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Featured Contest

This month's featured contest is the Dead of Winter, put on by the Toasted Cheese Literary Journal.

The contest is a winter-themed horror fiction contest with a new topic/theme each year. 


Dead of Winter is open October 1 – December 21 annually.

  • 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 varies each year

Any horror subgenre is welcome. Note that the judges prefer gothic, dark fantasy, erotic horror (PG-13 max), noir, psychological horror, quiet/soft horror, and suspense horror. The judges tend not to like sci-fi horror, extreme/splatter horror, Lovecraftian, etc. but, as always, the quality and creativeness of the writing come first. See previous placed Dead of Winter entries to get an idea of what the judges enjoy reading.

Please no people who don’t know they’re dead or overdone “monsters” (vampires, werewolves, Sasquatch, etc.). Tropes like “creepy child” or “disturbed cult leader” may be necessary to tell your DOW2016 story. Just keep your characterizations fresh and three-dimensional and you should be able to avoid the “seen it” trap.

As to gore level, we’d far rather know what’s going on inside a character’s head than to see it on a pike. We want to be disturbed, unable to shake your story and compelled to leave on every light in the house after reading it.


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. Remember: no attachments.


Post any questions you have about the contest in our DOW thread at the forums or tweet them to @toasted_cheese (hashtag: #tcDOW16) or email them to the editors. Please do not include any part of your entry in the thread or email and be wary of including information that might identify your story. If you need to contact an editor with a more specific DOW tweet, please send your Twitter DM to one of these editors: @theryn @amandamarlowe @deoris1 @unanalike. Questions or messages posted to or sent through Facebook will not be seen as quickly as questions sent via other methods and may not be answered in a timely way.


Entries are blind-judged by Baker & Billiard. Decisions are final. Winners are announced January 31.

Winning stories are published in the March issue of Toasted Cheese.

If 50 or fewer eligible entries are received, first place receives a $20 Amazon gift card, second a $10 Amazon gift card, and third a $5 Amazon gift card**.

If 51 or more eligible entries are received, first place receives a $25 Amazon gift card, second a $15 Amazon gift card, and third a $10 Amazon gift card**.


Before submitting, don't forget to send your story to Professional Editing & Literary Services and take advantage of our Contest Package!




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