Grip of the Hawk

Grip of the Hawk

by Brenda Schaeffer


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Psychiatrist Rachel Julian has what many dream of—a booming career, an enviable relationship, a joy-filled life—until a bloody premonition warns her that she is in danger. As terrifying threats unfold, her perfect life tailspins out of control. Armed with nothing but her intuition and determination to stay alive, Dr. Julian steps into unknown realms and meets a succession of otherworldly teachers who tell her that beyond the human threats, she has been lured into a spiritual war. To survive, Rachel must fight an enemy she can't even see in a reality many wish did not exist.

Awards: Grip of the Hawk

Gold Winner: 2017 Human Relations Indie Book Award- Life Passage Realistic Fiction

Honorable Mention Winner: 2017 Human Relations Indie Book Awards-Life Journey Fiction

The Human Relations Indie Book Awards recognizes authors who have written books with a creative human relations focus in both fiction and non-fiction. Winners are from diverse backgrounds whose story demonstrates the value of human relationships whether in a work, cultural, or personal life setting.

Silver Award Winner: 2018 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards)-Visionary Fiction

The 2018 Annual IPPY medal-winning book awards was celebrated on May 29th during the annual Book Expo publishing convention in New York City. This year's contest drew 4500 entries, and medals went to authors from 43 states, 6 Canadian provinces and 12 countries abroad. The awards, conceived in 1996, reward those who exhibit courage, innovation, and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing.

Silver Award Winner: 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards-Inspirational Fiction

The 2018 Indie Book Awards was held in New Orleans in June during the National Library Conference. Referred to as the 'Sundance of the publishing world', this award draws leaders from both traditional and independent publishing and is the largest not-for-profit book award program recognizing and honoring the top international independently published books of the year.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504384544
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 08/25/2017
Pages: 306
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.69(d)

Read an Excerpt


All love stories are adventures, burning with a fiery passion that annihilates you and challenges you to a new life. To attempt to control love is akin to telling the sun to stop melting snow. If you are looking for a neat little story, then you should stay away from love.

"What's wrong, Mama?"

It was that empty, distant stare again. The one that told me she felt sad. Again. She continued gazing out the kitchen window — at what, I did not know.

"Everything's fine, Honey."

I knew she was lying. A closed bedroom door did not hide her fight with my dad. I hated that she would not stand up to him.

I handed her a dandelion ring bracelet. "I love you, Mama. Everything's going to be okay."

She turned, accepted my gift, and radiated a warm smile. "Thank you, Rachel. I don't know what I'd do without you."

My five-year-old chest swelled with pride. I beamed back. I didn't want her to leave me. Ever. She was love represented, the kind of love that says, "You are okay no matter what you do." The love that says, "You're safe with me." The love that says, "Be whatever you want to be, Rachel."

Mama's tenderness put my world in order that day, and whatever fear I possessed went away. But as a child, I could not perceive that the comfort I offered her was not the result of some magical power I possessed. Instead a myth was birthed: "I have the power to make Mama — and perhaps everyone — feel good by what I say and do." Moreover, I believed I had to do so to feel safe and cared for.

She liked it when I stood up for her. Sometimes, shaking in my boots, I told my dad to stop talking to her the way he did. A glaring tightness in his eyes let me know he disapproved. "Watch your tongue, young lady." More times than not he would revert to silence, glare coldly at me, and leave the room. But I never knew for certain what would happen next. He had power. My young mind concluded: "When love and power are out of balance, bad things happen." I wanted both.

"You sure have sisu, Rachel," Mama chuckled.

"What's sisu, Mama?"

"Sisu is a Finnish word that has no equal in the English language. It means you have verve, determination, courage, daring, and believability." As a child, I grasped the sound of the word sisu more than the meaning of her words. It felt good.

A bit of a mystic, Mama taught me how to be quiet and listen attentively to the silence and wonder of nature. "It's like being in church," she said. "The awe you're experiencing, Rachel, is the beginning of knowing that Source without a source." Of course, she meant God. "God is everywhere in the forest."

"I believe you, Mama, but how can God be in a mosquito?"

