Extra #UghJay & Winnie scene!
And two polls to help me understand YOU!
Help me by answering two polls!
On Awkward Encounters at School — a cut scene
1. Help me by answering two polls!
Before we get to the awkward goodness of the cut scene below…please help me out by answering the two polls!
I’m trying to better understand how my readers discovered me as well as how they keep up with me online—and not just me, but how they keep up with all the other authors they love.
I realized that, for all that I have a newsletter, most readers seem to get their information about me from occasional google searches. And honestly…I am no better! I tend to google every few months to see what my favorite authors have in the way of new releases, and that’s it. 🤦♀️
But knowing this about myself has made me realize the importance of a constantly updated website so readers who behave like me can keep up!
2. #ChooseWithSooz Updates
In case you’ve missed any of the ongoing #UghJay story that’s still going on Instagram, here they all are:
Now onto that promised cut scene…
3. On Awkward Encounters at School
This was the cut scene at the end of the Owlcrate edition of The Luminaries—and now that it’s been a year since the book’s release, I have permission to share. 🥳
Originally, I had wanted to put this scene in The Hunting Moon, but I just couldn’t find a good spot for it. So I ended up cutting it, and now I imagine it happens in the week between the end of The Luminaries and the start of The Hunting Moon.
Winnie lags at the back of her class as they all heave-ho for the auditorium door—she really doesn’t want to have to sit by Erica for the duration of this Very Official Assembly. Of course, Winnie’s dilly-dallying means she is basically unprotected and all alone…The forgotten runt in a litter of squirming hellions…
Right as a harpy swoops down for the kill.
Except, in this instance, the harpy is a perfectly innocent, dark-haired fifteen year old boy from the grade below.
“Um, hey, Christof…?” The name leaves Winnie’s mouth with a questioning lilt at the end because, although Winnie knows perfectly well who this boy is, as far as she can remember, she and Christof haven’t spoken in at least five years. Even then, they only spoke because he’s a second cousin of Jay’s who would occasionally stop by the Friday estate for a rousing game of sardines or MarioKart.
He has the same Mediterranean coloring as Winnie’s mom’s family, and so she doesn’t notice Christof’s flush until it’s too late—and she doesn’t know him well enough personally to recognize that the way he keeps scratching his neck means danger.
“I, uh, heard you don’t have a date to the Masquerade yet.”
Oh, no. Winnie’s eyes bulge. Her stomach plummets to her toes.
“I don’t have a date either,” Christof continues. He is really scratching his neck now. “So I thought maybe you might want to go with me.”
Oh, no, no, no. Winnie is too horrified for her teeth to click. Her fingers don’t reach to adjust her glasses either. She just stands there, lips parted and mind trapped in that time-slowy place like it never does when actual death is near. The Masquerade is like three weeks away still. What is he doing asking her so soon?
“I know we don’t know each other well,” he continues with a pained grin, “but I’m a good dancer. And my uncle can give us a ride, so we don’t have to have our parents around.” He laughs now—a sound as pained as his grin.
And Winnie knows she needs to answer. She knows she needs to find the words to let him down. After all, Christof is a genuinely nice guy who just wants a date and clearly worked up a lot of courage to do this.
They are now all alone in the hall. Mic feedback squeals out from the auditorium. Winnie wants to curl into a ball and die here.
Scratch, scratch, scratch, go Christof’s fingers on his neck.
“I…” Winnie swallows. “I’m not going with anyone. I just…want to go alone.”
His scratching finally pauses. His face too, frozen in that pained smile.
“It’s not you.” Winnie flings up her hands, thinking she’s being reassuring—but realizing from his flinch that she might actually be threatening. “I’m not going with anyone. I mean, I'm not even sure I’ll go to the ball! I’ve barely thought about it, and I don’t have a costume.” All of this is true; she hasn’t thought about it and she doesn’t have a costume…
As far as Winnie knows, no one has started pairing up (or throupling up or quadrupling up or whatever) yet for the various parties, and certainly not the main ball.
This is what a train wrecks look like, Winnie thinks as her throat keeps producing words. Stop talking now, Winnie. Stop talking.
