Quick Picks: Books Recommended by the Crew

Conundrums to Guess


Dee Ann

  • The Stand, Stephen King. The Stand is a journey I like to relive about every two years. I bought the hardcover new in 1987. King has a way of showing you things a movie can’t. This is an epic tale of a biological weapon, an ever mutating ‘super flu’ the world soon calls ‘Captain Trips’ that winds up in a showdown between good and evil with the few survivors left in America. My favorite quality about anything King writes is that he faithfully keeps you in the story. This is his genius, IMO.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis. Another journey, this one a delightful classic. I read this book for the first time in fifth grade, and most recently about 6 months ago. Of all Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the most fascinating. The closet that leads to another world, the ‘bad’ faun who lulls Lucy to sleep with his strange little straw flute, the magic Turkish Delight of which Edmund can’t stop eating… This book showcases, IMO, the best of Mr. Lewis’s imagination put to work.
  • Writer’s Market (Released annually) from Writer’s Digest Books. I’ve seen many writer’s websites that scoff at anything from Writer’s Digest, but within the pages of this thesaurus-size book are highly organized lists of publishers, agents, magazines, contest and award information, and what each wants from a writer. There are articles on query-writing, e-queries, synopsis-writing, and a writer’s rights. I pick this book up often enough to justify the price tag every year.
  • Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass. I bought this book last year because I admired Mr. Maass, and I wanted to hear what he had to say. I’m pleased to report this book is insightful in many respects, it is well-written and entertaining (not didactic at all), and leaves messages imbedded in the brain that continue to help my writing in many ways. His best advice, IMO? Build high human worth to raise the stakes in your novel, or the reader won’t care what happens to your characters.
  • Dance Upon the Air, Nora Roberts (1st in the Three Sisters Island trilogy). Nora is a fantastic writer, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her stories. I have an exceptional eye for other writers’ mistakes (though not my own, of course) and Nora doesn’t make too many, if any at all, IMO. She doesn’t confuse, she doesn’t meander, she sticks to the story and makes you care as she leads you into the lives of her realistic characters. She’s been described as a word artist, and I think that’s apropos for her, especially in this book. In some ways, Dance Upon the Air made me think of Sleeping With the Enemy, which was also a good book.
  • Sleeping With the Enemy, Joseph Ruben. This came out when I was in college, and though I didn’t have the time to spare for anything fiction (unless it was assigned by a professor), I made the time for this book. It’s a gripping thriller. The movie was good too, but different. The characters in the book were more realistic than the movie’s la-la-la, beautiful Julia Roberts show philosophy, IMO, of course.


  • I’m very fond of Robertson Davies, perhaps with special notice given to Cunning Man and the Deptford Trilogy (Hmmm… Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders). I astonished myself once by saying that if Davies could write as fast as I could read, I’d never read anything else. Alas, he’s gone now.
  • Also Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, with special attention to the afterword, in which he discusses how he put the novel together.


  • The Rose of the Prophet, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. There are three books in this series. Fantasy. Two warring tribes are forced together through matrimony to save the life of their god.
  • Bird by Bird, Anne Lamont. Non-fiction. “Some instructions on writing and life.” A great way to look at the writing life and then to start living it. Full of humor and spice and some simple, yet profound, writing advice.
  • Fall of Atlantis, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Fantasy. (Compliation of two books.) Follows two sisters as they grow to womanhood, struggling to remain together while they strive along very different paths.
  • Circle of Three, Patricia Gaffney. Fiction. A novel about three generations of women, each trying to hang to the other and build relationships after a death.
  • Belinda, Anne Rice. Fiction. About a girl who is older than she looks, and a man who is younger than he seems.
  • Effortless Prosperity, Bijan. Self-help/Inspiration. 30 simple lessons to change your life in a month. Easy to understand and follow guide to create peace in your life and reach for your dreams.
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Fiction. A good standard that shows the value of research mixed with imagination.



  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle. A classic, one that’s stuck with me through many years and that I want to share with my own children one day.
  • On Writing, Stephen King. Thoughtful and inspiring, a great read for anyone who’s a writer.
  • Harry Potter series, JK Rowling. Great children’s books are more than just “children’s books”. These are.


