March 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. beautifully executed
  2. When all is said and done, much more is said than done.
  3. the bad kind of mushrooms
  4. Write about glare.
  5. Use these 5 words: salvage, currencies, diversity, faith, killers.
  6. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: morning, deeds, hand, curled, bookish.
    2. Fighting to stay awake and pay attention.
    3. Write about something unexpected and brightly colored.
  7. a 90-foot-tall billboard
  8. Variations on a recipe
  9. 5% battery left
  10. Make up a smartphone app for your characters.
  11. Use these 5 words: design, copyright, monarch, economy, victories.
  12. Spreading misinformation about the daylight time change
  13. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: plum, border, women, which, world.
    2. Scooping up an armload of _______.
    3. Write about a gadget that doesn’t work.
  14. Rescheduling a stressful appointment
  15. Some good news!
  16. look around to see if they’re looking at someone else
  17. a bunch of middle school boys
  18. A place where there are no landmarks.
  19. Use these 5 words: sweetens, pollution, server, exchange, finger.
  20. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: dismantle, public, dead, plum, excerpt.
    2. Write about hearing from a long-lost friend.
    3. Write about understanding misunderstanding.
  21. a pair of tickets
  22. An awkward position
  23. “It’s taking too f—ing long.”
  24. Perhaps I should have reminded her.
  25. Use these 5 words: acclaimed, celebrate, gaffe, making, judgmental.
  26. Passive aggression with a smile.
  27. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  28. Obsessively playing a game.
  29. one last photo from space
  30. Going out like a [not-lamb].
  31. there is definitely something fishy going on!

Three Cheers Spring 2016 (CLOSED)

The Three Cheers and a Tiger Spring Contest is now open.

Entries must be received by 5 PM Eastern Time, Sunday, March 20, 2016.

Write a mystery story that explains the “why” behind what you see in this picture:

A pair of glasses, folded closed with the glass facing up, laying at the base of a lamp post on the sidewalk.

click to embiggen

Word count: Between 2,150 and 2,250 words.

  • 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

Fictional Fête: 15 Fantasy Guests

Absolute BlankBy Shelley Carpenter (Harpspeed)

Dear Fiction Readers and Writers,

Do you remember that cool TV show from the 1970s—Fantasy Island? For some of you this may be a way-before-your-time era, but for the rest of you, you might recall a Mr. Roarke and his cute little friend, Tattoo, who entertained guests in their fantasy pursuits. They would wait at the Fantasy Island dock in their matching white tuxedos at the start of every episode. “The Plane! The Plane!” I imagined in my own kid-way what my fantasy would be should I pay the million-dollar guest ticket price for my fantasy to become real. I had many fantasies (which I won’t share!), but sadly I never could afford the million-dollar fee.

I’ve grown up since then and have discovered that there are other ways to a good fantasy that are “off-island.” Here’s one of mine: I’m having a small fête this month. I’ve decided to invite only the people I like: good and bad, famous and infamous alike. The thing is that the guests are fictitious characters from a few of my favorite novels. (I have many favorites!) The venue is my imagination.

Bon Appetite!
Harpspeed

P.S. In case you are curious, my character guest list follows:

Background Image: Jesper Larsen-Ledet/Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)

Background Image: Jesper Larsen-Ledet/Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)

  1. Icy Sparks (from Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio)

Ten-year-old orphan Icy Sparks is from 1950s Kentucky who has an interesting trait: uncontrollable tics and some of the most outrageous cursing I have ever heard. She is someone who really says what she thinks. Icy doesn’t know it but she has Tourette Syndrome. I like her very much because she is a precocious, quirky character who changes the other characters in her story. I would vote for her if she ran for president.

  1. Mina Murray (from Dracula by Bram Stoker)

Wilhelmina ”Mina” Murray is a remarkable character and a marvel, she (I can’t recall if I’m remembering Winona Ryder from the 1990s film version) and that modern fancy-dancy typewriter that she uses to type personal letters to her fiancée, Jonathan, who’s under the impression that he’s the hero in Stoker’s horror story—when in fact it is Mina who is the real star. If you don’t believe me—ask Dracula. Mina’s character marks the rise of the modern female detective. If I go missing, please call Mina. Posthaste!

  1. Dustfinger (from Inkheart by Cornelia Funke)

Dustfinger is a supporting character that I followed in Funke’s three-volume story, Inkheart. He is a tragic and talented character who can breathe fire and curiously is also a reluctant hero. He has his own agenda but puts it aside to help the other protagonists. Still, Dustfinger can be unreliable and is sometimes a curmudgeon. Aren’t we all at some time? I enjoyed his dry wit and actor Paul Bettany’s very human portrayal of this complicated character in the film version, too. I think Dustfinger would amaze my guests with his special skills, but I won’t pay him until the show is over!

  1. Hig
  2. Bangley
  3. Jasper (from The Dog Stars by Peter Heller)

Hig is the main character in Peter Heller’s post-apocalyptic story, The Dog Stars. Hig is optimistic, philosophical, and loves nature. He flies around in a small Cessna plane with his faithful dog, Jasper, looking for signs of life and renewal all the while quoting Whitman and Johnny Cash. I think I met my literary soulmate in Heller’s story, if that is possible. If I invite him to my dinner party he will probably bring Jasper and his cranky friend, Bangley, who balances Hig’s optimism with his self-righteous mistrust of everyone and everything and whom I also like very much. You can’t invite one without inviting the other. It wouldn’t be very kind with the lack of people in their lonely world and limited opportunity for socializing. There is plenty of room at my table, and besides, who doesn’t love a good argument with their dinner? Please pass the **** salt!

  1. Mary Beth Mayfair (from The Witching Hour by Ann Rice)

Remind me to warn my guests that Mary Beth is a witch. (Some people are squeamish about that kind of thing.) Not the pointed black hat kind but rather the modern-world kind of witch. She comes from a long line of witches. You could say that it is the family business. I don’t like everyone in her family, but I do like her. She is very kind to strangers and children and exceptionally talented in bilocation and managing money. (Did I mention that her family are millionaires?) In fact, if she ever gives you money, she’ll tell you to spend it quick because somehow coin or cash always return to their place of origin be it Mary Beth’s coat pocket or beaded purse. She’s the bee’s knees for sure! Wouldn’t she be fun to go shopping with?

  1. Laura Ingalls Wilder (from The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

I know what you are thinking—but how can I not invite Laura? She is one of my oldest character-friends. Laura is a protagonist in her own life story that is truly memoir. Heck, they even made a TV series about her life. There’s that, and the fact that she was a big influence on me both personally and professionally. I quite figuratively and literally grew up with her. Her stories kept me company and occupied me on many a rainy day, during the long, boring, sometimes tumultuous middle years up through my teens and beyond. I caught up with her again in my twenties and later again in the classroom. Laura was one of my icons in children’s literature and has earned her velvet chair at my table. Subject closed. Icy will be her dinner partner. Maybe I’ll seat Jasper between them just for fun. Dogs are people, too, you know.

  1. Kirby Mazrachi (from The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes)

When I think of this character, the word tenacious pops up into my head. It’s a perfect adjective for her and if you’ve met her already you will understand and perhaps agree. You see, Kirby, single-handedly went after a time-traveling serial killer who targeted his victims when they were children. It gives me chills just thinking about her adversary, a serial killer—very creepy bedtime reading—and his modus operandi of stalking little girls and then returning for them when they were older. Kirby was one of his victims, but she survived him and decided to end this creep’s career. It wasn’t easy because she had to navigate in a crime story that was also science fiction. How do you track someone through time? Kirby found a way. I’ll seat her next to Mina. They have much in common. Don’t you agree?

  1. Mr. Rochester (from Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte)

Oh my stars! Edmund Charles Fairfax Rochester is wonderful! Maybe you have met him already if you have read Jane Eyre? He is an amazing character. He is probably the best friend anyone could ever have next to Jasper, of course. He is so charming and witty and interesting and mysterious in a beguiling, romantic way, of course. He’s the quintessential Romantic Era hero. He always says what he means and even though he can be aloof and secretive, he never lies… well, except maybe once to Jane, but really who could blame him? I will have to warn my guests not to get too attached to him. He’s already taken.

  1. Scarlett O’Hara (from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell)

Katy Scarlett O’Hara seems to have a dark cloud hanging over her all the time. But the thing about Scarlett is that no matter how bad things get—and they do get pretty bad by modern standards—she loses her baby, her husband, her friends, and her home to the Yankees. Yet despite it all, Scarlett is always so very optimistic. After all, “Tomorrow is another day.” She doesn’t stay down long. She is an also an opportunist. What I call an optimistic-opportunist because she always finds a way to get what she wants or what she needs, by default—if you can call Rhett Butler a default. I wouldn’t. Anyway, she’s coming and hopefully not dressed in the living room drapes and she will be sitting between Bangley and Dustfinger. Oh what fun!

  1. Ralph Truit (from A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick)

As you might have guessed, I’m a sucker for romance and the American West. Ralph is, too, even though he says he isn’t. He’s the worst kind of romantic—hopeless! Anyway, he placed an advertisement in a Chicago newspaper in 1907 for an “honest and reliable wife” and got more than he bargained for when a woman named Catherine Land answered his advertisement and, let’s say, stole his heart among other things. But don’t feel too badly for Ralph. He had a plan of his own and Catherine was quite surprised, as was I. Ralph will be sitting next to Hig; they are both pretty even-tempered individuals and I think would get on well.

  1. Jim Quick (from Darling Jim by Christian Moerk Holt)

Jim is a storyteller who travels around Ireland, going from pub to pub on his Harley like a bad-boy from the bygone beat generation, seducing young women, stealing from them, and maybe killing them, too. Nobody is perfect! Not even Jim. However, Jim is a wonderful antagonist who picked the wrong women to prey on: three feisty Irish sisters who I think got the better of him—or was it the other way around? I’m hoping Jim will have some stories to share. Don’t worry! I will turn out his pockets when he arrives and hide the butter and steak knives before and after dinner. He’ll be sitting with Mina and Kirby. Those two will keep him out of trouble, no doubt.

  1. Harpspeed

As for me, my story is still being written.

  1. Reader

I left an empty seat for you, dearest Toasted Cheese reader and writer. Come fraternize.

Who’s On Your Guest List?

A Pen In Each HandBy Harpspeed

Dear Fiction Readers and Writers,

It’s your turn. Imagine you could meet a favorite character from a work of fiction. Any character. Whom would you choose? A character from your own shelves? A character from your past? Or how about a character you haven’t met yet? Perhaps, someone who was once recommended to you? (For me it would be that astronaut from the book and the film, The Martian.) A stranger-character? How intriguing that would be!

Now imagine you could invite a dozen or more characters to your house for a party or a backyard barbecue or what-have-you? The trick is to know your characters well, to be select with your choices: Would they like each other? Would they share similar traits or politics? Would you break out the tequila or the sherry or make a grab for Chekov’s gun on the wall?

Please share this occasion with your friends at Toasted Cheese. Tell us who you plan to invite and do tell us why. Or tell us after the fact. Was it a “screaming” success or did you lose a few guests? Did any characters run off together? Any foul play? Just a sentence or two is fine. We can read between the lines. We’re pretty good at that.

Harpspeed
TC Reviews Editor

P.S. A few words to the wise: You may want to steer clear of the psychopaths and vampires. They can be so unpredictable! If you insist on inviting one or more, be sure to have a strong antagonist or protagonist with them to keep them in check. And be mindful: characters can change whether for good or for bad. Those are the best characters and the most interesting guests! They also stay with us long after their stories resolve.

