We occasionally post pieces from LCRW and other places up here on the web.

Would you like to read some? Decide: All the Free Stuff | Short Stories | Novel Excerpts | Reviews | Etc.

Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof at the Potluck

by Nicole Kimberling

This is LCRW Cooking Columnist Nicole Kimberling’s fourth column for LCRW and was originally published in LCRW 30. (It’s a different world, the past.)

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 30 cover - click to view full sizeIf in your lifetime you ever make any friends, join any organizations, or have any children, chances are you will be required to attend a potluck. Part minefield, part gladiatorial arena, this bring-a-dish event is a place where home cooks test their recipes against the heartless democracy of fellow eaters. At the end of the meal, you do not want the leaden and congealed uneaten casserole that you brought sitting there as evidence of your culinary failure.

But if this has happened to you, console yourself—not all shunned offerings are the result of bad cooking. Even chefs fail when they forget to consider where they are and what they are supposed to be doing. Here are some guidelines that may help.

Read more

How to Seduce a Vegetarian

by Nicole Kimberling

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 29 coverThis is LCRW Cooking Columnist Nicole Kimberling’s third column for LCRW and was originally published in LCRW 29. Check out the first, Sending All Your Love—In the Form of Brownies Through the Mail, and the second, Feeding Strays.

Step One: Find Likely Candidate

In years past, finding a vegetarian to seduce was more difficult than it is today. Back when vegetarianism existed mainly as a symptom of some sort of religion, a VILF-hunter could go weeks, even years, without making contact with a likely target.
Fortunately, today things are different. Now, even straight men can be found abstaining from plate-loads of surf, turf and sky. So pick a non-meat eater that you like the look of and invite him or her to hang out sometime, like at a park or something. Choose a venue that allows you to bring your own food. This is key because to claim the love of vegetarians you must prove that you can, and will, feed them.

With vegetarians so varied and bountiful, one would think that ensnaring one for a night, or perhaps even a lifetime of passion would be easy.

This is not so.

For the vegetarian is, by nature, likely to be choosy and have what we in the world of professional cooking call, “standards.” You might have to try a few different leads before one takes the bait. In this case the bait will be a cold sandwich, which you will prepare and then present to your vegetarian, proving that you have the goods to make him or her happy.

Read more

The Invisible Valley: Chapter 1 Ghost Bride

Author’s Note

In the late 1960s, at the call of Chairman Mao, 20 million Chinese students of middle- and high-school age streamed from the cities to the countryside as part of the “Down to the Countryside” movement. For years they lived among the peasants, separated from their homes and families, forced to give up formal schooling to be “re-educated” through hard agricultural labor. It was a time of great idealism and incalculable hardship.
In the southern province of Canton one million students were downcountried, many of them to state-run rubber plantations in the tropical highlands of Hainan Island.

Chapter 1: Ghost Bride

The Invisible Valley coverBlood-red snakeclouds gathered in the western sky, and the rubber trees glowed as if on fire. Lu Beiping counted the pits he’d dug that day on the recently denuded hillside, picked up the squad leader’s notebook, recorded his number, and stood scanning the list of names for Fong’s mark.

Nothing. She’d vanished. And their squad leader, Sergeant Fook, was nowhere to be seen either. With a sigh, Lu Beiping swatted away the head that hovered inquisitively over his shoulder.

—Okay, Chu, I don’t need the National Joint Newscast to tell me that they’re off Seeking Peer Support again. Am I right?

Seeking Peer Support: It was a fashionable term in those days. Sometimes they called it a “Revolutionary Heart-to-Heart.”

—Well, said Chu, smirking: I can’t speak to her whereabouts. But she did mention she was hoping you’d pick up her share of pork scraps at the ration supp tonight. And some of that frozen fish they just brought in from Whitehorse Harbor. Read more

