An excerpt: Special delivery

What’s that I hear? You want to read an excerpt from my book?

Sigh. You know I can never tell you no.

This scene takes place in Madagascar, during the third and final section of my book. I picked it partly because it doesn’t require much context; even though you haven’t read the book until this point, you should be able to understand what’s going on here.

(Loyal readers of my travel blog will recognize it as an adapted version of a post. It feels pretty great to begin writing a scene and realize I already have a skeleton version to work with.)

Remember, you’re lucky enough to experience this in rough-draft form. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.

* * *

The hotel lobby was quiet, empty at this early hour except for two women chatting at the bar. I dropped my backpack on the floor and leaned against the wall, tired from a poor night’s sleep. The slow-moving ceiling fan in my room had done little to ease the heat.

“Good morning,” the woman behind the bar greeted me as she flipped through the hotel’s guestbook. “Do you need something?”

“No, thanks,” I responded, my eyes half closed. “I’m waiting for someone.”

The South African couple I had met the night before would be here any minute. Since the birdwatchers were on my flight out of Diego, we had planned to share a taxi to the airport.

“You’re leaving?” the employee asked, gesturing toward my bag. Her friend, sitting on the other side of the bar, swiveled her high stool so she was facing me.

“Yes,” I answered, reaching into my pack to make sure my passport was easily accessible. “I’m headed to the airport. I have a flight.”

“You’re going to Sambava?”

I stood up a little straighter, slightly suspicious. How did she know? In a few hours I would take the short flight to Sambava, a small city on the northeastern tip of the island, but I could have been going anywhere in Madagascar or even home to the States. How had she guessed correctly?

“Yes, uh, Sambava,” I replied, thinking maybe she would suggest a hotel or put me in touch with someone who lived there. But she and her friend had something else in mind.

“Will you take this with you?” asked the woman on the stool, who wore jeans and a casual brown short-sleeved shirt. She held up a plastic shopping bag full of what looked like fabric.

The request caught me off guard. “Pardon? What do you mean?”

“This bag,” she clarified, patting the flimsy sack. “Will you take it with you?”

“You want me to take the bag to Sambava?” I asked apprehensively, staying in my spot against the wall.

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Query tip

I love this query tip from Michael Larsen‘s How to Write a Book Proposal.

For snail-mail queries, he suggests sending a self-addressed, stamped postcard that reads:

Please send the proposal __

Sorry, we can’t help __

Plus the name of the agent, for the writer’s benefit.

“No matter how busy they are, agents and editors interested in finding new writers will take the time to read a one-page letter and put a checkmark on a postcard,” Larsen writes. “Although they may have their assistants do it.”

So I personalized postcards (using a print service that’s associated with Flickr, where I’ve uploaded all my travel photos) with a beautiful scene from my trip, the view from my bungalo at Isalo National Park in southwest Madagascar. If I don’t use all these special postcards for queries, I’ll send them to friends.

View from my bungalo outside Isalo Park, Madagascar

View from my bungalo outside Isalo Park, Madagascar

While stuffing my postcards and query letters into envelopes, I realized the downside to the postcard: an agent can’t stuff her reply letter inside. So then I wondered: Should I send a self-addressed, stamped envelope instead?

This is a tedious, nit-picky detail, one that matters far less than the quality of my query and book idea. But since I’m a first-timer, I like to get details right.

What do you think? Should I go with the unique postcard or stick to the boring yet dependable envelope?