Dead of Winter 2016 Winners

The winning stories in our Dead of Winter 2016 contest are:

1st: “The Hands of Fate” by Ellis Sinclair
2nd: “The Dead of Winter” by Catherine J. Link
3rd: “Helping Hands Retreat” by Red Lagoe

These stories will be published in our March 2017 issue.

We are also awarding an honorable mention to “The Philosophy of Pre-Determinism” by Michael Grantham. Although the story will not be published, we appreciated the story’s clever callbacks to Manos: The Hands of Fate and its telling of the story of two minor characters, both cleverly named.

We enjoyed reading every entry and thank the entrants for sharing their creativity with us.

Dead of Winter 2017 opens October 1 and we invite you to enter. Our next contest is the 48-hour challenge “Three Cheers and a Tiger,” which runs the closest weekend to the beginning of Spring.

Keep writing! The Master would approve!

December 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. And so it begins…
  2. Use these 5 words: emptiness, train, artfully, exposure, stone.
  3. Streetlights on in the daytime
  4. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  5. Note-to-self doesn’t match memory
  6. Start with: “Who is _____ going to kill?”
  7. People on the other side are happy about this.
  8. Include a Supreme Court case in your story.
  9. Holding a contradiction
  10. Use these 5 words: cheats, jealous, riches, stalking, pied-a-terre.
  11. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  12. Start with: “It’s good to see you here.”
  13. “Am I going to regret this?”
  14. Include a meteor shower in your story.
  15. “I used to be able to do this without thinking.”
  16. Use these 5 words: workout, yurt, cliche, veneer, slower.
  17. Rituals for someone else’s holiday
  18. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  19. “I am not your metaphor.”
  20. Start with: “Our diversity is our strength.”
  21. Things to do on the longest night of the year
  22. Write about a chimpanzee smoking a cigarette.
  23. A creatively named pub or bar
  24. Use these 5 words: jellyfish, never, inventive, curated, illustration.
  25. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  26. Start with: “I’m not expecting to ever be recognized.”
  27. “Two days retired, and you’re bored.”
  28. Write about a boot camp.
  29. “I can’t read the label on the bottle.”
  30. Write a story inspired by the first photo you see after reading this prompt.
  31. Merriment makes a character sadder

Coloring Within the Lines

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

In the past year or so, adult coloring books have become very popular, with countless articles written about the trend in an attempt to understand it. Here are just a few:

Some are dismissive of the trend, viewing it as “Peter Pan” behavior by adults who don’t want to grow up, parallel to the rise in popularity of young adult fiction among adults. Others take a more generous perspective, seeing coloring as akin to meditation and other meditative activities such as knitting, a way to quiet one’s mind and be creative within boundaries.

Coloring offers that relief and mindfulness without the paralysis that a blank page can cause. It’s easier in the way that ordering from a restaurant with a small menu is easier than deciding what you want at Denny’s, where you could eat almost anything. This is the paradox of choice, and it’s been well-studied—too many options is overwhelming. But with coloring, you know what you’re working with. You just choose how to fill it in. … [T]he coloring … involve[s] repetitive motion and limited space in which to work, creating a locus point around which thoughts can revolve. [Julie Beck, “The Zen of Adult Coloring Books”]

Like coloring books, writing contests, prompts, and challenges provide a frame to work within. Facing a blank page can be intimidating. Having a place to start can help assuage some of those fears.

This month’s exercise is to choose a frame and “color within in the lines.” Don’t think of the parameters as a limitation. Think of them as freeing your mind to be creative instead of staring at a blank page and stressing about what to write.

Some suggestions for your frame:

  • contest guidelines (even if you don’t actually plan to enter, give them a try)
  • writing prompts (try using more than one at a time) or challenges
  • formal poetry has built-in constraints—make your frame a sonnet or haiku
  • use an existing story (perhaps from another medium, such as a movie or TV series)
    • retell a story (e.g. a fairy tale) from a different character’s point-of-view or in a different time period or setting
    • write a prequel or sequel to an existing story
    • flesh out an existing story
  • make up your own rules, for example:
    • choose a theme (alphabet, seasons, cities…)
    • restrict word length
    • restrict genre
    • write all in dialogue
    • limit the number of characters
    • include a specific person (e.g. a celebrity or another famous person)

If you like, you can transform these pieces later, but first and foremost think of this exercise as a low-stakes warm-up, a way of getting past your blocks, stretching your writing muscles, and easing into your primary writing project (perhaps that one you’ve been avoiding). To make it more like a coloring book frame, have both short-term (equivalent to completing a page) and long-term (equivalent to completing a book) end-points.

Toasted Cheese 16:4

The December 2016 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Darren C. Demaree, Rose Knapp, D.W. Moody & Timothy Pilgrim; flash by Timothy Bastek, Isaac Buckley, Lori Cramer, Travis Keys, Michelle S. Lee & Tim Love; and fiction by Nancy Christie, William Locke Hauser, Jay Merill & Dacia Price.

TC 16:4 also includes the fall Three Cheers and a Tiger Writing Contest winning stories by Robert Walton, Valerie Lunt, Christina De La Rocha & R.J. Snowberger.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews Buried Gold by Bill Lockwood, and Bill Lockwood reviews The Last Cadillac by Nancy Sullivan.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Stephanie “Baker” Lenz.

