The 17th Annual “Dead of Winter” Writing Contest

Stories submitted to the 17th Annual Dead of Winter contest (December 2017) must use the theme NEVERTHELESS SHE PERSISTED (your entry must follow guidelines below).

This year’s theme is inspired by women and their resilience.

SPECIAL:

Horror has long given us female protagonists and antagonists, both in literature and film. Your entry will not only follow the theme NEVERTHELESS SHE PERSISTED but also give us strong female characters facing and/or creating horrors in original ways.

We want them to be challenged by forces within and/or without; they might not make it to the end of your story. The threat your main character faces might be female or she may be female herself (or both). Your story may feature one woman or one girl or several females but at least one major character in your story should be a female who is persistent.

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 DOW2017 is 3000–5000 words.

HOW TO ENTER:

The contest opens October 1, 2017 and the deadline for submission is 11:59 PM ET December 21, 2017.

Email entries to dow2017[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line:
Dead of Winter Contest Entry

Follow general contest guidelines and general Dead of Winter guidelines

 

Toasted Cheese 17:1

The March 2017 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Holly Day, Liz Dolan, John Grey, Michael Paul Hogan, Salvatore Marici & Sam Payne; flash by Jenny T.H. Chiu, Becca B. Jenkins, Zack Peercy & Michael Snyder; and fiction by Michelle McMillan-Holifield, Gwenda Major, David McVey & Kathryn Pallant.

TC 17:1 also includes the Dead of Winter Writing Contest winning stories by Ellis Sinclair, Catherine J. Link & Red Lagoe.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews Jesus and Magdalene by João Cerqueira, and Bill Lockwood reviews Sure Things and Last Chances by Lou Gaglia.

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

The cover image is by torbakhopper 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!

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!

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.

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!

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!

 

The 15th Annual “Dead of Winter” Writing Contest

The 15th Annual Dead of Winter Writing Contest is OPEN!

Dead of Winter is a horror fiction contest.

This year’s theme is: THE NEIGHBORHOOD CHILDREN

Word count parameters: 1500-3000 words

Stories submitted to the 15th Annual Dead of Winter contest (December 2015) must use the theme THE NEIGHBORHOOD CHILDREN. We invite you to take inspiration from this artwork by Tom McCarthaigh (described below):

Tom McCarthaigh is an illustrator from the United Kingdom. His work conveys an atmosphere of mystery, magic as well as possible danger. Tom has worked with local zine writers in Bristol as well as clients from around the world. This year, his moth design was chosen as the hologram for Bristol’s very own printed currency.

Tom McCarthaigh is an illustrator from the United Kingdom. His work conveys an atmosphere of mystery, magic as well as possible danger. Tom has worked with local zine writers in Bristol as well as clients from around the world. This year, his moth design was chosen as the hologram for Bristol’s very own printed currency.

You may take as much or as little inspiration from this work as you like. You do NOT need to use elements of it for your story; you must only use the theme THE NEIGHBORHOOD CHILDREN.

Be sure to read both the Dead of Winter contest rules and the general contest guidelines before submitting your entry. Due to the autumnal elements of our visual prompt, stories may be set in fall or winter for the 2015 contest.

Deadline for entries is December 21.

Image description: Black & white sketch with a marbleized blue sky. Five children wearing Halloween costumes (a small jack-o-lantern appears behind them). The background includes a house (or houses), barren trees and a few leaves. 

Toasted Cheese 15:1

The March 2015 issue of Toasted Cheese features poetry by Holly Day, John Grey & Anne Britting Oleson; flash by Jill Boyles, Bradley Sides & Christopher T. White and fiction by Louis M. Abbey, Arika Elizenberry, Lane Kareska, Daniel Nazer, Marlene Olin, Jonathan Pauls & Tony Press.

TC 15:1 also includes the 2014 Dead of Winter Writing Contest winning stories by Erin McDougall, John Howe & Amelia Diamond.

At Candle-Ends, Shelley Carpenter reviews The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle & Work to Do by Bob Zeanah and A.R. Cook reviews Swish Swirl & Sniff by Salvatore Marici.

This issue’s Snark Zone is by Stephanie “Baker” Lenz & Theryn “Beaver” Fleming.

The cover image is by Benny’s Chop House, 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!

Dead of Winter Winners!

Thank you for entering our Dead of Winter 2014 contest. Competition was tight, with a record number of entries. The winning stories are:

  • 1st: “Heirlooms” by Erin McDougall
  • 2nd: “The Others” by John Howe
  • 3rd: “The Snake” by Amelia Diamond
  • Honorable Mention: “Le Greniere” by Hortense De Castro

The first, second, and third place stories will be published in our March 2015 issue. Because of our record number of entries, first place receives a $50 Amazon gift card, second a $15 Amazon gift card & third a $10 Amazon gift card.

Thank you for providing such wonderful and diverse reading material for the judges. Dead of Winter 2015 opens October 1 and we invite you to enter. Our next contest is the 48-hour challenge Three Cheers and a Tiger, which runs March 20-22, 2015.

Keep writing!

Stephanie Lenz and Erin Bellavia

Three Cheers and a Tiger Winners

We have (finally) finished reading and judging the stories for the fall Three Cheers and a Tiger writing contest, and are happy to announce the winners:

  • Gold: Jill Spencer, “Something Wicked”
  • Silver: Amelia Diamond, “A Small Miscalculation”
  • Bronze: Alexander Pawlowski, “My Funeral”

Congratulations to the winners! These stories will appear in the December issue of Toasted Cheese Literary Journal.

Our next contest, Dead of Winter, is currently open.