The End of a Dynasty or The Natural History of Ferrets

by Angélica Gorodischer

The storyteller said: He was a sorrowful prince, young Livna’lams, seven years old and full of sorrow. It wasn’t just that he had sad moments, the way any kid does, prince or commoner, or that in the middle of a phrase or something going on his mind would wander, or that he’d waake up with a heaviness in his chest or burst into tears for no apparent reason. All that happens to everybody, whatever their age or condition of life. No, now listen to what I’m telling you, and don’t get distracted and then say I didn’t explain it well enough. If anybody here isn’t interested in what I’m saying, they can leave. Go. Just try not to bother the others. This tent’s open to the south and north, and the roads are broad and lead to green lands and black lands and there’s plenty to do in the world—sift flour, hammer iron, beat rugs, plow furrows, gossip about the neighbors, cast fishing nets—but what there is to do here is listen. You can shut your eyes and cross your hands on your belly if you like, but shut your mouth and open your ears to what I’m telling you: This young prince was sad all the time, sad the way people are when they’re old and alone and death won’t come to them. His days were all dreary, grey, and empty, however full they were.
And they were full, for these were the years of the Hehvrontes dynasty, those proud, rigid rulers, tall and handsome, with white skin and very black eyes and hair, who walked without swinging their shoulders or hips, head high, gaze fixed somewhere beyond the horizon, not looking aside even to see their own mother in her death-agony, not looking down even if the path was rough and rocky, falling into a well if it was in the way and standing erect down inside the well, maintaining the dignity of the lords of the world. That’s what they were like, I’m telling you, I who’ve read the old histories till my poor eyes are nearly blind. That’s what they were like. Read more

The Last Worders

by Karen Joy Fowler

(Originally published in LCRW 20.)

Charlotta was asleep in the dining car when the train arrived in San Margais. It was tempting to just leave her behind, and I tried to tell myself this wasn’t a mean thought, but came to me because I, myself, might want to be left like that, just for the adventure of it. I might want to wake up hours later and miles away, bewildered and alone. I am always on the lookout for those parts of my life that could be the first scene in a movie. Of course, you could start a movie anywhere, but you wouldn’t; that’s my point. And so this impulse had nothing to do with the way Charlotta had begun to get on my last nerve. That’s my other point. If I thought being ditched would be sort of exciting, then so did Charlotta. We felt the same about everything. Read more

Feeding Strays

by Nicole Kimberling

This is LCRW Cooking Columnist Nicole Kimberling’s second column for LCRW and was originally published in LCRW 28. Read the first column here.

By the time most people reach their thirties, they will perceive the obligation to occasionally provide nourishment to at least one child. Perhaps this child is your own. Or maybe it is the child of a friend who is in the hospital producing an additional child. Or the child could turn out be some neighborhood stray who guilelessly shows up on the porch at lunchtime every Sunday clutching a well-worn fork.

I do not pretend to know how to feed little children. Insofar as I’ve observed they exist entirely on ketchup, macaroni and cheese and meat. My experience lies in feeding the vacuum-mouthed, black hole of caloric consumption commonly called the adolescent.

Many cooks staring into the yawning, lightless chasm of the fourteen-year-old mouth will simply buckle under the pressure and call out for pizza. And I don’t blame them. It’s hard to look into that limitless void of hunger and not feel so inadequate to the task at hand that professional assistance is required. I offer a different, cheaper, healthier solution: Beans & Rice.

Read more

Sending All Your Love—In the Form of Brownies Through the Mail

by Nicole Kimberling

This column is the first Nicole Kimberling wrote for us and was originally published in LCRW 27. As new issues come out we will keep adding columns and at some point there will be enough for a book!

Equipment: cupcake tin & baking liners, waxed paper, plastic wrap, rigid shipping container, packing material, packing tape, pen, a piece of cardboard big enough for ten cupcake-sized brownies to sit on, oven, timing device, mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons, cooling rack, a little cash, hands, and at least some love to spare for another.

Time: Approximately three hours total, plus travel time. Actual labor time: 30 minutes.

Step Zero: Read whole recipe. Read more

An excerpt from Sherwood Nation

An excerpt from Sherwood Nation by Benjamin Parzybok.


