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Monthly Archives: October 2019

Ahoy there!

The girl got out of the big Audi and apologised for bumping into my car. She told me she’d just written off her previous car a fortnight ago. It was a very low-speed bump and there were no marks on either car but I took some pics anyway and we swapped details .

‘What’s your insurance company?’ I asked.

‘Admire Al,’ she said.

‘Admire Al?’  I wondered who Al was and why he should be admired.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Admire Al.’

Ah, right, I thought.


weapon of choice

Still on the topic of busking. For me, one of the greatest things about sax is its portability. It’s loud and it sounds great and you can carry it on your back. But I’m thinking of moving from alto, which is small, to soprano, which is smaller. It also sounds gorgeous.

Thing is, I’ve had this discussion with myself a few times over the last three or four years. But I’m definitely moving.

From this:






To this:



On the topic of busking in Durham, the people are really nice, but there’s a thin slice of smackheads that hang around too. A while back I was playing and a smackhead couple walked past. The girl gave me a smile and I made the mistake of smiling back. Cue the return of smackhead couple less than two minutes later, with the lad asking me for money for his train fare ‘back to Darlington.’

Then lots of swearing and angry expressions as I turned him down.

Last night was a little easier. I only had one interaction with a denizen of the underclass – I got shoved by a smackhead with face tatts and no legs. He could barely steer his wheelchair and he reached for the bell of my sax, but missed and shoved me leg; he was obviously out of his tree on his drug of choice.

Taken from my ‘spot’ on Diagon Alley/Saddler Street, Durham.

.50 Cal cover

.50 Cal is available in print, with the final cover. Initial cover design by Lucas, edited by Francois.

Click on the image for link or search Amazon for .50 Cal by James Ross:





more Diagon

Of the two cities, Newcastle and Durham, I prefer busking in Durham. It’s cosier, the streets are narrower and the people are generally friendlier. Newcastle is a great place to busk but Durham is just better.

Did a couple of hours in DC tonight. Took a couple of pictures too. Saddler Street, the narrow, cobbled lane that winds up toward the Cathedral, is at least a thousand years old, and very Diagon Alley.

Ollivanders is just up the road and on the left. As you can see, it’s still open.

hidey hog

After advice from a nice lady at a hedgehog rescue centre I wrapped up the wee spiky man in a blanket and placed him in a shoebox in the garage next to a little bowl of water and some dogfood.

She texted me to say I should put a lid on the box to stop him escaping. I went back to the garage to put a lid on the box.  He had escaped. I texted her and said I’d look for him.

‘Good luck with that,’ she said.

I still haven’t found him. Which is a testament to the ‘hogs ability to hide, or a comment on the state of my garage. Both probably.

Hope he’s alright.

hog wild

I have a gorgeous little border terrier called Angus, whom I love dearly. I also have a big garden with trees and shrubs and fences to other big gardens with bigger trees and shrubs. This time of year we get hedgehogs.

Angus hates hedgehogs.

Who could believe this cute little pooch is a psycho killing mayhem machine? Well, me actually. When it comes to attack-mode, he’s got form.

It’s in his nature, he’s bred to fight and kill vermin, and I can’t get angry with him for being true to his nature. Every night I have to go out and shine a torch around the garden to make sure there are no ‘hogs wandering about, then I can safely let him out for a wanfer. But tonight he found one at the back of the shed.

So now I have an injured hedgehog in my garage, lying on a blanket in a shoebox with a bowl of water beside him.I’ve contacted three hedgehog/animal charities and am hoping one will get back to me, though I suspect the little ‘hog will manage, one way or the other.

Angus is very sheepish, he knows he’s not in the good books, so hes gone to bed.



I injured my leg and decided to enroll at a gym to help it get stronger. After three or four weeks I thought I’d maybe get some help via a personal trainer.

On the gym wall were the details of a dozen or more PTs who were available for hire. I chose a bloke because he was a BJJ practicioner, so I thought he’d understand the sort of functional mobility I was after. One phone call later and he agreed to meet me for an hour to do a preliminary session. We met, and he spent ninety minutes trying to sell me an anti-inflammatory diet programme.

For £360/month.

I told him that I paid £16/month for the gym. He dropped his price to £30/month. At no point did we discuss my leg injury or any exercises or techniques I could use to improve it. I have a pathological reaction to the hard sell. I walk. Every time. I’m polite about it but I never sign up. Not ever. If someone offered me £1 million to sign a form and then be given something I really wanted, but I had to sign it Now, I’d say no.

So I said no.

I went back to cycling. Which I’m enjoying very much.




I found myself completely without any form of employment the last couple of months, which is unusual, I usually find some work as a tutor or something that pays enough to allow me to continue my low-rent career as an independent writer.

I like a bit of work because I find I’m more creatively productive when I’m busy doing other stuff. Plus, money, of course.

But I looked back and realised that I’ve been very productive the last couple of months, in fact this year I’ve been extremely productive. I’ve completed two works-in-progress and revised two others:

Dealer No. 1

.50 Cal

the shakers – revised

Shoreline Gold – revised


I tend to have two or three projects on the go at once, all in various states of construction.

All good.


starting a story

I usually start with a line of dialogue and build outwards, trying to work out who is speaking, who they’re speaking to and why, what are the circumstances of the conversation. I start in the middle and I work in both directions to find the story.

Sometimes I start with a title. If I do, I’ll start by working out what the title means, directly and indirectly, and I’ll follow it from there. Sometimes that title disappears, leaving a story behind.

Other times, I start with a character. I ask myself, what are they doing, what are they thinking, who are they, why are they there, and so on? The character will tell me the answer to these questions. It might take some time, and sometimes they remain silent, in which case I might abandon the idea.

St. Claire, from Shoreline Gold, started as someone living alone on a deserted beach far in the north. That’s all I had, so I asked him, why are you here, living alone on a headland in a tiny caravan, miles from the nearest town? What happened to make you want to live here? And the narrative began from that.

Occasionally I see a person and I think, you’ll do. I might only see them for a moment but they stick in my mind. April Speed from Grendel and Stateless was physically based on a girl I only saw once, but she stuck in my mind as a template for someone I could write about. Christopher Jame ‘Babe’ Walker from the same books was based on a guy I knew who was a career criminal. He was very young and very accomplished. He was relentless. He was dead at twenty-five.

There’s no takeaway from this. I can’t tell anyone else how to begin a story. The only thing is, write, and don’t stop writing.