  • Meet the Austins / The Moon by Night / A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle. Undoubtedly the biggest influence on me, my writing, my choices during my teen years.
  • Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. The copy we had when I was growing up will always be The Dictionary to me. I loved this book. How much? I’ve asked that it be bequeathed to me…
  • The Language of the Goldfish, Zibby Oneal. Still my standard for young adult fiction.
  • Jalna (series), Mazo de la Roche. A great big family saga.
  • A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle. Part memoir, part writing advice. One of the best books I’ve read “on writing”. Deals with giving up, the compulsion to write, and success after much rejection.
  • Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, Simone de Beauvoir. Part memoir, part philosophy. Read at a schism in my life, I identified with de Beauvoir’s reaction to her childhood and her existentialist philososphy.
  • Georgia O’Keeffe, Georgia O’Keeffe. Memoir mixed with the artist’s work. Fabulous insight into the creative process.
  • Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg. The book that got me to stop thinking about writing, and start doing it.
  • The Weight of Oranges/Miner’s Pond, Anne Michaels. Absolutely delicious way with words. This poetry has had a strong influence on my style. Great book to read if you’re looking to put music into your writing.
  • Regeneration (series), Pat Barker. These blow me away on so many levels. The writing is fabulous. The research is meticulous. The blending of fact & fiction is seamless. And oh yeah, Billy Prior is the best. character. ever.


  • Wizard’s First Rule, Terry Goodkind. My current read; I don’t know why I waited so long to start it because I can hardly put it down.
  • The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks. The next greatest fantasy epic after–
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien. What can I say that hasn’t been said already? I first read this in my early teens and it woke me up to the fact that fantasy wasn’t just fairy tales.
  • A Wrinkle In Time (the trilogy), Madeleine L’Engle. Actually the third book in this trilogy was the best, but I loved the characters and the sense of magic in all the books.
  • The Hound and the Falcon (trilogy), Judith Tarr. Historical fantasy: who knew it could be done, and so well?
  • The Colour of Magic (and everything succeeding), Terry Pratchett. The man’s a comic genius. Enough said.
  • The Once and Future King, T.H. White. The definitive version of the definitive heroic tale.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis. Smaller in scope than Middle-Earth, yet no less wonderful for that.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson. I picked up the first book on a whim, never having heard of it before, and I was hooked before the end of the first chapter. Six books in all, each more intense than the last, dark but satisfying.
  • Sanctuary (edited), Robert Asprin and Lynne Abbey. It was after reading about Thieves’ World that my own fantasy world began to take shape, so I suppose I owe the most debt to this series of books.


Snark Dictionary

Jam & Judicious Advice


The Hunting of the Snark: an Agony in Eight Fits” by Lewis Carroll. The Snark, which may also be a Boojum, is the creature sought by the Bellman & crew.

Traditional Use:

From Merriam-Webster’s:
Main Entry: snarky
Pronunciation: ‘snär-kE
Function: adjective
Etymology: dialect snark to annoy, perhaps alteration of nark to irritate

From YourDictionary.com:
snark·y (snärk)
adj. Slang snark·i·er, snark·i·est
Irritable or short-tempered; irascible.
[From dialectal snark, to nag, from snark, snork, to snore, snort, from Dutch and Low German snorken, of imitative origin.]
snarki·ly adv.

Beaver’s mom was fond of using snarky in this fashion to describe young Beaver. Thanks, mom! 😉

How “snark” entered the Toasted Cheese lexicon:

Back in pre-TC days, we met at another writing site. On May 22, 2000, while “passing notes” during a writing class, Baker said: “I’m sitting here making smarmy, snorting noises which I mentally nicknamed snarks. My goal is to snark less @ the current posts.” It snowballed from there. We became “the snarkers”, and when we started our own website, Bellman suggested “The Hunting of the Snark” for our theme. Could it have been anything else?

