Tommy v Cancer Blog Tour

Good morning!

A bit of a different post from me today.  I thought I’d give you all a break from my rambling to do something a little bit pro-active.  Let me explain…

If you’ve stuck with me since the start of this blog (God bless you if you have), then you’ll know that I found my cancer the day before I met my literary agent.  Well, another author, Tommy Donvaband, is currently going through the same, er, challenges that I am, only he has throat cancer.  There’s a hugely active MG and YA author/reader/reviewer community over on Twitter and they put together a blog tour to raise awareness and support for Tommy.  As an author, a lot of his income comes from talks and school visits, but the treatment he is receiving has robbed him of his voice.  So, the lovely Viv of Serendipity Reviews asked bloggers to review one of Tommy’s books and I offered to be included, as both books and cancer treatment are massive things in my life right now.

So, for my review, I read the first Scream Street book, ‘Fang of the Vampire.’  As a teacher of primary age boys, it was irresistible.  Without too many spoilers, Luke Watson, who is an ‘unusual’ boy himself, is thrown into a creepy neighbourhood, a place where vampires and mummies are the norm.  It reminded me of the Goosebumps books I’d been reading to my students before I finished work, and I kept imagining how I would read it to them…all dramatic pauses and loud bangs.  In fact, it’s first on my list of things to do when I get back to work – I can’t wait to see their reactions!

If you have a reluctant reader in your life, I recommend looking the series up.  It’s definitely a series for little ones to read with a torch under the covers, especially in this stormy weather…

I’d like to wish Tommy good luck and strength for the rest of his treatment…you can do it, though there may be days you feel like you can’t.

There’s some more info about Tommy and the blog tour below, but for now, I’m off for a nap.  Normal (ranty/moany) service will resume later in the week…

Tommy is the author of the popular 13-book Scream Street series for 7 to 10 year olds, published by Walker Books in the UK and Candlewick Press in the US.  His other books include Zombie!, Wolf and Uniform (winner of the Hackney Short Novel Award) for Barrington Stoke, Boredom Busters and Quick Fixes For Kids’ Parties (How To Books), and Making A Drama Out Of A Crisis (Network Continuum).

Tommy lives in Lancashire with his wife and two sons.  He is a HUGE fan of all things Doctor Who, plays blues harmonica, and makes a mean balloon poodle.  He sees sleep as a waste of good writing time.


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What a difference a month makes…

February 2016 was the month that changed my life, in ways that were both devastating and incredible.

First, the good stuff.

After three years of writing (and numerous, numerous rejections), I sent out my second novel to agents. Now, the first time I did this was in May 2015 and after interest from one or two agencies, it pretty much went nowhere. I learnt a lot though and started on a second book, the opening of which earned me a place on the Curtis Brown Creative Writing for Children course. My tutor, Catherine Johnson, and the fourteen other writers on the course were AMAZING. It pushed me into finishing my book and making it better than I could have thought possible. By the end of January I was done. It was finished and ready to go out into the world of agents.

After my first lot of submissions, I knew it could sometimes take months to hear back from an agency…well, not this time! Within ten days I had eighteen agents reading the full manuscript and three offers of representation. It was the stuff dreams are made of! I booked train tickets to London and arranged to meet my now agent, Nicola. I was delighted and couldn’t wait to meet her.

This is where the second part of my story begins.

Valentine’s Day 2016. My lovely hubby and I got the train to London and turned into tourists for the day. That night I jumped in the shower before bed…and found a lump in my breast. We’ve majorly remodelled our house and don’t yet have a shower, so it occurred to me that I could only feel it because I was standing up. I’ve always been aware of checking myself but boobs are generally pretty lumpy things. This was obviously not right though and, as daft as it may sound, my gut feeling was that I had cancer.

Fast forward to February 26th. I was referred to my local breast clinic for an ultrasound, which became a mammogram, which became a biopsy. I was getting fairly certain now what the outcome would be. The staff were amazing throughout and when it all became too much, they sent me home. We returned at 4pm and our worst fears were confirmed. I had not one, but two tumours in my right breast. I can never explain to you how it felt to hear those words and I hope I never see the look as my husband’s face ever again. We got very, very drunk that weekend.

Two weeks have passed since then and, surprisingly, I’m okay. I’ve had my moments but overall I refuse to be anything but positive. I have an amazing life and I intend to keep it that way – this is just a blip that will one day be another story to tell. I’m facing a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery in the next few weeks, followed by chemotherapy. My beautiful, long hair, which I have always been so proud of, is going to fall out. I know it’s only hair, but that news really stung. I’m planning on buying wigs in every colour of the rainbow to compensate.

My family and friends have shown themselves to be the most wonderful people in the world. Over the years I have strived to only surround myself with people who make me happy and I’d like to think the feeling is mutual. Thank you to everyone who has spoken to me, prayed for me, sent out their good vibes to the universe for me…it’s all helping and I would love it if you continued to keep me in your thoughts. Oh, and if you see my hubby out and about (when I can make him leave the house), buy him a pint!

This next year is going to be hard, no doubt about it. It will be painful, tiring and tearful. But I have a life to get back to and a book to get published. 

In short – Cancer, you have f*cked with the wrong woman.