She doesn’t stop talking. Instead, she spews out excuses faster, faster and then starts repeating herself. “And like, doesn’t it feel really wrong that we even have a Nightmare Court? It’s so antiquated! Plus, aside from the popularity contest of it all, the fact that we dress up as the things we kill and then vote for them to be royalty feels supremely messed up, don’t you think?”
Christoph is not smiling now. Instead, he looks like a helpless ghost-deer trapped within a hunter’s sights, and all he wants to do is bound away for the trees. But since Winnie won’t shut up, he can’t really do that.
It is only as Winnie finally utters something like a closing statement (that is way, way too chipper) that Christoph finally spies an escape. “I hope you can find a date,” Winnie declares with a pained smile of her own. “They’ll be super lucky to go with you!”
“Yep,” he squeaks out. “Thanks.” He spins on his sneakered heel and dives into the auditorium.
Winnie’s whole body droops. Her head slumps down. Heat roars up from her chest and into her neck. She vaguely thinks her pits might be sweating and she hopes she put on enough deodorant.
That could not have gone any worse. Literally, that was the worst case outcome for such a scenario, and the only way that could have been worse would be if someone had witnessed it.
Which is, of course, exactly what has happened.
Jay steps up to Winnie’s side. Aviator sunglasses rest on his nose, hiding his eyes—which is no doubt the point of them. His hands are in his pockets, his head tilted to one side. “That was painful,” he says. “It physically hurt me to watch that.”
Winnie glares. “You shouldn’t laugh at your own family.”
“I’m not laughing at my own family. It took guts for him to ask you to the Masquerade, and it took…I’m not sure what. Creativity, I guess, to answer the way you did.”
“Shut up.” Winnie smacks him good and hard on the bicep, and though he could easily twirl away, he lets the fist connect. “Stop pretending you’d be any better at this, or I’ll tell Bretta to invite you. And then Emma. And then Fatima, and then I bet I could get all sorts of other people to do it too.”
Jay visibly pales—an impressive feat given his already hungover pallor.
“That’s what I thought.” Winnie grins.
He simply swallows, hands digging deeper into his pockets. “So, uh…” He dips his head toward the auditorium door. “Any idea what the assembly’s for?”
“Nope. Any idea what the sunglasses are for?” Winnie squints up at Jay’s face. He looks freshly showered—and smells it too, with that bergamot and lime scent that always surrounds him—but Winnie would also bet all the money in her old piggy bank that behind those sunglasses are some very bloodshot eyes.
She reaches up to slide them down his nose and confirm.
He grabs her wrist and stops her. “It’s for the paparazzi, Winnie. I don’t want them recognizing me.”
Against her better judgement, she snorts. Then lowers her hand from the frames. “Well, I guess you’d better be careful then, because if anyone saw us right now, they might get the wrong idea.”
Jay’s lips quirk. “And would they be wrong? I don’t take just anyone into the forest, you know.”
“Ah, but I thought you said there were better places to make out.”
But her smile falters almost instantly when Jay finally tips down his glasses to reveal the eyes behind—which aren’t bloodshot at all. Instead the irises are crystalline and gray and unfathomably deep.
For some weird reason, Winnie’s heart starts doing thumpy things.
“Winnie,” Jay says in a voice that is barely audible with all the noise coming from the auditorium. She has to lean in slightly to hear him. Lean, lean until they are only inches apart. If anyone did see them now, it really would look compromising.
“If you ever want me to show you one of those places”—he boops her gently on the nose—“you just let me know, okay? I promise I’ll take you there right away.” He gives her another one of his slight, sideways smiles before pushing up his aviators and finally sauntering away into the auditorium.
And Winnie is left staring after him, wondering what the heck just happened and why her whole body feels like it’s on fire.
Thanks for reading, DenNerds! And stay tuned for more fun coming soon.
💚 - Sooz
P.S. I’m sorry all the bookplates got nabbed up so fast last week! I was NOT anticipating all 100 to go in <10 minutes. So please forgive me! I’m trying to find a way I can do that same sort of offering but for more people…without killing my budget or using up every envelope in a 5 mile radius. 💌
More to come!