The Derivatives:

snark (noun)
1. Less-than-stellar creative endeavors, e.g. writing, movies, TV programs, music, etc. Generally, snark is that which is enjoyably bad (cheesy), as opposed to that which is painful or cringeworthy to witness.
2. Particular attributes of a creative endeavor that are laughably bad. With reference to editing, snark is what must be eliminated!

snark (verb)
Variant: snerk
snarks, snarked, snarking
1. What one does when reading/watching/listening to snark. Often one snarks audibly, but one can snark silently too (this is better if you’re in a public place).

snarker(s) (noun)
1. One who snarks.
2. One who seeks out snark in an attempt to banish it.

snarkolicious (adjective)
1. Someone who knows how to snark, and shares that talent with others, e.g. the recappers at TWoP are snarkolicious.
2. Snark that’s soooo bad it’s good. If it’s beyond snarky, it’s snarkolicious! Example: We once read a story on a forum that was written from the PoV of a rabbit. Said rabbit was scooped by a hawk and then dropped onto a highway and run over. It ended with the word “Bummer”. Now that’s snarkolicious!

Spam and Trolls

Jam & Judicious Advice


What is a troll?

A troll is someone who posts on Internet message boards “to start arguments and upset people.”* We have had trolls at Toasted Cheese in the past and will probably have trolls in the future.

Trolls post provocatively because they know this will incite a reaction from other posters, thus giving them what they want: attention. The best thing to do with known trolls is ignore them. Sit on your fingers. Do not flame them back. Do not try to reason with them:

“Trolls are utterly impervious to criticism (constructive or otherwise). You cannot negotiate with them; you cannot cause them to feel shame or compassion; you cannot reason with them. They cannot be made to feel remorse. For some reason, trolls do not feel they are bound by the rules of courtesy or social responsibility.”*

How do I tell if a poster is a troll? What if I’m not sure?

Consider the poster’s prior posts (if any). If the post is out of character, he/she may just be in a bad mood, or the topic may have touched a nerve. If it’s a new poster, he/she may not be familiar with board etiquette. Assume the best, and try responding with a polite, friendly message.

You’ll generally be able to tell by their reaction whether they’re a troll or not. Someone who’s willing to negotiate, who backs down when called on his/her behavior, or apologizes, is not a troll. Trolls will argue “hello & welcome” if that’s all they have to work with. If the poster responds in a trolly manner, do not continue the conversation.

There’s a troll on my board. What recourse do I have?

If you’re concerned about a possible troll, email the Toasted Cheese staff at editors[at]toasted-cheese.com. Include the URL and content of the post. Your email and ID will remain confidential.

How do I avoid being labeled a troll?

The best way to keep from being considered a troll is to follow the posting guidelines and basic rules of courtesy. Remember, there is a person behind each post. Keep your criticisms to the writing; do not personally attack the writer. For example, “I noticed some spelling and grammar problems in your story. Here are a few examples…” is appropriate, whereas “Did you drop out of school in sixth grade? Your spelling sucks.” is not.

A good rule of thumb: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want someone to say to you, nor anything you wouldn’t say to someone “in real life”, i.e. to their face.

If you do post something in the heat of the moment, and later regret it, apologize, and then move on. Don’t dwell on it, or beat yourself up about it.

*from Internet Trolls © 2001 by Timothy Campbell


What is spam?

Merriam-Webster’s definition of spam is “unsolicited usually commercial E-mail sent to a large number of addresses”, in other words, junk mail.

In the case of Toasted Cheese‘s message boards, spam means the same post posted to an unacceptable number of boards, i.e. more than two or three. (n.b. This does not apply to board hosts posting TC memos.) Posts that are irrelevant to the purpose of Toasted Cheese, i.e. posts that have nothing whatsoever to do with writing or writers, will also be considered spam.

What is not spam?

Ads and self-promotion are not spam. Toasted Cheese encourages writers to share URLs of articles, contests, resources, ezines, etc. Posters are also welcome to post a link to their own website, advertise a book or article they have written, or tell us about a service they offer. All we ask is that these be writing-related.

But it’s rude to post a link to your site if you’re not a regular poster!

While it may not be up to your standards of etiquette, it’s still not spam. Instead of getting upset when someone does this, respond with a pleasant welcome, ask the poster about him/herself, and encourage him/her to get involved.

Okay, but this one is really spam!

If you believe a post is spam, send an email to editors[at]toasted-cheese.com which includes the URL and content of the post. Please do not publicly accuse someone of posting spam.

I told you about it, but the post is still there.

We may have decided that the post does not qualify as spam.

Even if it really is spam, we’ll probably only remove the post if the poster is a repeat offender. We consider removing posts a last resort, and strive to do it as infrequently as possible. A first offender will likely receive a private warning.

Your best bet: ignore the post and trust that we’ll take care of it.

Why is TC spamming me?

We’re not.Spammers are able to spoof email addresses, i.e. make it look like their spam came from someone else’s address/domain. Sometimes this is a targeted attack, the intent being to have recipients of the spam report the unwitting victim (who only becomes aware of the attack when they start receiving bounced e-mails) to their service provider as a spammer. See: Joe Job. More frequently, it is random and automated, using addresses harvested by spambots.

We have reported the abuse of our domain name to our service provider. Unfortunately, there is nothing that we, or they, can do to stop/prevent it. However, we want to make it clear: we don’t spam. If you have received spam that looks like it came from TC, it didn’t. Period.

10 Tips for Posting at Writing Forums

Jam & Judicious Advice

I want to post a story (poem, article…). What do I need to know?

  1. Read the posting guidelines before posting at a new forum. Leave a space between paragraphs; it makes it easier to read online. Spell-check your post.
  2. If you’re posting an excerpt from a work-in-progress, say so, and ask for a general critique, not a nit-picky one. NPC on an unfinished first draft is a waste of time for both the critiquer and the writer. What you really want is encouragement (yes, really!). Get your first draft down before you start asking others to tear it apart.

I posted yesterday (or 2 days ago or…). Why hasn’t anyone replied?

  1. Everyone (including the forum hosts) who critiques your writing is volunteering their time. Realize that their own writing, other work, family and friends, etc. come before critiquing your work. Have patience. It may take a week, or even two, for everyone who plans to critique your piece to do so. Also remember that hosts are there to keep the forum running smoothly, not to critique each and every piece of work posted.
  2. In general, shorter posts and posts requesting general critiques will receive quicker responses than long posts and posts requesting nit-picky critiques. If you post 10,000 words and ask for NPC, don’t be surprised when you get fewer critiques than the person who asked for GC on a 300-word flash fiction piece. Decide what you really want/need: a quick reply, or a detailed response.
  3. How often are you requesting critiques? If you’re posting more than one piece per week for critique, reconsider. People need time to see your post, read it, think about it, then write up a critique. If you post a second or third piece within the week, people who were considering or in the midst of giving piece #1 a critique may decide not to bother because they feel you’ve already moved on. A week isn’t a long time in the greater scheme of things. Pace yourself.
  4. Consider the busy-ness of the forum in question. Is there one story waiting for a critique or twenty? Realize that it’ll take longer for any one person (i.e. the forum host) to get back to you on a busier forum. Everyone needs to chip in. Which leads us to #7:
  5. A critique forum only works if everyone who requests critiques also gives them. While waiting for your piece to be critiqued, take the time to critique others. It’s the best way to show your appreciation for the critiques you will receive and to garner more (or faster) critiques of your work in the future. If you’re new to critiquing, check out our critiquing guidelines.

Someone critiqued my story! I’m going to change everything she hated right now.

  1. STOP. Don’t rely on a single critique to shape your story. Wait till you have three or four responses and then compare them. Something one person may hate, another may love. Look for commonalities between critiques.
  2. After you’ve had a piece critiqued, wait a few days (at least). It’s best to let the initial sting of criticism wear off before editing. Time will also help you resist the temptation to try to please every critiquer by incorporating every tidbit of advice. A critique is a guideline, not a rule. Use what feels right; discard the rest.

Wow, this place is great. I don’t know how I can thank you!

  1. If you like Toasted Cheese and want to give something back, please consider volunteering as a co-host at one of the forums.We’d like to see two co-hosts for each forum, with each individual co-hosting at no more than two forums. That way each forum would get the attention it deserves and no one person would be overwhelmed by his/her hosting responsibilities. When we’re short hosts, Toasted Cheese staff each have to cover multiple forums, and it’s not always possible for us to respond as quickly or as often as we’d like. The forums are just a small part of what we do at TC, and other aspects of the site sometimes take priority. Speaking of other aspects of the site… Is there a writing topic you’d like to expound on? We welcome queries for our Absolute Blank section (articles on writing). Do you have finished work slumbering on your hard drive? Our quarterly e-zine takes submissions year-round.

