Five years ago, September, in a hotel lobby in Nashville, I met a lovely young lady by the name of Melanie Dickerson whose soft southern drawl appealed to me almost as much as her humility. She was there to promote her semi-autobiographical "missionary story" at the same time I was trying to promote my semi-autobiographical "infertility story." Neither one sold, mind you. I don't know what our first clues were: the agents panel saying they don't do missionary/issues books, or the authors saying anything semi-autobiographical won't sell. (Though we both met just enough published authors who were the exception to the rule to give us hope everlasting.)
We both went home from conference, continued to work on our doomed books, subbing them out and getting rejections, critiquing each other, subbing, getting rejections, crying, sympathizing (bored! she actually used the word BORED! sniff. Bored? What book was she reading?) And then one day, Melanie shot me something totally new and fresh and alive. A loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty that she called The Woodcutter's Daughter. Something that hadn't had the life critiqued out of it. Something that had kept her up, her mind wild with ideas, and I said, (in case you wondered) "Melanie, this one will see print!" Chapter one was that good.
That beginning, however exciting it was, bit the dust at some point. But that's beside the point.
I'd go through my day, thinking about "this great book I'm reading" and then remember I couldn't just go pick it up at will, and I'd harass Melanie for another chapter. She started feeding us (our motley crit group) a few hundred words at a time.
I was glued to my computer.
Well, the other day I got my bound copy in the mail retitled to be called The Healer's Apprentice which, incidentally, is an even better title. I found my name in the acknowledgments. I cried. And I sat down to read the final version of a labor of love by my sweet, humble, friend. And I confess, I didn't read it in one sitting (kinda knew where it was going), and I could put it down (again, kinda knew where it was going), and I spent most of my read playing find-something-in-here-I-haven't-seen-before and oooooo-that-added-a-lot! But mostly, my friends, it is the same book I couldn't peel my eyeballs from when I was reading it on screen. I was actually quite surprised at how very little changed in the intervening re-writes, and critiques, and edits.
And, let me tell ya, she has one that is just as stinkin' good on her harddrive that is a better version of Beauty and the Beast, so nag her and her publisher about it, K? Of course, not until you've read The Healer's Apprentice.
A bit about the book (from the back cover):
Rose has been appointed as a healer's apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportinity for a woodcutter's daughter like her. While she often feels uneasy at the sight of blood, rose is determined to prove herself capable. Failure will mean returning home to marry the aging bachelor her mother has chosen fr her--a bloated, disgusting merchant who makes Rose feel ill.
When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, it is Rose who must tend to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to understand emotions she's never felt before and wonders is he feels the same. But falling in love is forbidden, as Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose's life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny.