As I wrote in 2020, Japan is more about the New Year than Christmas when it comes to major holidays. Christmas is for going out on dates, though I have some friends who are putting up trees and giving their kids gifts.
The days surrounding January 1st are for hunkering down at home, going on vacation, or visiting relatives. Most shops and restaurants are closed until about January 4th, and even trash pickup is delayed until around then.
It all means careful planning in the countdown to January 1st. That means a lot of people do major house cleaning right up until trash is no longer picked up so their house can be nice and clean for the new year, and hopefully there will be fewer things that need to be thrown out while the workers doing the vital job of collecting trash can take a break.
It also means stocking up on food. I just visited a grocery store I normally frequent, and it was packed far more than usual with people trying to stock up before the grocery store closes tomorrow afternoon until January 3rd.
I think I should mention that not all stores follow the tradition of being closed for days on end. Convenience stores, for example, usually stay open, and a lot of shopping centers have insane sales that start sometimes on January 1st. For the smaller stores, however, expect shuttered storefronts for a while.
I loved grabbing a box of wagashi called nerikiri and a box of mikan on my way to the checkout at the grocery store, full of hope that I can sit on my couch with a nice warm blanket and nibble my way through both boxes over the next few days.
I’m really excited to announce I had a short story published called “Fading” in an anthology by Quill & Crow Publishing House that they have called Bleak Midwinter: The Darkest Night.
I got the idea for this story when I was having a particularly bad day and needed a place to vent all the gloomy thoughts floating around in my head. I think when faced with similar dark moods, some people turn to snacks on the couch with a good movie or book, or maybe painting or just going for a walk – I write.
I know the anthology is supposed to be gothic scary, and it is, but mostly the story I wrote is dark and sad as it charts the slow degredation of a man’s sanity because of grief and loss.
The setting is from a book I hope to have published one day about the USA nearing the end of a second civil war. I wrote the book quite a long time ago, but it still seems to be quite relevant, unfortunately.
The story in this anthology takes place near the beginning of that second civil war and briefly mentions life just before and immediately at the beginning, which was fun for me to imagine.
Winter can be a dark and miserable time for a lot of people, and I hope this story might be a way for them to vent such feelings, too. I think we all need a catharsis every now and then.
For me, writing feels a lot like a disease at times. Or maybe an addiction. When I have a story idea in my mind, my thoughts are completely absorbed in the story.
I could be doing something as simple as washing the dishes when an idea will attack me. It feels like someone is sneaking up behind me and strapping a VR set over my eyes that puts me right into the world I’m building. The VR set tends to also show me pieces of the story I hadn’t even thought of yet, and I’ll end up running for a pen and paper to write the idea down before I forget it, hands dripping wet and covered in dish soap.
I hate this kind of half-life when I have other things I need to get done, like daily life. It’s a bit debilitating trying to just go about your daily routine while being randomly attacked by story ideas and progressions to your story. Thus, whenever the attack happens, I try to write everything down as soon as I can so I can get back to my life.
The only part I like about writing it getting to read over it when I’m done. There’s a kind of quiet, scary awe I feel whenever I finally finish writing something. Finally, I’m done writing.
I’m in the middle of writing a book, and just when I think I’ve finally finished, the VR set covers my eyes and shows me something else I hadn’t added yet. I’m hoping it’ll be over soon, though I have to say I love what I’m seeing so far. Call it pride, but I think if you don’t love what you write, who will?