Toasted Cheese 16:1

The March 2016 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Lana Bella, Jeff Burt, Theresa Kelly & Wern Hao See; flash by Melissa Ostrom & Sherry Welch; fiction by Brian Coughlan & Catherine Keenan; and creative nonfiction by Luanne Castle, Brett Peruzzi & Linda C. Wisniewski.

TC 16:1 also includes the 2015 Dead of Winter Writing Contest winning stories by Matthew Boyle, Robert James & John Howe.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews Poor Advice (and Other Stories) by Lou Gaglia.

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

The cover image is by Roger Penguino 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!

February 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

  1. A Pen In Each HandChange one essential detail & rewrite
  2. “They lit a fire for us.”
  3. End of a busy project: now what?
  4. your MC driving behind a truck with a “Trump 2016” bumpersticker.
  5. “It’s just like counting by sevens…”
  6. Use these 5 words: heart, congestion, parasitic, bookish, hallucinations.
  7. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: stairs, seasons, wanted, understand, memory.
    2. Making up nicknames for other people.
    3. Write about someone your character shouldn’t admire, but does.
  8. “You assume so much about me.”
  9. If your MC could manipulate the calendar…
  10. a competitive frenzy.
  11. “Oh that. How far behind am I?”
  12. Use these 5 words: zombie, onesie, marching, neutral, destroyed.
  13. “I’m not late yet.”
  14. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: twisted, street, hid, dismantle, chair.
    2. After a very long wait, it’s finally here.
    3. Write about napping in the sun.
  15. “What do you mean, there’s no more coffee?”
  16. “Why do some people have all the luck?”
  17. “Should I worry that you just read my mind?”
  18. a message that makes your MC’s blood boil.
  19. Picking up after a flood.
  20. Use these 5 words: bakery, cocoa, sunset, inventive, screen.
  21. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: slights, windy, rest, dress, pestilence.
    2. Use the phrase, “Just last week…”
    3. Write about the fourth example of something, breaking the rule.
  22. “I haven’t woken up from the dream yet.”
  23. In the seventh week of February…
  24. deadly weather
  25. Adapting to a new disability.
  26. Use these 5 words: red carpet, performance, diversity, ensemble, couture.
  27. It’s the last weekend in Feb, and we ALL know what THAT means!
  28. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: shakes, stair, stone, alter, working.
    2. Fill in the blank: “Next year in ______[place name]”
    3. Write about that one time, at band camp.
  29. An event that happens each leap day.

Fifteen Ways to Get Your Submission Into My “No” Folder

Absolute BlankBy Stephanie Lenz (Baker)

  1. Simultaneously submit. Even once.
  2. Assume that your lack of publication credits will mean automatic rejection.
  3. Assume that your age has any bearing on whether your story is accepted.
  4. Use your cover letter to talk about how little faith you have in your skill/talent.
  5. Mention that you have to submit somewhere because of an assignment and you chose Toasted Cheese just because you liked the name.
  6. Don’t give your story a title.
  7. Describe your character within the first paragraph by using his full name, height in feet and inches, his weight in pounds, his hair color, and his eye color.
Background Image: Brian Wilkins/Flicker (CC-by-nc)

Background Image: Brian Wilkins/Flicker (CC-by-nc)

  1. If it’s a contest entry, don’t use the genre required.
  2. Don’t proofread.
  3. Write inauthentically about a setting I know.
  4. Use double punctuation on your sentence, like a question mark paired with an exclamation point. One exclamation point pushes it enough.
  5. Have female characters who serve no purpose other than set dressing, being a trophy for the male main character, or to have conversations about the male main characters.
  6. Kiss the word count. Then when you get near the end, chop it off and call it finished instead of rewriting.
  7. Throw in a Shyamalan twist ending.
  8. Respond to a rejection by saying that TC sucks anyway, submit again.

