January: a two-headed beast of a month

January is a strange beast, loved and loathed. Loathed for its short days, often dark and drizzly with a chill that penetrates the bones, it seems to drag on for ever ─ when will payday ever come? But it also represents hope and fresh challenges. Named after Janus, the Roman god of doorways, of entrances and exits, whose two faces looked to the future and the past, it came to symbolise beginnings, as well as endings. A month to plan for the year ahead, time to take stock and move on? Or reflect on the past, embrace the unsettling atmosphere of the first month of the year and snuggle up with literature to complement the mood.

Gothic fiction is the perfect companion for wintering down: the yellow gloom, harsh mountainous and Arctic landscapes of Frankenstein; the red room in Jane Eyre, the windswept moors in Wuthering Heights with the ghost of Cathy scratching at the casement window. Du Maurier’s short story ‘Don’t Look Now’ (possibly even more terrifying in Nicholas Roeg’s film version) set in dank, gloomy Venice is a compelling, psychological thriller ─ and then there are the classic ghost stories, such as Dickens’s ‘The Signalman’ and M.R. James’s ‘Oh Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.’

The first full moon of 2023 was a Wolf Moon, so called because it was believed that wolves howled more intensely during that period.  A few years ago, Jude Higgins wrote ‘Wolf Moon’, a compelling story about a massive wolf cull in the 13th Century that wiped out nearly all the wolves.

What will your January story be?

Stories of all genres, up to 2200 words, are welcome now so get writing. Full details are on our entry page.

Jane Riekemann