How it happened:
Sherwood Nation cover It happened slowly. The fishermen called the rogue and unpredictable changes at sea El Pescadero. Winds came from differing directions, currents looped back on themselves, temperatures fluctuated. It wasn’t seasonal like El Niño, though at first everyone thought it was. It didn’t go away. Governments fought bitterly about whose fault was whose, and who ought to do what about it.
Along with El Pescadero came an increase in oceanic salinity. There were lots of theories there. When you swam in the ocean, the new buoyancy was subtle, but pleasurable.
The bone-dry summers of the west lingered deeper and deeper into winter. Everyone could see that the snow pack was melting. When was the snow pack not melting? All you had to do was look up at any of the balding mountains.
Then the great Deschutes River, elegant and fast, a river which cut across the Oregon desert like a streak of lightning across a dull gray sky, dried up in a single summer.
The farms that depended upon it followed suit. There were strikes and protests. Blood was spilled. Then, quickly, other rivers diminished.
Finally, the greatest of them all, the Columbia River, its sources choked in mud, leaked its deathsong through the gorge, and became only a scaly alligator skin of memory. In its wake, valleys turned to deserts, fertile farms to dust, and the great migration East began.
As the hordes of Droudies poured into the Midwest and Eastern United States and the last of the surface water seeped deep into the ground, anger over the millions of incoming refugees escalated. Finally, borders along the Rocky Mountains were sealed to Westerners and a meager aid strategy was conceived by the bankrupt government for the many millions abandoned to their dry fates out west. Read more

An excerpt from A Summer in the Twenties

Read the first three chapters from A Summer in the Twenties by Peter Dickinson:

Hendaye, 6th April, 1926

A Summer in the Twenties cover‘EVERYTHING’S CHANGING so fast,’ she said. ‘Isn’t it stunning to wake up every morning and feel that the whole world’s brand-new again, a present waiting for you to unwrap it?’
For emphasis she stabbed her foot-long cigarette holder towards the Pyrennees, to declare them part of the present, with the snow-glitter along the peaks a little tinsel to add glamour to the gift.
‘It’s all yours,’ he said, generously including in his gesture not only the mountains but the nearer landscape, and the cubist spillage of roofs down the slope below the terrace and the two crones in black creaking up a cobbled alley, and nearer still the elderly three-piece band nobly attempting a Charleston while their souls still pined for the Vienna Woods, and even the braying group of young French rich, already into their third cocktail at half past three. Read more

Elephants of the Platte

by Thomas Israel Hopkins

North from New York City up the Hudson; west out the Erie Canal through Utica and Syracuse; transfer at Rochester from a long, thin packet boat to one of the grand old Great Lakes passenger ships across Lake Erie via Cleveland to Toledo; up through Detroit, Lake Saint Clair, and Port Huron; farther north across Lake Huron to Mackinaw City; down the shores of Lake Michigan to Milwaukee and Racine; transfer again at Chicago; down the Tippecanoe to the Wabash to Terre Haute; out through Saint Louis and Kansas City on the Transcontinental Canal along the ruins of Interstate 70; turning up toward Casper and points west on the Nebraska Canal along the ghost map of the old Oregon Trail. The night this happened, that was as far as we’d come. Read more

An excerpt from The Liminal People

From The Liminal People, by Ayize Jama-Everett.

Chapter One

The Liminal People cover - click to view full sizeNordeen was right to send me. I feel three heartbeats at the ridges of the ancient crater we’re resting in. Snipers. I don’t know for sure, but their hearts are tense and their trigger fingers twitchy. As soon as I got out of the car their right eyes all zoomed in on something. If they’re not snipers then they’re one-eyed caffeine freaks with muscular dystrophy in their fingers. At least they’re smart enough to know not to shoot me right away. Their boy, my date, Omar, wants what we have. If it’s not in the car and they shoot us, they’re shit out of luck.

“Stay in the car, no matter what,” I say, leaning into the passenger side of the twelve-year-old Mercedes-Benz that has dragged me to this ancient and massive hole in the ground. The meteor that crashed here centuries ago is as cold as Fou-Fou’s response to my command. His steady sub-Saharan heartbeat is the only answer I get from the 240-pound menace. He’ll play it smart. Always does. The kid in the back is who I’m really speaking to. Nineteen, can’t pee straight, and ready to scrap, the native Moroccan looks more spooked than ready. “Understand?” I bark at him in his native Berber instead of the usual French patois we play with. Read more

Girl in a Whirl

by Joan Aiken

Her name was Daisy and she was a smasher, the crispest colleen in Killyclancy. Only, as misfortune would have it, old Mr Mulloon said she was unlucky, he having met her once in the street and gone home to find his finest fowl drowning in a puddle; brandy had revived it, true, but anyway those looks weren’t natural, Mr Mulloon said. Whoever heard of hair like spun milk atop of a pair of eyes black as sloes? Depend on it, the girl was an albinoess, cunningly covering up a pair of cherry-pink pupils with smoked contact lenses. And everyone knew albinos had the Evil Eye. Read more

Second Line: The Value of X, Chapter 1

by Poppy Z. Brite

From Second Line by Poppy Z. Brite.