How to Copy & Paste

See: How to Copy, Cut, and Paste for Beginners

Common Acronyms & Abbreviations

See: English internet slang

Conquering the “But I don’t know how to critique” Blues

Jam & Judicious Advice

Dance Naked
The Critique Zone

Worried that you’re not worthy? Well, worry no more. At Toasted Cheese, our motto is, “If you can read, you can critique.” Remember the majority of reviewers, editors and agents are not writers themselves, they’re readers. They read and evaluate. And so can you!

Background Image: Jeremy Bushnell/Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)

First, stop bashing yourself for perceived deficiencies. If grammar is not your forte, don’t stress yourself out trying to fix someone else’s. Instead, comment on something else — plot or character, for example. Use your strengths.

Next, ask yourself some basic questions about the piece you’re critiquing. Be honest. At this stage, the critique is for your eyes only.

Did you like it or not? Why? List some concrete, specific positives and negatives to help you organize your thoughts. An example of an positive would be: “Your dialogue was believable. It sounded realistic.” An example of a negative would be: “The ‘moral of the story’ line at the end was too preachy and obvious.” (Stuck? Check out the list of critique questions for ideas!)

Would you like to read more of the story / this writer’s work? Why? Here you might say: “I’d like to read more because the main character was fascinating.” or “I don’t want to read more because the pedantic, passive voice writing style made me feel like I was reading a term paper, not a story.”

What changes would you suggest to the writer? Why? Some examples: “I’d clean up the spelling mistakes and typos because I found them really distracting.” to “I’d use ‘she’ in place of the narrator’s name at times, because using her name every time is annoying, especially when she’s the only person in the scene.” to “I’d change the scene where the main character jumps off the cliff because that wasn’t realistic since he’d just declared his love for life in the previous scene.”

Finally, organize your notes so that you can show them to the writer of the piece. The purpose of a constructive critique is to help writers improve their writing, so it’s important to be honest. Don’t say a story was “Great!” if it wasn’t. If the writer knows their story wasn’t great, they won’t ever trust any feedback you give and if they happen to think their story is awesome, you’re just setting them up for a bigger fall when they send their not-so-great story off to a publisher before it’s ready. At the same time, a critique should avoid being cruel, so even if you thought a story sucked out loud, please don’t say, “This really sucked!” Instead, concentrate on specifics and on finding solutions for problems.

Start off with one or more of the things you thought the writer did well. Remember, saying something positive is possible, even if overall, you really didn’t like the piece. Then, share the things you thought detracted from the story along with your suggestions on how to fix them. Suggesting how to fix the problem is what makes it constructive criticism, so do try to give a suggestion for each. Wrap your critique up with a positive statement or two, for example, “I can’t wait to read more!”

Just like any skill, the more you critique, the easier it gets. As a side benefit, critiquing can give you valuable insight into your own writing, so give it a try! At Toasted Cheese, you must critique at least two pieces for every piece you post at a critique forum.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Critiquing

  • ACCESSIBILITY: Was it easy to follow the action, what was going on and why?
  • APPEARANCE: Were there too many errors? Typos? Grammar? Punctuation?
  • CHARACTERS: Were they human, fascinating, unique, flawed?
  • CONFLICT: Was it confusing? Did it exist?
  • DIALOGUE: Did everybody have their own rhythm, tone and style?
  • ENDING: Was it clear and satisfying? Do you know what the characters will do in the future?
  • LEAD: Did the opening have passion? Style? Pace? Depth? Energy? Does each chapter have a lead and an ending?
  • MOTIVATION: Why did the characters do what they did?
  • ORIGINALITY: How fresh was the story? Was it a new take on an old theme?
  • PACING: Did the story flow smoothly? Were there too many high points and low points?
  • PLOTTING: Were you surprised by the choices the characters made?
  • SETTING: Were the mood and tone good?
  • STRUCTURE: Does everything happen in order? ie. What if that scene were there, for example?
  • STYLE: Does it sound like the author?
  • SUBTLETY: Was the message too preachy?
  • TONE: Did the theme stay consistent throughout?

