A Midsummer Tale

Toasted Cheese is happy to announce the winners of the 2016 A Midsummer Tale Narrative Writing Contest.

1st: “The English Girl’ by Sarah Evans
2nd: “Liberal Arts” by Heather Finnegan
3rd: “The Net” by Gail Webber

Congratulations!

First place will receive a $35 Amazon gift card and second place a $10 Amazon gift card. The first, second, and third place stories will appear in the September issue of Toasted Cheese.

Kudos to everyone who entered. We hope you’ll join us for A Midsummer Tale again in 2017 and that you’ll pass the contest info along to your writing friends! Next summer’s theme will be announced April 1, 2017.

The 16th Annual “Dead of Winter” Writing Contest

Stories submitted to the 16th Annual Dead of Winter contest (December 2016) must use the theme THE HAND OF FATE (your entry must follow guidelines below).

This year’s theme is inspired by the 50th anniversary of the cult horror film Manos: The Hands of Fate. You may take as much or as little inspiration from the film as you like. You do NOT need to use elements of it for your story, although we’d like you to be inspired and have included some ideas about that below. Your only “must” is to use the theme THE HAND OF FATE.

SPECIAL:

Manos is universally acknowledged as one of the worst films ever made but its fans have latched onto its endearing elements. If you invest an hour of your time in watching the weirdness unspool, you’ll find something memorable, whether that’s a line of dialogue, a thrift store quality prop, or the strangely charismatic Torgo (as well as “the haunting Torgo Theme”). There’s a good story buried inside this weird little movie.

Note: the commentary tracks make the film more bearable to sit through; both include supplementary material to pad out a two-hour run time so the film itself begins about a quarter to halfway through (look for grainy footage of a family in a convertible). Manos: The Hands of Fate runs a little over an hour.

There are also several articles, reviews, and synopses online.

Ideally, your entry will not only follow the theme THE HAND OF FATE but will also employ some element of the film that inspired it. Examples (plot & character) include:

  • A couple/family gets lost on their way to a vacation resort
  • A couple/family finds something unexpected when they arrive at their destination
  • A cult whose leader is betrayed by his/her assistant
  • A cult revolts against its leader
  • A man who embraces 60s-era masculinity finds himself at the center of a situation he can’t control
  • A child who replaces a beloved pet with something sinister
  • A woman whose physical beauty makes her a target of desire for one, a “prize to be won” for another
  • A caretaker who abandons his/her post and faces physical consequences
  • The making of a low-budget movie goes awry

You might also be inspired by the time setting (1966), geographic setting (rural Texas borderland), or the film’s underlying (and unintended) themes, like sexism or servility.

We are not asking for, nor will we accept, Manos fanfic or any point-by-point retelling of the story of Manos: The Hands of Fate. Do not use the characters of Michael/Mike, Margaret/Maggie, Debbie, Torgo, The Master, or The Wives. You may take inspiration from them for your original characters.

EVERY YEAR:

  • Stories MUST be based on the theme provided.
  • Stories MUST be set in winter.
  • Stories MUST fall in the horror genre*.
  • The word count range for DOW2016 is 2000–4000 words.

HOW TO ENTER:

The contest opens October 1, 2016 and the deadline for submission is 11:59 PM ET December 21, 2016.

Email entries to dow2016[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line:
Dead of Winter Contest Entry

Follow general contest guidelines and general Dead of Winter guidelines

manos-torgo-dow2016

Apparently when you make a bet about telling a horror story, you end up either with Frankenstein or Manos.

September 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

  1. A Pen In Each HandThe cupboard is bare.
  2. Sign on door: “Closed for _____.”
  3. This place is not very old.
  4. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: blond, walks, telephone, spaces, mourners.
    2. Use the phrase, “cough and splutter.”
    3. Fill in the blank: “With ________ comes complexity.”
  5. The list just keeps getting longer.
  6. One of your characters is awarded an honorary degree.
  7. Each day must be better than the last.
  8. Use these 5 words: curiosity, fossils, collaboration, passport, sketchy.
  9. Looking back at a school paper from the beginning of the year.
  10. A hurricane-related storm.
  11. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: color, seducer, windy, tyranny, librarian.
    2. Use the phrase, “What about you?”
    3. Write about repeatedly asking, “Why?”
  12. A character who denies everything when confronted.
  13. “If there’s nothing there, I just _______”
  14. Use these 5 words: reclusive, flagship, brace, southside, impersonating.
  15. Everyone’s lease expires the same day
  16. A new ad campaign.
  17. Ambiguous directions send party goers astray
  18. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: shakes, woman, walks, surface, found.
    2. Use the phrase, “see and be seen.”
    3. Write about working down to the wire.
  19. “Tell me again why I used to like this?”
  20. “I’m going to save you and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
  21. Write about an extinct pest.
  22. Use these 5 words: staycation, dominoes, tango, power outage, heat.
  23. Emigrating to have two summers in a row
  24. Challenging a myth.
  25. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: against, sailor, telephone, depends, hearts.
    2. Use the phrase, “That’s going to be difficult.”
    3. Write about drowsily making a mistake.
  26. A character who’s playing to the cameras.
  27. “Oops, I missed one.”
  28. Use these 5 words: violent, rodents, bowling, cafeteria, prank.
  29. A sudden glut of reading material
  30. “I used to be obsessed with _____. I have no regrets.”

Three Cheers Fall 2016 is OPEN

The Three Cheers and a Tiger Fall Contest is now open!

Entries must be received by 5 PM Eastern Time, Sunday, September 25, 2016.

Write a science fiction or fantasy story where things at one location (or dream state, past/future life, situation) are the same, and yet different, from one that’s familiar.

Word range: 1,500-2,000.

  • Send entries to: threecheers16@toasted-cheese.com
  • Your subject line must read: Three Cheers and a Tiger Contest Entry
  • Paste your story directly into your email. No attachments please.

For complete rules:
Three Cheers and a Tiger Guidelines
General Contest Rules

Elements of Style

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

Some writers avoid social media like the plague, coming up with all manner of reasons why it’s detrimental to their writing (and everyone else’s). Other writers enthusiastically embrace it, testing out and playing with new technology, and incorporating what works into their writing practice.

I tend to admire writers who are willing to explore new technology, like Margaret Atwood, who is in her seventies and still trying new ways of writing, over those who dismiss all new technology outright, like Jonathan Franzen, who was apparently born a grumpy old man with a distaste for anything invented after his birth.

For this month’s exercise, visit the websites and social media of some of your favorite writers. Think about what they do well—what aspects appeal to you? what made you hit “follow”?—and then renovate your online writer presence based on your observations.

Some things to think about:

  • Blogging is a legitimate form of writing, and so is serializing work on a site like Wattpad. Writers have parlayed humorous social media accounts and fan fiction into book deals. Keep in mind if you have a knack for a type of writing that’s suited to social media, your social media accounts might not be a distraction from your real writing, they might actually be your real writing.
  • You can’t do it all, so what’s your focus going to be? Which platform gives you the most satisfaction? Which feels most natural? What benefits your writing most? Make that your primary focus, your everyday platform.
  • You may want to have one platform for brief updates and informal interactions with other writers and readers, and another for longer posts or more formal content (book descriptions, event schedules, etc.). For example, many writers enjoy Twitter as the work-from-home version of the workplace water cooler, a place to talk about writing and current events, while also maintaining a blog or Facebook page.
  • If you’re only going to use one platform, make sure anyone can access it whether or not they have an account.
  • Close or make private accounts you’re no longer using. If you want to keep other accounts active, repost content from your primary platform (set this up to happen automatically if you can) or use them occasionally for more specialized content.
  • Some writers like to maintain separate personal and professional accounts; others prefer to combine personal and professional. Accounts that provide a glimpse into writers’ personal lives and other interests tend to be more interesting for readers/followers, but not everyone is comfortable sharing personal content with strangers. Be honest with yourself about your comfort zone.
  • Use consistent branding (same username, design, color scheme, logo, graphics, etc.) and link your accounts together so readers can easily find you on different platforms.

Toasted Cheese 16:3

The September 2016 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Richard Dinges, Marchell Dyon, Theresa Kelly, Marc Livanos, Lauren Scavo & Judith Taylor; flash by Jeff Bakkensen & Stephanie Gail; fiction by David E. Grubb, Kathy Mansfield, Michael Retzer & Gina Sakalarios-Rogers; and creative nonfiction by Autumn Shah.

TC 16:3 also includes the A Midsummer Tale Writing Contest winning stories by Sarah Evans, Heather Finnegan & Gail Webber.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews Not For Art Nor Prayer by Darren C. Demaree.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Theryn “Beaver” Fleming.

The cover image is by Benny Mazur on Flickr, with additional photos by photographers around the world, all of whom have generously made their work available for use under Creative Commons licenses. Please click through and check out their photostreams.

Congratulations to all. Happy reading!

August 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Write out writing goals for the month
  2. Use these 5 words: stench, guts, savage, rabid, giant.
  3. Much-needed rain, still inconvenient.
  4. an unexpected apology.
  5. Lap-critter with a foot on the keyboard.
  6. Start with this line: “I must be an asshole.”
  7. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: screams, bone, burst, pestilence, hesitates.
    2. Use the phrase, “You’re probably tired of this by now.”
    3. Fill in the blank: “You might think it would _________, but no.”
  8. Use these 5 words: renews, prescription, depression, struggle, streets.
  9. Old holiday becomes anniversary of something new.
  10. a character with an annoying voice.
  11. “Is there more coffee?”
  12. Use this line: “We’re altering your own immune cells.”
  13. A game becomes suddenly serious.
  14. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: famine, pin, strength, gloves, young.
    2. Use the phrase, “It could have gone either way.”
    3. Fill in the blank: “the best _________ since sliced bread.”
  15. Someone else’s wedding
  16. Use these 5 words: parachute, glimpse, champagne, swallowtail, summer.
  17. Talking at your phone/computer.
  18. claiming someone else’s narrative.
  19. Tentative first day out after being sick
  20. Use this line: “I’m so uncomfortable.”
  21. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: author, neglected, poem, hearts, public. Bonus: the popcorn of despair.
    2. Use the phrase, “force of nature.”
    3. Was it too much? Or too little?
  22. Use these 5 words: solar panels, optimism, scorpions, messiah, revelations.
  23. The meeting room after everyone has gone.
  24. a costly battle.
  25. “It’s easy with the right tool.”
  26. Use this phrase: “bleak but beautiful.”
  27. Last days before school starts.
  28. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  29. “Who are you, really?”
  30. a trending hashtag that includes your MC’s name.
  31. Reprogramming the light timer creatively.

Word Association Story

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

Create a grab bag of words. Write random words on slips of paper or clip them from old magazines and place them in a container to draw from. This would be a good writing group or classroom activity, as each person would contribute different words to the grab bag and no one would know what to expect when the draw was made.

Alternatively, use one of these random word generators:

  • random word generator (options: generate unlimited number of words; include/exclude duplicate words)
  • random word generator (options: generate 1-8 random words; click/drag to rearrange words; double-click to swap out a word for a new one)
  • random word generator (options: generate 2-10 random words; temporarily save words you like to a list)
  • random word generator (options: generate one word at at time)
  • random word generator (options: generate unlimited number of words; choose first and/or last letter; choose number of syllables or letters)

Draw one word and write the first sentence that comes to mind using that word. (Like a word association game, but word ➡️ sentence instead of word ➡️ word.) Repeat nine more times, so you have a total of ten sentences.

Write a story using all ten sentences. These sentences can be rearranged (used in any order) but must be used as-is. The ten original sentences are just a starting point—add as much as you need to fill in and complete the story.

If you do this exercise as a group, read the stories aloud once they’re complete.

Alternative group story exercise: After everyone has completed their 10 sentences, have one person start by choosing one of their sentences as the first sentence of the story. Go around the room in turn. Each person can either add a sentence to the story or pass when it comes to their turn. Stop when someone runs out of sentences. Read the completed story out loud.

July 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. That nervous feeling in your stomach when…
  2. Use these 5 words: roasting, hungry, tough, spatters, heat.
  3. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: probe, gaunt, children, inside, ourselves.
    2. Write about being sick and the stuff you didn’t get to do.
    3. Use the phrase, “Major party foul.”
  4. Use this phrase: “the need to explain the obvious”
  5. New fireworks lighting up the smoke from old ones
  6. calling someone by a sibling’s name
  7. Working together to figure out what’s wrong
  8. Use these 5 words: reconciliation, journey, expat, insularity, activist.
  9. Many years later, on the same date…
  10. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: silent, song, fatalistic, sailors, doves.
    2. Write about turning off the news.
    3. Use the phrase, “I wanted to strangle him/her.”
  11. Substituting ingredients in a recipe
  12. Start with a character saying: “I actually did a double-take.”
  13. Obsolete technology saves the day
  14. a publicity stunt
  15. “What did we actually do, back then?”
  16. Use these 5 words: magicians, roller coaster, inhalers, key, prison.
  17. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: secret, lunar, ranklings, snarl, misused.
    2. Write about a street musician playing something beautiful.
    3. Fill in the blank: “The ______ made in hell.”
  18. Use this line: “I’ve been observing the pattern…”
  19. Late additions to the schedule
  20. a deleted tweet
  21. Repeat until you can’t remember how.
  22. Use these 5 words: engulfs, crashed, emotional, cloud, overturned.
  23. Wrong word comes out when flustered
  24. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: crossing, windy, woman, waterski, twists.
    2. Use the phrase, “I broke for egg rolls.”
    3. Write about forgetting to do something important.
  25. “I really didn’t change anything. Except…”
  26. Start with a character saying: “That’s not fair!”
  27. “I’ve been expecting you,” said to a stranger.
  28. the field of shark research
  29. People watching with an unlikely companion
  30. blue is the new pink
  31. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: strength, believe, those, shore, attempted.
    2. Use the phrase, “I don’t think anybody else knows that either.”
    3. Fill in the blank: “I was just brushing my teeth, when _________.”

Choose Your Own Adventure!

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

Write a “choose your own adventure”-style story. That is, start writing your story, but when you get to a point where your main character has to make a decision, first continue the story with the character making one choice (up to the point where another decision has to be made), then go back to the fork in the road and write the story with the character making a different choice.

Pick at least three points in your story where it could go in two or more directions and write each of the versions.

A simple version of this exercise would go something like this, and result in eight different versions of the story:

  • Original story 📝 at the first fork, choose A or B.
    • A story 📝 at the second fork, choose C or D.
      • C story 📝 at the third fork, choose G or H.
        • G story 📝 continue to the end.
        • H story 📝 continue to the end.
      • D story 📝 at the third fork, choose I or J.
        • I story 📝 continue to the end.
        • J story 📝 continue to the end.
    • B story 📝 at the second fork, choose E or F.
      • E story 📝 at the third fork, choose K or L.
        • K story 📝 continue to the end.
        • L story 📝 continue to the end.
      • F story 📝 at the third fork, choose M or N.
        • M story 📝 continue to the end.
        • N story 📝 continue to the end.

Of course, stories can get more complicated than this, with more options and storylines backtracking and crisscrossing on each other. Play around and have fun with it.

While a choose-your-own-adventure story can be meant to be read as-is, this is also a good exercise for exploring your options when working through the plot of a longer story or novel.

It’s also a great way to complete a challenge like NaNoWriMo if you “run out of story” before reaching your word goal. Go back through your story and look for points where it could have gone in a different direction and write those versions. You might find you like one of the alternate stories better than the original.