The cover image is by H is for Home 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!

November 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Write about a departed friend or relation
  2. Use these 5 words: fingernail, seamlessly, mistakes, tapestry, twists.
  3. “I still have to live with you tomorrow.”
  4. Start with: “Who says it doesn’t snow in _____?”
  5. Being banned from the bathroom
  6. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: round, against, chair, treacherous, juicy.
    2. Use the phrase, “That’s past my bedtime.”
    3. Write about doubting one’s own sanity.
  7. A complete makeover
  8. Write about an annual festival.
  9. Living with someone who works the opposite shift
  10. Use these 5 words: gift, lessons, sensitive, understanding, magic.
  11. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month
  12. Start with: “I do not believe in _____!”
  13. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: remorseful, toadstools, song, librarian, screams.
    2. Use the phrase, “that’s so tight.”
    3. Write about postage stamps.
  14. Include an Olympic hopeful in your story.
  15. “I really won’t have time for this next week.”
  16. Use these 5 words: radar, signs, alarming, chart, handwriting.
  17. Keep going by force of habit
  18. Start with: “I used to love telling the story of how we met.”
  19. A reflex you didn’t know you had.
  20. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: waterski, against, incantations, funeral, beyond.
    2. Use the phrase, “Look at the hustle.”
    3. Write about a reflex you didn’t know you had.
  21. No sense of the passage of time
  22. Include an impersonator in your story.
  23. Missing an important part of the instructions
  24. Use these 5 words: teacup, log cabin, soup, magnet, hanging.
  25. Write about temporary illiteracy
  26. Start with: “You should definitely try it.”
  27. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: overhead, relations, beach, dress, towards.
    2. Fill in the blank, “I wonder what _____ is doing, right now.”
    3. Write about an inconvenient sunbeam or shadow.
  28. Write about a daring look.
  29. The weirdest Tuesday on record
  30. Make a list of 10 favorite books based on a theme.

Who Are You?

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

This one’s for those of you who find yourself falling down internet rabbit holes when you should be doing something else.

Set a timer. ⏱ How long is up to you—adapt it to the time you have available. For example, if you have a half-hour of free time, set your timer for 15 minutes.

Pick any real person, dead or alive, and find out everything you can about them. Type their name into your favorite search engine… and go! Click from link to link, but with purpose. In the course of your research, if you find someone (or something) more interesting than your original subject, don’t hesitate to make a detour. You’re looking for a story idea—an intriguing character, an unsolved mystery, a fantastic setting.

Time’s up! Stop researching, set your timer for the remainder of your time, and write, using your research as inspiration.

This exercise can be done any time, anywhere, as long as you have your phone with you, and is a great way to make productive use of time you might otherwise spend aimlessly surfing.

Fall Three Cheers and a Tiger Winners!

The judges have spoken. Boots and the Broker have chosen the following stories as winners of the Fall 2016 Three Cheers and a Tiger contest:

  • Gold: “Little Big Man Speaks” by Robert Walton
  • Silver: “Jeanie in a Bottle” by Valerie Lunt
  • and a tie for Bronze between: “Why the Lapwing Laughs” by Christina De La Rocha and “The Error in Desire” by R.J. Snowberger

Congratulations to the winners!

All four stories will appear in the December issue of Toasted Cheese.

October 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Write about a hidden regret.
  2. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: jealousy, means, harbor, misused, crossing.
    2. Write about the end of an era.
    3. Misquote an advertising slogan.
  3. Hurry up and wait
  4. Use these 5 words: urban, royal, waffles, pumpkin spice, humblebrag.
  5. Write about an accidental Spoonerism
  6. “This song is so perfect.”
  7. Write about an extended deadline.
  8. A list of things that will never make sense.
  9. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: stone, wheel, ocean, mine, excerpt.
    2. Write about a donation.
    3. Use the phrase, “… the balance allows…”
  10. Use these 5 words: lineup, people, story, charismatic, struggling.
  11. Write about a deadline that was shortened.
  12. Start with: “Never thought I’d see the day that…”
  13. Write about a craving for an odd food item
  14. A girl detective.
  15. Write about someone who’s nocturnal.
  16. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: hand, done, twelve, light, memory.
    2. Write about insurance.
    3. Use the phrase, “ten straight.”
  17. Filing a report before the work is done
  18. Use these 5 words: calligrapher, work, drawings, elective, mentorship.
  19. Last glimpse of summer.
  20. “Close your mouth when you eat.”
  21. “I can’t believe it’s Friday already.”
  22. A police incident.
  23. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  24. Use these 5 words: corpse, defomity, brain chip, haunting, wounded.
  25. “I’ve never heard ______ used as a swear word.”
  26. “How much sleep did you get last night?”
  27. Write about giving up something permanently.
  28. Imagine your worst fears.
  29. “Can we make this bigger?”
  30. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  31. A character hates holidays.

Snapshots: What Are You Reading?


This gallery contains 9 photos.

By Beaver Keeping a reading journal can be very satisfying. Not only do you get a feeling of accomplishment each time you add a new entry, but you’re creating a guide you can refer to whenever you need a reminder … Continue reading

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


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.