Double Showcase: Book Review & Author Interview | “Red-tailed Hawk” the sequel of “Yellow-billed Magpie” by Nancy Schoellkopf

Posted Tuesday, 25 April, 2017 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a part of the blog tour for “Red-tailed Hawk” hosted by iRead Book Tours. I was thankful to be on the blog tour as I originally participated on the previous release ‘Yellow-billed Magpie’ tour which is when I first read a work by the author. It is a joy to resume where I left off as this is a connected story; a duology if you will. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author Nancy Schoellkopf in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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What I enjoyed about Yellow-billed Magpie:

I happen to love introspective stories – the kind where you can tug yourself inside a person’s soul whilst your soaking inside their life’s journey. Schoellkopf writes inter-personal narrative with a keen insight into an emotional rewinding of memory and the questions which taut you to interlope back against one’s life. She has crafted a story which has it’s own set of pacing and tone; it’s a lovely layout to read, because the paragraphs are chunky and free-form in how their delivered. A novel which is half poetic in it’s centering and artful in it’s descriptive details. You nearly feel this is partially written as a journal, as your peering through a window into Samantha’s life at a rate of acceptance she is giving you to learn of her story.

Ms Schoellkopf’s writings are a bit raw in places and openly vulnerable in others – she gives her characters breathing room to explore their emotions and the inner turmoil they are facing with an openness towards self-reflection. She finds a way to give her characters the ability to think about what they are going through in a way that translates well to the reader about where their frustrations lie and how they sometimes feel immobilised by their fears.

I enjoyed how she broke the narrative into pieces of introspective wanderings, internal musings of a woman’s dreams, and the conversations of dialogue which sparked interactions between her characters. She found a fusion between traditional story-telling and a new hybrid version where the pace of her story has it’s own rhythm and way of giving us an inside view of one woman’s journey towards self-understanding and acceptance of what her life is providing her to live through. She’s questioning everything and anything in order to make herself rooted in her experience. Taking out what she hopes is self-assurance and reconstructive criticism to rebuild her life in a new place that feels more like home than where she last laid her hat.

Schoellkopf is writing about how sometimes the journey which leads you backwards is the only method you can take to move forward. Within this space of time, is where the most learning and awakening of spirit can happen because your on the fringes of arriving inside your future. Curiously, I wrote this last sentiment about the novel chapters before the author had Samantha realise it herself!

-quoted from my book review of Yellow-billed Magpie

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Double Showcase: Book Review & Author Interview | “Red-tailed Hawk” the sequel of “Yellow-billed Magpie” by Nancy SchoellkopfRed-tailed Hawk
by Nancy Schoellkopf
Source: Author via iRead Book Tours

When Mariah Easter encounters a large hawk in her urban midtown neighborhood, her father Charlie is concerned. He can see a wild and mystical path opening before his daughter, a path he himself would never be able to resist. The hawk soon reappears: engraved with its twin on a golden thimble that has been an Easter family heirloom for generations. After the thimble is stolen at a funeral reception, Mariah and her mother Samantha set off on a road trip to find it, a journey that will bring healing to the grieving family and change Mariah's life forever.

Red-tailed Hawk is a coming of age story, the tale of a young woman's quest to discover the source of her own longing and to understand the mystical legacy of her family.

Places to find the book:

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Also by this author: Yellow-billed Magpie

on 11th March, 2017

Pages: 177

Available Formats: Paperback

Converse via: #RedtailedHawk

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My Review of red-tailed hawk:

We become re-acquainted with Samantha from Yellow-billed Magpie, as we arrive in the shoes of her seventeen year old daughter Mariah. Mariah wants to create a special day for her mother on her birthday – going out for her favourite ice cream when she encounters a Red Tailed Hawk and thus setting her course to explore the meaning behind the encounter. Her Dad notices her pensive mood about the hawk sighting and respects that she needs to work out why this encounter has given her so much to think about on her own terms. He understands there are threads in our lives which border on intuition and otherworldly understanding – to where seeing a hawk for instance, can be seen as a sign or an awareness of cluing you into something you need to know or understand. Samantha doesn’t want anyone to fuss over her birthday – no unexpected surprises, just time with her family and hopefully with her friend Craig. She’s learnt a lot from him over the years – especially in how he has a way of knowing about things ahead of their revelations.

I wasn’t expecting Samantha’s husband to be ill, much less die in this installment of the series! They were so happy together – they had a certain kind of relationship where they were each the other half of the others heart. They understood each other and in a way, respected each other’s idiosyncrasies. They loved being Mariah’s parents but more to the point, they loved being married of taking the adventure of life together. It’s quite a shock to realise he’s gone. He was barely in the story before he had to take his exit too, but I was just getting to the point where I was looking forward to him speaking with Mariah about her soul’s journey towards understanding her path and her purpose. It felt like there was a foreshadow about this but instead he had an abrupt exit.

Hyacinth was a charming surprise – Charlie’s sister, Mariah and her brother Dale’s Aunt from the East Coast – she came bearing gifts from the women in the family. Her take-charge attitude vexed Samantha until her best friend Craig reminded her that sometimes people need rein to heal on their own terms and in ways what befit their grieving process. They might differ on how their saying good-bye to Charlie but sometimes you just need people to find their own way through their anguish. Whilst Samantha wasn’t one to readily yield to someone elses needs, she compromised this might be a good turn of mind to embrace especially considering the circumstances.

