on the cusp of the second war with Napoleon where heroine, Ravenna, Lady Birchfield, become entangled in solving crimes. Think: Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie.

I started writing that one in 2016 while I was developing Devil's Kiss. I actually finished Widow's Blush first and began querying it first, but no one seemed to want it. That's when I turned my focus to Devil's Kiss. But once I placed Devil's Kiss with a publisher, I turned again to Widow's Blush. I rewrote, revised, tweaked and twiddled with it. I put it through the rigors of beta readers, editors, and queries. I had a couple publishers express interest. One only wanted it with extensive changes. I made the changes. They never responded back. Another expressed interest, but didn't really have much experience with historical and I felt uncomfortable with them. Then Level Best responded and again signed me for a three book series (Widows & Shadows)!

(Fun fact: I always work on at least 2 books at a time).

Widow's Blush is slated to be released in October 2023, followed by Widow's Fire in October 2024, and Widow's Peak in October 2025.

Now the work really begins!

Here's what I've got going on right now:

I've already written Mermaid Cove and it's waiting to be turned in to my publisher and I'll probably start plotting Unbridled Spirits soon.

Widow's Blush is complete and waiting to be turned in to the publisher. I've plotted and begun writing the second book, Widow's Fire, which I hope to work on, if not complete, by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, I have an independent book project that I hope to release by October of 2022. The book is a cozy mystery with a Southern Gothic twist, called Dumpster Dying. In this story, hoarder Birdie Harper lives with her husband's ghost and gets caught up in solving crimes. Right now, I'm envisioning this to be a three book series, but we'll see. It's an independent project, so I have the freedom to do what I like.

But the fun doesn't end there!

I'm also working on a historical fiction set in 1600s France. I don't want to talk much about that one yet (I'm a little superstitious). But right now it's in the research and development stage. I've written the first four pages, but this project is more of a marathon than a sprint and I hope to find a publisher for it.

Lastly, I have two other manuscripts that have been completed, but they need deep revision, if not complete rewrites. One I'm hoping to find a publisher, the other I hope to self-publish. I'm even trying my hand at a screenplay! So I've got all kinds of balls in the air that I'm juggling, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

You can get Devil's Kiss at Amazon. If you decide to read it, I would greatly appreciate a review! Reviews are so important to the algorithms--and I really like to know what readers think because it helps me improve! And THANK YOU for sharing this journey with me.

Rook Campbell who is broke, divorced, jobless, and in desperate need of steady employment, which is hard to come by in the small town of Rothdale, Kentucky. With the help of her friend and neighbor Bryan, she lands a good job at the Four Wild Horses Distillery and meets an attractive co-worker with lots of dating potential. Her life is finally headed in the right direction until a co-worker dies under suspicious circumstances and a shipment of rare small-batch bourbon goes missing. Worse, her personal life begins to unravel as her beloved grandmother falls ill. Normally she can depend on her ex, Cam, for help, but his new fiancée’s jealousy is getting in the way. As the body count rises, Rook becomes ensnared in discovering who’s committing the crimes—or she might be the next to die.


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