The Value of X

“Awright,” said Mrs. Reilly to her eleventh-grade algebra class, “if Y equals thirty-six, who can tell me what X equals?”

Surveying the class slumped in their desks, she could not blame them for their apathy. Though it was only April, the weather was already hinting at another brutal New Orleans summer. For public schools to be without air conditioning in 1990 was a disgrace, but such things were usual in this little corner of the United States that might be more properly called part of the Third World. Mrs. Reilly suddenly felt hopeless and decided to call on her one dependable student. “Gary?”

But this time there was no answer.

“Gary Stubbs? Are you paying attention?”

Read more

Hound, Chapter 1 & Chapter 2

by Vincent McCaffrey

From Hound, by Vincent McCaffrey.

Chapter One

Death was, after all, the way Henry made his living.
The books he sold were most often the recent property of people who had died. Book lovers never gave up the good ones without cause. But then, the books which people sold willingly were not the ones Henry really wanted. The monthly public library sales were stacked high with those—the usual titles for a dollar apiece, yesterday’s best sellers, last year’s hot topics.
But not always. Occasionally, some relative—often the child who never cared much for Dad’s preoccupation with medieval history or Mom’s obsession with old cookbooks—would drop the burden their parents had so selfishly placed upon them by dying, and there they would be, in great careless mounds on the folding tables in the library basement or conference room. Always dumped too quickly by a “volunteer” from the “friends” committee, with the old dust jackets tearing one against the other.
Like encounters with sin, Henry had occasions of luck at yard sales, though not often enough to waste a weekend which might better be spent at home reading. His favorite haunts were the estate auctions, and the best of these were the ones held at the very house where the old geezer had kicked the bucket. And there was always that thin network of friends who knew Henry was a bookman—who heard of book lots being sold and passed the word on. Albert, of course, had been a regular source for this, simply because his trash-removal business so often involved houses being sold where the books had accumulated over the years and the dead were recently departed.
Read more

The King’s Last Song – Chapter 1

by Geoff Ryman

“Oh you who are wise, may you come more and more to consider all meritorious acts as your own.”
Sanskrit inscription on the temple of Pre Rup,
translated by Kamaleswar Bhattacharya

“As wealthy as Cambodia.”
Traditional Chinese saying


You could very easily meet William.

Maybe you’ve just got off the boat from Phnom Penh and nobody from your hotel is there to meet you. It’s miles from the dock to Siem Reap.

William strides up and pretends to be the free driver to your hotel. Not only that but he organizes a second motorbike to wobble its way round the ruts with your suitcases.

Read more

Generation Loss – Chapter One

by Elizabeth Hand

Generation LossThere’s always a moment where everything changes. A great photographer — someone like Diane Arbus, or me during that fraction of a second when I was great — she sees that moment coming, and presses the shutter release an instant before the change hits. If you don’t see it coming, if you blink or you’re drunk or just looking the other way — well, everything changes anyway, it’s not like things would have been different.

But for the rest of your life you’re fucked, because you blew it. Maybe no one else knows it, but you do. In my case, it was no secret. Everyone knew I’d blown it. Some people can make do in a situation like that. Me, I’ve never been good at making do. My life, who could pretend there wasn’t a big fucking hole in it?

Read more

Travel Light – Chapters One and Two

by Naomi Mitchison

Chapter 1
The Bears

Travel LightIt is said that when the new Queen saw the old Queen’s baby daughter, she told the King that the brat must be got rid of at once. And the King, who by now had almost forgotten the old Queen and had scarcely looked at the baby, agreed and thought no more about it. And that would have been the end of that baby girl, but that her nurse, Matulli, came to hear of it. Now this nurse was from Finmark, and, like many another from thereabouts, was apt to take on the shape of an animal from time to time. So she turned herself into a black bear then and there and picked up the baby in her mouth, blanket and all, and growled her way out of the Bower at the back of the King’s hall, and padded out through the light spring snow that had melted already near the hall, and through the birch woods and the pine woods into the deep dark woods where the rest of the bears were waking up from their winter sleep.

