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Dec 14

In August I wrote a blog about how I had finished the first draft of my book. Four months later I sent it to the publisher. I hope this time, finally, I am done with it.

The first draft is the first draft of course, as stupid as that sounds. Two months later it was ready to go. The problem was the Americans. Not every American you understand, just those who play for the national football / soccer team. They were the people responsible, the culprits if you will, because they didn’t qualify for the World Cup.

So I had to write three new sections for the book, then edit those. It’s done, once and for all. Though probably not quite. Because we have had to rename it, redo the cover, rejig things, it means they will probably end up switching around some of the chapters and changing the order and such. Thus things I refer to as the reader already having read will come later. So my guess is there will be bits and pieces still to tidy up.

But to all intents and purposes, it’s finished. It’s been a labour / labor of love for sure, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I am glad it’s completed. Writing books take up a lot of your time, especially when they involve researching a tournament that’s been going on for almost a century.

So Christmas is fast approaching, January has me deep in soccer-coaching season, February brings Mardi Gras. Then maybe I’ll get my head up and see what happens next. Some changes down the line I feel.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone,

S

Nov 13

I don’t normally do this. I’ve had this site around eight years, and I’ve written (I think) a blog every month, so that’s probably close to 100 pieces. But today for the first time, I’m just going to post something I wrote for the Chelsea website. Because I’m so disappointed. Here it is:

I got 10 out of 10 in the World Cup quiz posted on the Chelsea website. It’s no consolation to what has been a crushing end to the tournament’s qualification campaign.

Last month the United States were eliminated when they lost to Trinidad & Tobago, even though the Caribbean nation were bottom of the CONCACAF hexagonal section. Despite the defeat, America would still have made at least a playoff unless both Panama and Honduras upset the region’s top two countries Mexico and Costa Rica. Both giant killers managed it, Panama benefiting from a ridiculous referring call when a shot did not cross the line, but they were awarded a goal anyway.

A similar egregious decision went against Northern Ireland in the European playoffs. Switzerland were awarded a penalty in the first game in Belfast when the Romanian official adjudged that Blackburn midfielder Corey Evans deliberately handled the ball in the box. Not only was his back turned and his arm not in an “unnatural” position, the ball didn’t even strike his arm but hit him on the shoulder! In three hours over two legs the spot-kick was the only goal. It sent the Ulstermen out of the World Cup.

The 2005 Champions League semifinal against Liverpool was decided by a debatable single goal at Anfield, a shot by Luis Garcia that was deemed to have crossed the goal-line. It was the first time I can remember hearing the term “ghost goal,” José Mourinho meanwhile memorably calling it, “a goal that came from the moon.”

But as unjust as the decision seemed that night – and indeed still does more than a decade later – it didn’t have the same finality about it. Since then we have reached the knockout stage of that competition four times, the quarterfinal once, enjoyed a trio of semifinal appearances, made it to the final, and of course, wonderfully, magically, the Blues have lifted the trophy. Call it arrogance or entitlement if you like, but every year I expect Chelsea to qualify for the biggest club tournament on earth. Progress to anything less than the last 16 is is a disappointment.

In contrast, Northern Ireland’s absence from the World Cup is going to stretch until at least 36 years, and probably longer than that. It was 1986 the last time we qualified, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s decades until we do it again. Hopefully they manage it once before I die.

So welcome back to the Premier League and good riddance to the international break. I desperately need football to cheer me up. A personal message to Chelsea – please make sure we beat WBA and their three Northern Irish players McAuley, Evans and Brunt this weekend.

Oct 26

Unbelievable. Really, truly, spectacularly unbelievable.

I know that we live in a world full of hyperbole, in which commuters threaten to kill themselves if they can’t find a decent parking spot near their office, but the Americans failing to qualify for the World Cup is… well, I’ve made my feelings clear.

It never, ever occurred to me that they would not make the finals. I emailed back and forth with my publisher, and if truth be told, it suited my narrative and first chapter if there was a bit of a struggle to make it (conflict you see, should be at the heart of any strong story). But I was 100 percent sure all the way through they were going to save the day at the end. How they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory was a failure of staggering magnitude.

So now I have a book that needs a new title, a new cover, a new chapter and a rewritten introduction. Fantastic. More work and it is going to sell about 14 copies.

So that news, that happened while I was in Belfast visiting my family, maybe sorta kinda tarnished what was a great trip across the Pond. I saw Chelsea three times in a week, I watched the Saints at Wembley, I met my friend to watch his team Nottingham Forest, and I went to the new stadium in Northern Ireland for the World Cup qualifier against the world champions Germany.

Ironically Northern Ireland still have a (small) chance of making the 2018 tournament in Russia while the biggest football / soccer-playing country on the planet are out. So keep your fingers crossed…

Sep 11
We have just come back from our second annual writers’ retreat at the beach. It was great.
Actually, there is an important distinction between this year and last year. Last year, it was a writing retreat. This year it is a writers’ retreat. See the difference? Last year we came to write. It was the first time we had organised anything like this and we made an effort to make it worthwhile. We put aside hours to write, we had discussions, we read each other’s stuff and talked about it.
This time it wasn’t quite the same. Basically we went to the beach. But because we are all writers we were able to call it a writers’ retreat. There was nothing organised.
I am firing away with the second draft of my World Cup book and I was hoping to get some work done on that. I got less accomplished than I had hoped thanks to a broken laptop, but I did get plenty of other writing course work done. Just not work on my book.
But it was fun as always, three nights in a beautiful condo overlooking Pensacola Beach. I didn’t get to watch Chelsea play on Saturday but you can’t have everything.
I did also get some work done on planning for my trip home. Next week I’m headed across the Pond, and in a strange turn of events I’m going to be in England longer than I’m going to be in Northern Ireland. Visiting friends, watching Chelsea… I’m really looking forward to it. I will get to go home as well and see my family and catch up with my mates so yeah, excited for my first trip home in over a year.
But first… I need to get this work done. So if you excuse me, I’m off to edit a book. Maybe by next month I’ll be finished. Hope springs eternal, right?
Aug 05

I finished the first draft of my next book. Hurrah!

It came in at more than 90,000 words. I then had the bright idea of checking my contract, and then emailing my publisher, and they only want 50,000. Hahaha! I probably should have done that before I wrote the thing…

So the bad news is that my magnum opus is twice the length it needed to be. I didn’t need to spend as long on it or do as much research as I did. But the good news is that – in theory – it should be easier to edit. I am going to need to chop everything in half – not quite, but almost – so I hope that will make the book stronger.

I took a week, 10 days, off as it was my daughter’s birthday. But from Monday I will be launching into the edit and my goal is to get the second draft completed by the start of September. Labor Day? Hopefully. We shall see. But at least the hard part is done and it should all be free and easy plain sailing from here and… no, not really, but I’m certainly feeling a lot better about it than I was two months ago. Funny what you can do when you put your mind to it.

Just a month left of summer. I need to get things organised for my next three writing courses, two of which will begin in September and the other in October when I come back from my visit home. I’ll launch into that side of my professional life on Monday as well. Probably.

In my personal life it has been a time of change, adjustment and deep introspective self-examination. Kinda. Sorta. But change is good, right? Life sometimes needs to be shaken up and looked at from a different angle to stop you getting stale. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

So wish me luck and I will set myself the goal of not blogging next month until I’ve draft two complete. “I’m going out. I may be some time…”

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