Polishing Your Submissions

A Pen In Each Hand

By Baker

  1. Resolve to write good cover letters. You can use a template and personalize it as needed. Be brief. Refrain from writing more than a sentence or two about the piece you’re submitting. Include any publication credits. If this is your first submission, say so! Editors love discovering emerging writers. Read the “about the author” blurbs at journals to get ideas for a 50-word bio you can use in your cover letters. It’s fine to include your age, especially if you’re a teen or a senior, but don’t presume that your story or poem will be rejected due to your age (certainly don’t include that presumption in the content of your cover letter).
  2. Title every story and poem you send out. Include the title above the work. When discussing submissions, some editors refer to them by the name of the piece.
  3. Read a bit of the journal to which you’re submitting. Unless it’s part of your assignment or part of a journal’s guidelines, there’s no need to include your reason for selecting a journal in your cover letter. That said, including the title of a piece you enjoyed in the journal is a nice way to say you think your work is a good fit. It also shows that you’ve read what the journal publishes.
  4. Proofread your piece before you send. If possible, read it on a device other than the one you wrote it on (ex: Wrote on a laptop? Read it out of your cloud on your phone). Fresh eyes reading fresh screens can catch errors.

January 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

  1. A Pen In Each HandWrite about leaving something behind for the new year.
  2. Use these 5 words: opens, shelter, reached, sailing, holy.
  3. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: good, every, aeroplanes, women, broken.
    2. Use the phrase, “I used to know how to do this.”
    3. Write about negotiating about food.
  4. Write about an understudy.
  5. When’s the next day off work??
  6. “It takes a lot to shock me.”
  7. Make up a perfectly cromulent word and use it.
  8. Use these 5 words: secret, festive, landmark, global, midnight.
  9. “Don’t expect it to last.”
  10. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: earth’s, language, memory, battle, secret.
    2. Use the phrase, “There’s only one left.”
    3. Write about that song that’s stuck in your character’s head.
  11. Write about living in a tiny house.
  12. Your MC time travels.
  13. Write about an annoying roommate.
  14. “…dropped a bombshell.”
  15. “Well, learn how to like it!”
  16. Use these 5 words: research, excesses, wartime, yachts, music.
  17. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: broken, private, stone, moves, lunar.
    2. Use the phrase, “Come sit with me.”
    3. Write about washing glasses.
  18. The view from the top.
  19. Write about sleeping in a doorway.
  20. “I wasn’t referring to you, was I?”
  21. Hand-me-down clothing
  22. Use these 5 words: center, creepy, comfort, charge, collaboration.
  23. Obsessively reloading a website.
  24. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: every, walls, gloves. muffled, librarian.
    2. Use the phrase, “All around the area.”
    3. Write about a surprising photograph.
  25. Looking up a fact in an actual encyclopedia.
  26. A massive storm system.
  27. Use the phrase “This space intentionally left blank.”
  28. “Naked yoga?”
  29. Thinking up a strong password.
  30. Use one of the “I saw you” messages at this link to start your story.
  31. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: scribbling, rhapsody, color, hearts, bloom.
    2. Use the phrase, “By his paw, the lion is known.”
    3. Write about a peculiar hair color.

Dead of Winter 2015 Winners

We’re happy to announce the winning stories for our annual horror short fiction contest Dead of Winter:

  • 1st: “A Lovely Neighborhood: by Matthew Boyle
  • 2nd: “The Wran Song” by Robert James
  • 3rd: “Bittersweet” by John Howe

The first, second, and third place stories will be published in our March 2016 issue.

Dead of Winter 2016 opens October 1 and ends December 21 with theme and word count parameters to be announced. Our next contest is Three Cheers and a Tiger (Spring). As always, there’s no fee and there’s no registration required to enter any of our contests.

Congratulations to our winners and to everyone who entered!