by Sheri Levy
GENRE: Contemporary Young Adult
Trina Ryan’s challenging summer starts off with puppy-fueled energy burst as she takes on another service dog for training-an eight-week-old black Labrador named Colton. And to help explore another dream, she’s taken a job at the barn next door in exchange for riding lessons with the barn’s schooling horse. It doesn’t take long for Trina to butt heads with Morgan Hart, an award winning rider with a gorgeous thoroughbred named Knight- and a demanding, nasty demeanor with both people and her horse.
Adding to the list of frustrations is the difficulty in maintaining a long distance relationship with Chase, her first boyfriend from last summer, while trying to deal with unwanted attention from a new boy in her puppy training class.
At least best friend Sarah still has her back, but Trina wearies of Morgan’s constant insults and her heartless treatment of Knight, she decides to use her dog training skills to look underneath Morgan’s hostile attitude and develop a sense of trust.
Slowly, Morgan’s angry shield cracks enough to where she’s able to share a troubling family secret. Can Trina help Morgan confront her family problems and make a fresh start?
At three o’clock in the morning, I sat with my butt squished against the wall on the hard tile floor, my forehead resting on bent knees. I’d given up going back to bed and waited for Colton’s next outburst.
Seconds later he whined. I lifted my head as his nose poked out of the crate, sniffing. He tilted his head and toddled toward me. His tail beat back and forth. After a quick pee on the clean newspapers, he crawled onto my lap.
He put his front paws on my shoulders, and his dark eyes flirted mischief.
I smiled. “Ms. Jennifer and Mom warned me you’d be waking up all night.”
Colton’s ears drooped, and I stroked his velvety fur. Cradling his plump body, I buried my face in his fuzz. I inhaled his toasty puppy smell, trying hard not to think about Sydney, the first service dog I trained.
Sydney had come to me when his family moved away from South Carolina. At six-months-old, he was trained in his basic needs. He even slept through the night.
During our beach vacation, Sydney had worked his special magic with Logan, a young boy with autism. My best friend Sarah and I had met his cute older brothers, Peyton and Chase.
Sydney and I had snuggled on our last night and I’d told him about my memories of our year together.
In the morning, I’d clenched my teeth behind a fake smile and returned him to be matched to his forever companion.
Minutes before leaving the facility empty-handed, large, brown puppy eyes from the nursery had connected with mine. I’d decided to train another.
Eight-week-old Colton was a blank slate. I would be his first and only foster momma until he turned eighteen months old.
Colton nosed me again. He lifted his chocolate brown eyes to mine, and warmed the achy parts of my heart.
Way back when, I grew up in a little town called Bellflower, thirty minutes from the beach, in Southern California. My next door friend, Linda, and I played hide and seek up and down the street until dark. We rode our bikes to the community swimming pool. We even walked to school. Life was safe in those days.
After trying many hobbies, twirling a baton caught my interest. At age thirteen, I started teaching others. I had three different age groups for marching in parades; pee wees, elementary-school age, and a senior group for middle school and high school girls. Since I competed in solo competitions, I taught other solos to compete. It was fun making up routines, and seeing others progress in their skills. This was my way of earning an income.
I twirled with the high school band and in college during football and basketball half-time shows. I continued teaching baton even after I married. I had no other skills, but I knew I wanted to teach Special Ed. I enrolled in evening classes and worked during the day as a teachers-aide with mentally handicapped children. After graduating from California State University, Northridge, I continued to earn three teaching credentials and started teaching a multi-handicapped class as my youngest child entered school.
After retiring from teaching, I had made out my bucket list of things I still wanted to tackle. Writing was first on my list. I had written articles for the high school newspaper, and later when we travelled I kept a journal, but I had never thought about writing a novel. I took classes, joined SCBWI, and worked hard on learning the craft. I wrote a magazine article about a boy with his service dog. Scent with Love, was published in Clubhouse magazine, 2010, and won an award with the Dog Writers Association. That experience gave me the confidence to continue writing.
I spent years working on my first novel and finally put it in a drawer. Then I restarted and two years later I had completed Seven Days to Goodbye and started submitting. When I received an email from Barking Rain Press, telling me she wanted to offer me a contract, I was beyond thrilled!
Seven Days to Goodbye is full of dog memories and experiences on Edisto Beach and included a child with autism. Since I had worked with many types of special needs, I wanted to write about service dogs. I found a non-profit organization, PAALS, (Palmetto Animal Assisted Live Services), and they have helped me write the correct information. Doing school visits with a PAALS volunteer and service dog, is a wonderful way to get the students involved in my story and learn about special needs. In turn, I share my book proceeds with PAALS.
The sequel, Starting Over, is due, August 1st, 2017. This novel follows Seven Days to Goodbye, but has new challenges and obstacles. Once again, I have used memories from students who had dysfunctional families. It was fun creating new conflicts, adding horseback riding, and continuing Trina’s first–time romance.
When I teach writing workshops at schools, I love to demonstrate creative ways to experiment with writing. But the most important topic for me to tell the students is, “Do Not Give Up. Your voice is different from any others. You have a story to tell that no one else can share!”
I make a special attempt to explain to the students, if you want to write you need to read. My favorite story setting is on the beach. But I enjoy reading contemporary dramas, historical stories, time travel and action stories. If there is a dog involved it will hook me immediately.
On my website, click on the PAALs trailer. It is a wonderful way to learn about service dogs and how they change lives.
Sheri S. Levy is the author of an award-winning debut novel in her series, Trina Ryan’s Dogs in Training. Seven Days to Goodbye, won in 2015, and her magazine article, Scent with Love, won in 2011, with the Dog Writers Association in the Special Interest category. She is an active member of SCBWI and SIBA.
After a twenty-five-year teaching career in special needs, Sheri remains active with tutoring teens in reading and writing. PAALS, (Palmetto Animal Assisted Living Services), has helped with her research on writing about service dogs and how they change lives. Sheri, in turn, shares her book proceeds to support PAALS.org.
Sheri enjoys doing author visits and teaching writing workshops. When she is not writing, she reads, plays with her two dogs, listens to music, and hangs out with her husband and family.
You can find more information on her website. www.sherislevy.com; and Facebook, Sherislevyauthor; Twitter, @SheriSLevy
Sheri Levy will be awarding a $15 Barking Rain Press GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
a Rafflecopter giveaway