She glowed a deep from-somewhere-else expression. "Everything has a purpose, Rachel, even if we don't understand what that purpose is. Someday you'll know what I mean."

And then I grew up waiting for "someday."

In medical school, Professor Payne said it best.

"You have to ask yourself why in the world you want to be a psychiatrist. It's one of the most demanding, sometimes thankless, jobs in the world. One day you'll be put up on a pedestal and the next day someone will knock you down. It's a love-hate career. Believe me, you'll trigger every neurosis in your patient's psyche."

He minced no words, and I liked his directness. That is, until he posed the question to me.

"Rachel, how did you end up in psychiatry?"

I thought back to young Rachel. "Well, Dr. Payne, it seems I've been caring for people all my life, starting with my mother. In my youthful grandiosity I thought I could control how she felt. Or, protect her." A knowing laughter filtered through the room. The other students were kids once, too. "I don't know if it's intuition or survival, but by age five I could pretty much predict what people needed." As soon as I said it, my answer felt incomplete. "Honestly, Dr. Payne, it's more than that. It just feels right to be in the helping field. I can't quite explain it. It's like something inside is telling me to do this."

"That's a pretty decent answer, Rachel." He stopped and his eyes pierced into my psyche as if he could see everything in it. The unnerving look of analysis left me feeling raw, and it suggested that he, as the analyst, knew me better than I knew me. "Do you want a piece of advice, Rachel?" I did — and did not. I nodded. "Learn the difference between caretaking, that is, taking care of people's feelings, and healthy caregiving to people. It'll save you many a headache and heartache."

He returned his attention to the class at large. "Some say a person chooses the field of psychology because he has questions about his own psychological makeup. That's not all bad. You're not ready to treat patients until you get your personal — excuse the language — 'shit' together. If you don't, you'll find yourself dumping it on a patient, and you won't even know it. Or you'll have blind spots and not see what's right in front of you. Never, under any circumstances, think you're better than the patient you are treating. We're all together in this imperfect human life, and we each experience our share of brokenness."

I liked his refreshing human element.

"Now, this is what I believe, students. As children, we didn't start out messed-up. We are, after all, born free spirits. Nevertheless, the sponges that we were, we sopped up the dysfunction around us or figured out a safe way to live with it. For example, if, in our family, anger was taboo or frightening, we learned to stuff it. If someone was envious of our talents, we held back. If we were taught that someone else held the key to our happiness, we searched for that mythical someone. The problem, students, is that these patterns become a way of life without our realizing it. We become a mere shadow of who we're born to be. Think back to your earliest years. What were you like?"

He spoke the truth. Early on, my mother supported my "free spirit." She wanted me to do the things she wanted to do but, in her mind, believed she could not. I had been passionately alive, unafraid of exploring all that life had to offer in both the light and the dark — watching the sunrise, breathing in the deep, earthy, morning air, stealing a green apple from a tree that had too many anyway, or saying forbidden words while sitting under a neighbor's porch with friends. It didn't matter that my sister tattled on me, and Dad greeted me in the evening with, "Rachel, go to your room." It felt like a game. Mama said go. Dad said stop.

"Slowly but surely," Professor Payne went on, "we began to limit our youthful inquisitiveness. Not unlike other children, we used our intuition to psyche out what authority figures expected of us in order to assess what generated smiles and what put on frowns. Our ego did what was necessary to get loving attention, and to keep people close by. Or, when they were not safe, keep them at a distance. We gave up parts of our self and defined our self from the outside in because we knew of no other way to care for our self. We placed our soulful self on temporary hold."

Professor Payne paced in front of the room before continuing. At times, he seemed more philosopher than psychiatrist.

"We — me, you, patients — create a story from our experiences that gets shoved down into the subterranean mind called the unconscious. Our drama becomes the lens through which we view the world and through which we believe others also view the world. In some odd way, we feel safe in our little world. The drama is really a facade, of course. It's the outer shell covering the vulnerable seed of raw individuality we were protecting. Secretly, we believed that there would be a time of ripening when we ripped through the shell and came into our own. In the meantime, we exist in a self-designed theatrical production and memorize our lines. In addition, because we don't want to be lonely, we draw in other actors. Our story becomes a way of life until something or someone turns us upside down and we realize that our life's been a dream — and at times a nightmare.

