Get yer' red-hot science fiction romance at the SFR Brigade Summer Café
This is my kind of café, one that caters to book lovers. This week's special at the SFR Brigade Summer Café: SPACE OPERA!
In keeping with the theme of the summer café, below is a food-related excerpt from my brand-new novel, Minder Rising. It's the second in the Central Galactic Concordance series, and takes place after the events in Overload Flux, but it stands on its own, so you don't have to have read Overload Flux (though of course, I hope you will). And as a bonus, at the bottom is a recipe for the food-related item mentioned in the excerpt.
Sign up to win fabulous prizes (including free copies of OVERLOAD FLUX and MINDER RISING). Winners will be randomly chosen on Saturday, 6 June and notified on Sunday, 7 June.
A millennium into the future, all children are tested for minder talents, and the best are recruited for the Citizen Protection Service.
Agent Lièrén Sòng is recovering from a near-fatal crash. He should want nothing more than to get back to interrogating criminals for his covert CPS field unit, but being sidelined gains new appeal when he makes friends with a woman and her son. Imara Sesay, road crew chief and part-time bartender, breaks her ironclad rule never to get close to customers when she asks Lièrén to teach her son how to control his growing minder talents.
Unexpected deaths in his field unit make Lièrén suspect he isn’t a lucky survivor, he’s a loose end. He should pull away from Imara and Derrit to keep them safe, but when the local CPS Testing Center is entirely too interested in Derrit’s talents, Lièrén must make an impossible choice. Can he avoid whoever is trying to kill him long enough to save Imara and her prodigy son?
Imara sighed. “Sorry about that.” She glanced at the clock, then gave a little whistle to get Derrit’s attention. “Dinner,” she said.
Derrit bounded up out of the chair toward her as if spring-loaded. “I’m starving. Can I make toad-in-the-hole? Want some, Agent Sòng?”
Lièrén’s puzzlement must have been obvious. “It’s a fried egg in the center of toast with cheese,” she said.
Lièrén ducked his head. “Thank you. I’m afraid my culinary skills are limited to self-heating pouches and reading menus.”
“I could teach you,” offered Derrit, with pride. Lièrén hesitated, then nodded. It would be good for Derrit to be the teacher instead of always the student. And it would take Lièrén out of Imara’s orbit for a while, so he’d quit being tempted by her.
Imara eyed Lièrén up and down, then smiled at Derrit. “Okay, but don’t let the kitchen manager see him.”
Derrit put his hand in Lièrén’s and pulled him toward the kitchen. Lièrén trailed obediently behind him, smiling at Derrit’s enthusiasm.
As they entered the large industrial kitchen, Lièrén asked, “Why shouldn’t the kitchen manager see me?”
“You don’t dress like staff,” he said, dragging out a stool and placing it in front of a cook surface. “Customers aren’t allowed.”
Lièrén glanced down at his dark green cut-and-slash pants and multi-pocket, metallic silver tunic with electroluminscent green piping. He’d grown rather fond of the high style of his new wardrobe, but Derrit was right, it couldn’t even pass for trendy corporate wear. When he went back to the field unit, he’d have to order a new, more staid wardrobe for the unit’s official, boring cover story.
He watched, bemused, as Derrit scampered all over the kitchen, clearly at home and comfortable with the dizzying array equipment. Lièrén gathered the employees brought in and stored their own food, so as not to impact the restaurant’s inventory. Toad-in-the-hole was as simple as Imara had described it, but Lièrén hadn’t exaggerated his lack of experience.
“You really never learned to cook?” Derrit asked, his astonishment evident. “Anything?”
Lièrén thought a moment. “I can prepare and serve Oriental tea.”
Derrit patted Lièrén’s arm in a consoling gesture. “That’s okay. Nanay said my dad couldn’t boil water when she met him. If you stay in Spires, she could teach you.”
Although Derrit had tried to be casual, it was hard to miss his latest attempt to put Lièrén and his mother together. It wouldn’t be good for Derrit to get his hopes up. “I’ll be ready for full duty soon, and my job requires constant traveling. I’d never be here for lessons.”
It would be irresponsible of him to get any more entangled with Imara and Derrit than he already was, for a whole host of reasons. The cold logic made his chest feel hollow.
RECIPE: Toad in the Hole
(a.k.a. Egg in a Basket, a.k.a. Spit in the Ocean), as made by Derrit Sesay
(Not to be confused with the British version, which involves scrumptious browned English sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding)
1 piece of bread (white, wheat, sourdough, or your choice) or flatbread (e.g., thicker pita or naan)
1 slice cheese (cheddar, swiss, pepperjack, or your choice)
- Heat a small or medium-sized skillet over medium heat. It should be bigg enough to hold your piece of bread, but not so big that you have to waste a lot of butter to grease it.
- Cut a round hole in the center of the bread using a biscuit cutter or glass, 2″ or 2½” in diameter. Don't make the hole too big so your toast doesn't fall apart, or too small so the egg (which is going in the center) overruns it. If you're feeling frisky, you can grill the leftover little rounds in butter, too, or if you're hungry, you can eat them right away, like Derrit probably did. Growing boys are ruled by their stomachs.
- Add enough butter to coat the bottom of the heated skillet.
- Place the toast in the skillet, and give it about 30 seconds to soak up the lovely butter.
- Put a little extra butter in the center of the bread, then crack the egg and carefully pour it into the center of the bread, being careful not to break the yolk. Fry the egg for 2 minutes or so, depending on how well-done you like your egg. If you turn it too soon, it'll break underneath and make a runny mess, so use a spatula to lift a corner first, to make sure it's solid enough to turn. Using a spatula, carefully flip the bread and egg over. You may need to add a little extra butter. Cover the top of the cooked bread and egg with the slice of cheese, so it melts as your egg finishes cooking, about 1 or 2 minutes more.
- Plate and serve.