Fiction: Genre vs. Mainstream vs. Literary

Jam & Judicious Advice

So you write fiction. You know it’s fiction because a) it’s written in prose and b) the story is one you made up. Isn’t that enough? Er, no, not really.

Sure, you can write your story without worrying about what category it fits into, but once it’s finished, you need to have a snappy reply when someone—e.g. that agent you’re trying to impress—asks what kind of story it is. Agents—and editors, booksellers, and librarians—need to know where your story fits so they can decide how they’re going to market it and where they’re going to shelve it.

After you’ve determined that the piece of work in question is fiction, you need to decide if it is genre, mainstream, or literary. What follows is a brief explanation of each of these categories. It’s meant to clear up the confusion surrounding these terms, and help you decide where your writing best fits. It is not meant to imply that one category is better than another. As well, it is recognized that there will always be books that break the “rules” of their category and ones that crossover among categories, etc.

Background Image: S.A./Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Genre Fiction:

Genre fiction is usually written with a particular category in mind (rather than fitting the category to the book after the fact). Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, thriller, and western are examples of genres. These novels tend to concentrate on story (plot), rather than character development or philosophy. The primary plot in a genre novel is always compatible with the genre, e.g. the primary focus of a romance novel will always be the romantic relationship between the two main characters, whereas the primary focus of a mystery will always be the main character solving a crime. Genre fiction is written with the primary goal of entertaining the reader. Stories are told in a straightforward, linear manner, and they meet reader expectations: endings are usually happy, questions are resolved, and loose ends are tied up.

Publishers like genre novels because they have a built-in market, e.g. fantasy readers, western readers, science fiction readers. In bookstores and libraries, each type of genre fiction is usually shelved in its own section.

Examples of successful genre fiction writers: Stephen King (horror), John Grisham (legal thriller), Sue Grafton (mystery), Kathleen E. Woodiwiss (romance), J.R.R. Tolkien (fantasy).

Mainstream Fiction:

Mainstream fiction consists of stories that can’t be slotted into a particular genre. It can cover any topic, in any time period, be any length, etc. Like genre fiction, mainstream fiction tends to focus on story, though usually with greater depth of characterization. The primary goal of mainstream fiction is entertaining the reader; secondarily the writer might touch on some philosophical issues. Stories are usually told in a straightforward, linear manner, and meet reader expectations in much the same way as genre fiction does: endings are happy (or at least satisfying), problems are resolved, no loose ends are left dangling. The reader does not have to struggle to “get” the story.

Mainstream fiction is harder to market than genre fiction, because there’s no built-in audience. It’s generally sold on author name recognition, with new authors marketed on their similarities to established authors. That said, mainstream fiction is still seen as highly marketable by publishers. Books in this category are expected to sell well because of their potential to attract a diverse audience. The majority of books found in the general fiction section of bookstores are mainstream novels.

Examples of successful mainstream fiction writers: Pat Conroy, Maeve Binchy, John Irving, James A. Michener, Amy Tan.

Literary Fiction:

Like mainstream novels, literary novels aren’t confined to a specific genre. The writer of a literary novel can tackle any subject, any theme—though these aren’t necessarily the most important part of the story. In literary fiction, careful use of language, style, and technique are often as important as subject matter. Literary fiction tends to focus on character development over plot, and explore philosophical issues and ideology. In comparison to mainstream fiction, it often contains more introspection and exposition, and less action and dialogue. It is often said to challenge the reader. There may be layers of meaning beyond the surface story. The story may be about something “bigger”—more universal—than the story being explicitly told. Multiple reads are usually necessary to absorb all of the meaning embedded in the story. Literary fiction is most likely to break traditional fiction conventions, e.g. endings may be upsetting or ambiguous, plots may be next to non-existent, the writer may forego punctuation rules such as placing quotation marks around dialogue.

Literary novels generally sell fewer copies than genre and mainstream novels, and writers don’t expect mass readership. Publishers are most reluctant to take on this type of book, as it is least likely to be commercially successful. Writers of literary fiction generally break into the market by publishing short stories in little magazines or placing in contests. Literary fiction is usually shelved with mainstream fiction, but is occasionally set off on its own.