"The good news, students, is that since, psychologically speaking, we write our own story, we get to change the story lines. That's if we can see we're in a story. We get to write a completely new curriculum that says life and love are not easy. It says to hold tight to our happiness and pull out the weeds of our proverbial garden. It teaches the concept of tragic optimism — to make something meaningful out of evil and suffering. Above all, the new curriculum says to let no one, under any circumstances, extinguish our light."

I imprinted Dr. Payne's pragmatic, philosophical, and prophetic wisdom in my mind. It would be the beacon of light I would rely on as I ventured excitedly into the next phase of my life as a Doctor of Psychiatry.

I got sidetracked from my career dream with the arrival of a compelling second dream, a more personal and usual dream of falling in love, getting married, and having children. Being in love with Craig Julian had all of the right ingredients, chemicals going off in all the right parts of the brain — Eros, amour, and bonding. This was going to be the "happily ever after" promised in all fairy tales. For a period of time, the fantasy remained alive.

Early in our marriage, Craig entered the world of business in Chicago and became deeply involved in climbing the corporate ladder, doing so quite successfully. Our daughter, Sarah, was born first, followed in short order by our son, Trent. They were two lively blessings who filled every space in my heart. My life seemed as close to perfection as I had imagined. My wife-and-mother roles intact, I returned to my profession as a psychiatrist with an impassioned focus on clinical analysis. I sought to do more than prescribe medications. It seemed I had the best of two worlds: family and career.

I became so involved with my own life that I failed to notice Craig's increased stress load and his means of dealing with it — working more and downing nightly cocktails. As the work pressures escalated, so did Craig's irritability, and soon my career became a thorny issue between us. I quit working, thinking that my concession would blunt Craig's testiness. It did not.

Whether it was work stress, his way of dealing with it, or a weakened heart that caused Craig's premature death at forty-two, I will never know. I did not have time to agonize over the question or try to learn any deep lessons from the relationship. That would come later. In the meantime, it was all about survival and putting two children through high school and college.

In order to jump-start a new life following Craig's death, I returned to St. Paul, Minnesota, where I had grown up. I located the perfect home on a large, serenely private Sun Fish Lake wooded lot only minutes from the city. With a renewed sense of self, and an idyllic setting isolated from urban clamor, I eagerly took on the professional world of psychiatry again.

I met trauma specialist, Dr. Troy Hill, about the time I heard from a publisher responding to a manuscript I had written and submitted on a whim after Craig's death. They had accepted the manuscript, and would publish it the following spring. Up until this time, I had not met anyone who came close to the connection I had with Craig. I was cautious about entering any dating relationship. A mutual friend introduced me to Troy at a professional conference in Chicago. Indifferent at first, I declined his dinner invitation. The next day he tried again.

"Dr. Julian, I insist you let me take you to dinner." With a wink, he added, "I don't know if I can handle you rejecting me a second time."

The lightness of his mood — and his determination — persuaded me to take a second look at him. He stood a slim five foot eleven inches tall, with hair as black as Craig's was blonde. His dimples were carved deep in his cheeks, and when he smiled, they seemed to smile all on their own. More than physically attractive, Troy's cerulean blue eyes conveyed a peaceful and inviting disposition. I liked him, and the glint in his eyes gestured that it was mutual.

"Why not? What harm can it do?" I asked in good humor.

"I can't think of any reason not to," he responded in kind.

That dinner was the first of many. Each time we met, a few more intimate details of his life came out. "I hope this doesn't scare you off, Rachel, but I do suffer from post-traumatic stress. I was bruised by a war that made no sense to me, and by a wife who left me for another man while I was off fighting it."

A pause indicated his mind had traveled back in time. As a professional, I understood the complexities of the PTSD diagnosis, including easily drifting off and having difficulty trusting life and people. Was he warning me?

"Well, I'm sorry to hear that. But, no, it doesn't scare me off."