Read more

Storyteller Excerpt: Can Writing Be Taught?

by Kate Wilhelm

StorytellerClarionOne of the questions Damon and I returned to often was simply: can writing be taught? There are many writers who say emphatically that the answer is no. I see their point. High school and college creative writing classes are too often a joke, taught by non-writers without a clue about the real world of publishing and what makes for a publishable story in contemporary markets. For most writers struggling alone, the learning curve from the first attempt to write to becoming an accomplished writer is very long; years in many cases. And all the while they are being taught by rejection slips, by trial and error; they are learning what works for them and what doesn’t. Even after they have published a few stories, often they can’t see why one story was accepted and not another.

Read more

The Faery Handbag

by Kelly Link

Magic for BeginnersI used to go to thrift stores with my friends. We’d take the train into Boston, and go to The Garment District, which is this huge vintage clothing warehouse. Everything is arranged by color, and somehow that makes all of the clothes beautiful. It’s kind of like if you went through the wardrobe in the Narnia books, only instead of finding Aslan and the White Witch and horrible Eustace, you found this magic clothing world–instead of talking animals, there were feather boas and wedding dresses and bowling shoes, and paisley shirts and Doc Martens and everything hung up on racks so that first you have black dresses, all together, like the world’s largest indoor funeral, and then blue dresses–all the blues you can imagine–and then red dresses and so on. Pink-reds and orangey reds and purple-reds and exit-light reds and candy reds. Sometimes I would close my eyes and Natasha and Natalie and Jake would drag me over to a rack, and rub a dress against my hand. “Guess what color this is.”

Read more

Carmen Dog – Chapter One

by Carol Emshwiller

Carol Emshwiller| Carmen Dog

Chapter 1: Outlandish Changes

There is more matter in the universe than we at first thought.
–CBS newscaster

Carmen Dog“The beast changes to a woman or the woman changes to a beast,” the doctor says. “In her case it is certainly the latter since she has been, on the whole, quite passable as a human being up to the present moment. There may be hundreds of these creatures already among us. No way to tell for sure how many.”

The husband feigns surprise. Actually he’s seen more than he’s telling, and right in his own home.

Read more

Home and Security

by Gavin J. Grant

Homeland Security
Gavin J. Grant

With thousands of like-minded others, I went to the big peace rally in New York City on February 15th, 2003. It was a cold day, and my wife and I walked up Third Avenue from 32nd to 68th Street before we could cut over to First Avenue and join the rally. Which was really a slow march, but since the city government wouldn’t give us a permit to march, let’s call it a rally.

What do we want?
So many things.
When do want them?
It doesn’t seem possible, but now, please.

…March 5th, 2003, Local News: Writer and editor Gavin J. Grant, 33, (picture) of Northampton, Mass., is believed to be one of hundreds of detainees held after police and other government agencies moved in to calm a noisy and potentially-violent peace rally in New York City’s Washington Square Park….

Read more

The Force Acting on the Displaced Body

by Christopher Rowe

The little creek behind my trailer in Kentucky is called Frankum Branch. I had to go to the courthouse to find that out. Nobody around here thought it had a name. But all the little creeks and branches in the world have names, even if nobody remembers them, or remembers which Frankum they’re named after.

Read more

Eight Legged Story

by Maureen F. McHugh

Maureen F. McHugh

I. Naturalistic Narrative

Cheap pens. My marriage is not going to survive this. Not the pens — I bought the pens because no pen is safe when Mark is around; his backpack is a black hole for pens — so I bought this package of cheap pens, one of which doesn’t work (although rather than throw it away, I stuck it back in the pen jar, which is stupid), and two of them don’t click right when you try to make the point come out and then go back. It’s good to have them, though, because I’m manning the phone. Tim, my husband, is out combing the Buckeye Trail in the National Park with volunteers, looking for my nine-year-old stepson, Mark. Mark has been missing for twenty-two hours. One minute he was with them, the next minute he wasn’t. I am worried about Mark. I am sure that if he is dead, I will feel terrible. I wish I liked him better. I wish I’d let him take some of these pens. Not that Tim will ever find out that I told Mark he couldn’t have any of these pens.

Read more

Trampoline: Stories

Trampoline: an anthology, edited by Kelly Link.
Trampoline: Stories

20 stories: 140,000 words. But are they any good?

Decide for yourself:


Richard Butner

Greer Gilman

Maureen McHugh

Christopher Rowe

Rosalind Palermo Stevenson



More »