Examples of successful literary fiction writers: Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway.

Writer’s Encyclopedia
Fiction Genre Definitions [pdf version]

Intellectual Property

Jam & Judicious Advice


A pseudonym or pen name may be used by an author of a copyrighted work. A work is pseudonymous if the author is identified on copies or phonorecords of that work by a fictitious name (nicknames or other diminutive forms of one’s legal name are not considered “fictitious”). —U.S. Copyright Office (emphasis added)

Why use a pseudonym?

  1. You don’t want to be identified as the author of the work by anyone other than your publisher–generally done to protect privacy and/or prevent embarrassment (writers of porn/erotica use pseudonyms more often than not).
  2. You write in more than one genre and want to use a different name for each genre (publishers sometimes encourage this).
  3. You don’t want people to know your gender–this used to be more common with women, but presently, men who write romance use a female pseudonym more often than not.
  4. Your name is overly common and/or you have the same name as someone else who is already well-known, particularly in your field.
  5. You have a famous/infamous last name and want to avoid being associated with your family.
  6. You’re writing with a partner, but you just want one name to appear on the book.
  7. You’re writing for an established series that is written by a number of authors who all use the same pseudonym.
  8. The pseudonym is your favorite name and this is your chance to use it.

There’s a problem with my name, but I want to avoid using a pseudonym. What can I do?

  1. Use your full name: First Middle Last
  2. Drop your first name: Middle Last
  3. Use one or more initials: First M. Last, F. Middle Last, F.M. Last
  4. Use a diminutive of your given name: Diminutive Last
  5. Use your maiden name (or conversely, use your spouse’s name): First Maiden, Middle Maiden, First Maiden Married
  6. Add a hyphen: First Maiden-Married, First-Middle Last, First Middle-Last
  7. Drop your surname: First Middle
  8. Use a nickname in place of your given name: Nickname Last
  9. Add something extra to your name (a nickname, your mother’s maiden name, etc.): First Extra Last

Legal Name: In Canada, your legal name is the one on your birth certificate. A married surname is considered an assumed name. A person of either sex is legally entitled to use her/his spouse’s surname upon marriage, if s/he chooses, but s/he is also free to revert back to her/his birthname at any time. A legal name change only takes place when a “change of name” application is made and a new birth certificate is issued. Your local laws may differ. Check your government’s website for more information. Note: The legal system in Quebec is civil law, whereas in the rest of Canada, it’s common law, so what holds true for most of Canada (and other common law countries) may not be applicable in Quebec.

Examples of Pseudonymous Names

  • Mark Twain, pen name of Samuel Clemens
  • Currer Bell, pen name of Charlotte Bronte
  • George Eliot, pen name of Mary Ann Evans
  • George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair
  • Richard Bachman, pen name of Stephen Edwin King

Examples of Names that are not Pseudonyms

  • Madeleine L’Engle, short for Madeleine L’Engle (Camp) Franklin
  • J.K. Rowling, short for Joanne Kathleen Rowling
  • Pat Conroy, short for Donald Patrick Conroy
  • Toni Morrison, short for Chloe Anthony (Wofford) Morrison
  • Stephen King, short for Stephen Edwin King

A Brief Explanation of Copyright

Automatically Yours

Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression, including literary works. No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created in fixed form. The copyright immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work.

The use of a copyright notice is not required by law, but it can be beneficial to use it. The notice informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner and shows the year of first publication. If a work is infringed and a proper notice of copyright appears on the published copy or copies to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, they will not be able to claim innocent infringement (when the infringer did not realize that the work was protected). The use of the copyright notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require advance permission from, or registration with, the Copyright Office.

A copyright notice should contain the following three elements: The symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word “Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”; the year of first publication of the work; and the name of the owner of copyright in the work or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized. Example: © 1999 John Doe An author may also wish to place a copyright notice on any unpublished copies that leave his or her control. Example: Unpublished work © 1999 Jane Doe

To get the © symbol in Word, hold down ctrl and alt and then type c.