"Not to worry. I've done a lot of trauma work," he quickly added in a manner suggesting he had read my mind. "Part of my trauma training required it. I guess we gravitate to what we need to learn." His dimples smiled again as we moved on to more uplifting topics — our families. He listened attentively as I proudly told him about Sarah and Trent.

We began a long-distance relationship between St. Paul and Chicago, and the initial period of our relationship embodied everything ever written about romantic love. We didn't miss out on any of the "new-crush" stuff that goes with a new romance — losing track of time when together, appreciating life and everything in it, mental fuzziness — but, being realistic professionals with problematic relationship histories, we knew very well that real love lasted longer than the chemical reactions that fade in time. That knowledge took us to even better places.

This did not feel like an ordinary love relationship. It felt exceptional. We fell into each other naturally, like we had known each other forever. It felt like coming home. There were moments when we came together and created something bigger, an enigmatic place that existed as a lacing together of two unique souls called "us." The merging was a mystical stepping inside of one another, but without losing a sense of self. We were in a deep and profound love bubble. Arguments were rare, and laughter once again permeated both our lives.

"Rachel, I promise you, whatever problems might show up, we'll work out. I'm not leaving."

His certitude proclaimed, the relationship felt solid and certain, and I gave it my all.

As our relationship progressed over the next year, it seemed only logical that one of us had to move to the other's location. Troy preferred the peace and quiet of my secluded home in Minnesota to the noise of Chicago. By this time, my book had been published, my practice had increased, and finding myself on a larger stage, I needed help. Troy was an advocate, and adamant about making my life easier. The realization of my hopes and dreams was thrust upon us both.

"Troy, I think it's time to open the clinic we've been fantasizing about. What do you think?"

"Let's do it, Rachel. The thought of working together excites me. Plus, it'll give me legal footing while waiting for the stamp of approval to practice in Minnesota. There's not much I can do without a license."

Confident and electrified, I negotiated a lease in a downtown St. Paul building, a dark sandstone-fronted building whose upper floor had once housed F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing office — when he could afford to pay the rent. The second floor seemed perfect: it had a welcoming lobby and warren of office spaces that would be ideal for our imagined therapist and support staff. Troy was impressed. He bought into the dream immediately, and sitting at the upscale Italian restaurant on our building's first floor, we began to plan our collaboration.

One hitch stood in the way, however. With newly-earned royalties, I had the start-up assets necessary to sign a two-year lease. Troy did not. This remained a touchy topic for me, given my history with Craig, and I wanted to circumvent any potential problems or hurt feelings. I determined to broach the unpleasant subject that evening at dinner.

"Be upfront with me, Troy," I whispered to him with obvious nervousness. "Are you really okay with the clinic being under my corporate umbrella?"


Excerpted from "Grip of the Hawk"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Brenda Schaeffer.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Grip of the Hawk 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Lisa_Renee More than 1 year ago
Gripping story filled with suspense, intrigue and adventure! The intensity and drama weave in and out of a curious spiritual journey the protagonist takes the readers through while she's trying to find truth, safety and answers to why someone is trying to cause her harm. How can she protect herself from someone or something...when she doesn't know who is trying to hurt her....or why? Not only is the mystery compelling, but the spiritual adventures create a curious sense of wonder! Stirring, intriguing and a wonderful read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel is chillingly real. One could imagine what it would be like to face the same challenges. I love that it has a strong female protagonist. She is not helpless, but rather finds the tools and guidance she needs to grow her soul and protect herself against attack. She finds help in many forms, all within the divine timing from the Universe. Ultimately, she overcomes all that she is challenged with in an inspiring triumph of the Spirit!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An intriguing and fascinating read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is smartly written and an engrossing intrigue. Dr. Rachael takes us along on her spiritual journey as she faces unimaginable enemies. Take the journey with her!
Jodi Beckstrom More than 1 year ago
A mesmerizing saga you not only can’t put down, you’ll pick it back up again and again to reread segments that spoke to your soul…as did I. The way Dr. Schaeffer writes of Rachel is at once captivating, empathetic, instructive and then liberating. You’ll be so glad you picked it up.