A Brief Explanation of First Serial Rights

When you submit a story to a magazine, for example, the magazine will usually want “First Serial Rights” or “First North American Serial Rights”. A writer selling First Serial Rights is selling a newspaper, magazine or periodical the right to publish the story, article or poem for the first time in any periodical. All other rights remain with the author. If your work has been previously published, you can not sell First Serial Rights.

This is where we get into a gray area. While most of us wouldn’t consider posting to a critique group message board to be publishing, some publications MAY consider it to be, particularly if the boards are open to the public. This is why the forums at Toasted Cheese will be password-protected–they will not be open to the public, only to people participating in the forum.

You may also want to ask the publication you plan to submit to what their policy is on critique group posting and refrain from posting final drafts.

Toasted Cheese claims no rights to any work posted on its forums. All rights remain with the author.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice.

Character Development Worksheet

Jam & Judicious Advice

Create a Character








Age claimed:


Astrological sign:

Hair color:


Eye color:


Skin tone:

Marks (freckles, birthmarks, tattoos, scars):



Build/Body shape:


Parents & Siblings:







Type of Home:

Condition of Home:

Reason/History of Home:

Time in this Home:

Roommates/Housemates/Guests/Family In Home:


Outside Upkeep Habits:

Interior Design:


Inside Upkeep Habits:


Character’s Best Trait (to character):

Character’s Actual Best Trait:

Character’s Worst Trait (to character):

Character’s Actual Worst Trait:

Character’s Motto (to character):

Character’s Actual Motto:





Actions while Angry:

Actions while Happy:


Reaction when presented with above:


Reaction when above are threatened:


Type of Self Rewards and When:

Type of Self Punishments and When:

Biggest Regret & Why:

Reaction to Adversity:

Reaction to Triumph:

Manners Alone:

Manners Around Same Gender:

Manners Around Opposite Gender:


Time of Story (past, present, future, era):


Occupational goals:

Occupational “lingo”:


Emotional reaction to work:

Notes on “Work Personality”:



Income goals:

Saves or spends:

Favorite thing to purchase:

Wants to purchase:

Hobbies/Leisure pursuits

Biggest accomplished achievement in life:

Awards/Recognition (non-work):

Current Relationship:

Relevant Friends:

How the character relates to each:

Current relationship with family members:





Feeling About Childhood:

Childhood Trauma:

How trauma affects character today:


Best/Worst/Favorite subject:

After school activities:

Biggest influence/Mentor:

Friends/Teachers/Relatives/Pets from past that could influence plot (includes invisible friends/dolls/bears):

Childhood habit hardest to break and how it affects character today:

What did they want to be when they grew up?

Special childhood abilities:

Childhood hideout:

Event that will affect plot:

Past relationships that affect plot:

Last relationship:

How did it end & why:


The most bizarre thing about your character:

The very best thing about your character:

The very worst thing about your character:












Background Image: Tod McQuillin/Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)

Basic Astrological Information

March 21st to April 21st
Keyword: “I AM”
Energetic, optimistic, courageous, impulsive, and open-minded.

April 21st to May 21st
Keyword: “I HAVE”
Patient, stubborn, practical, dependable, and affectionate.

May 21st to June 21st
Keyword: “I THINK”
Responsive, lively, adaptable, versatile, and intellectual.

June 21st to July 21st
Keyword: “I FEEL”
Kind, loyal, imaginative, sensitive, and sympathetic.

July 21st to August 21st
Keyword: “I WILL”
Powerful, extravagant, exuberant, creative, and expansive.

August 21st to September 21st
Keyword: “I ANALYZE”
Modest, industrious, organized, curious, and conscientious.

September 21st to October 21st
Keyword: “I BALANCE”
Artistic, charming, peaceful, diplomatic, and harmonious.

October 21st to November 21st
Keyword: “I CREATE”
Magnetic, intense, obstinate, passionate, and persistent.

November 21st to December 21st
Keyword: “I PERCEIVE”
Generous, ambitious, adventurous, optimistic, and freedom loving.

December 21st to January 21st
Keyword: “I USE”
Prudent, steadfast, cunning, determined, and disciplined.

January 21st to February 21st
Keyword: “I KNOW”
Assertive, friendly, original, inventive, and independent.

February 21st to March 21st
Keyword: “I BELIEVE”
Intuitive, emotional, romantic, compassionate, and mystical.