I truly felt connected to the double hawk engraved thimble Hyacinth bestowed Mariah – the symbolism was enriched by what as left unsaid and in Aunt Hy’s case misunderstood. The artistry of the piece and the dual meaning for both Mariah and Samantha was quite lovely, too. It’s the kind of heirloom you cherish because it was a personal significance even though it’s being passed down generationally. Knowing this would be the lost item in the novel, your heart grieves it’s loss before it’s taken; the joy was seeing how it was described. I regularly meet hawks whilst walking in nature and sometimes, just randomly out and about; as hawks have habitats in and around my city. They seem to appear when needed to be seen and similar to our neighbourhood crows, they can be messengers in of themselves. They never fail to pause my breath and to capture my heart. I’ve stood less than ten feet from a hawk catching it’s breath on a branch, whilst a photographer moved too close to be wise and tried to offer the suggestion to give the hawk it’s personal space. The photographer had a longer walk than I do in such affairs; I happened too close by accident not design. The photographer dared his luck and I send a prayer of apology to the hawk afterwards. Somehow I think the hawk knew who understood the natural world and who had yet to understand the kinetic balance.

Dale is struggling to come to terms with the differences in his upbringing vs Mariah’s; as half siblings, you would never realise they had different mothers. Dale was half Native American but what he had trouble resolving was how Mariah was conceived and loved by parents who were mature enough to accept this newfound responsibility; unlike his own parents, who weren’t quite prepared for his arrival. It sung his heart to realise Mariah had both her parents for longer than he had had his own. Whilst he was coming to terms with his emotional angst, he found being at the funeral to be harder than he realised it would be as he’d have preferred to go his own way; seeking out nature or just being off by himself to settle his thoughts. You feel for him because at point of death, deeply felt emotions have a way of being fuelled into the forefront where previously they were held back from notice.

When the thimble is stolen, I must admit, I wasn’t too keen on the thief who takes it. In fact, it was a bit jolting as the person in question wasn’t someone you’d warm too. I doubt your meant too, as their viewed as a suspicious character and one with a motive your not yet privy to understanding; but evenso. There was something off about this sequence. I thought when it was described the thimble went missing – it was unknown who had taken it. Almost as if it disappeared on it’s own even if you realised someone must have snatched it. This actually was a bit more blunt and violent; at least in the way in which it all goes down. Jarring is another way of putting it. Unsure how I feel about this segue as I was enjoying the back-story Samantha was sharing with Mariah about her unbourne twin. Mariah was piecing together her birth story and the symbolism of the thimble; then out of nowhere this ‘other person’ jolts you into a new thread which makes literally no sense at all.

I was further thrown off course a bit with the story when the thimble is re-stolen; this time in Arizona. In some ways I was wondering if the disappearing thimble was a metaphor or an amulet of change; something which would effectively cause a reaction from Mariah. Her lifepath was altering the further she walked in opposite directions of where the thimble was going next and wherever the thimble seemed to end up next didn’t make logical sense in a rational train of thought. It originated on the East Coast, brought West by Aunt Hy and staid with Mariah in NorCal until it resumed it’s travels in Sedona. This is where Mariah, Aunt Hy, her mother and brother Dale spend time with Dale’s Mum Geneva. There is a sequence of bartering on Mariah’s behalf and of sorting out if this quest for the thimble is percolating a point towards inward self-examination or if the quest to find the thimble is a different kind of quest altogether. A lot of family secrets are pouring out in the midst of everything else going on since the funeral. Secrets kept from Mariah especially who did not fully understand her own ancestral line. Dale was betwixt and betied of his own vexations turning to smoking in an ill-attempt to settle his frayed nerves.

It took me until the mystical elements collided into Mariah’s reality to understand the purpose behind the thimble’s incredible disappearing act. This story read as if it were grounded in our contemporary world rather than the mystical; everything felt as if it were tracking in a real-time mystery surrounding what was befalling the thimble until a critical moment in the last chapters where you realise there is a shift in perspective and understanding of what was really happening. In this way, the reason I was confused despite knowing of a mystical inclusion before I read the novel is because of how the Fantasy elements didn’t completely overtake the contemporary world. They were hidden from sight and if you will, they were shrouded by what could be mistaken for something more ordinary to explain.

One part of the story I did enjoy is the prospect of how sometimes we take a journey in life not to understand the initial destination but to understand why we had to take the journey in the first place. Of by seeking somewhere we better understand what drew us away from where we started the journey itself. Of finding where we might belong or where our spirit feels more at home in the moment we’re granted wings to fly towards that location. Seeking out a path we feel we ought to take and finding the clues along the way to guide us forward is not as easy as taking out a map and marking down an end to the road by which we traverse. It’s honing in on where we are being lead to go next and understanding why we feel we’re meant to be there in the moment we arrive. Yet, when you start a journey, there are too many unknowns to understand even if you thought you understood the purpose behind the quest – there are reasons why the fuller truth remains hidden until you arrive.

The second part of the story I enjoyed seeing explored is how the objects in our lives have their own energy and their own layers of importance in our life. There are certain things we keep around us which speak to our past, our present and our future. Some of these things can be passed down from our immediate family or our ancestors, but what is curious is how our attachment to their presence in our lives says something about us and about our journey whilst we’re alive. Sometimes we do not even realise what is important to us until the day we have to part with them. Other times, we tap into the realisation that whilst we’re walking through our journey, there are certain comforts in seeing things which have a significance to our time on Earth. We infuse the objects which mean something to us with our own living energy and it’s this energy that is felt when something is passed onto someone else. Memories are not the only things which carry an imprint of who are whilst we’re here. The author found a way to tap into universal truths and the journey we all take to better understand why we are here.

Fly in the Ointment:

Wow. The one word I don’t like very much in literature came out of left field on page 58.  I knew the author uses strong language in her stories as there were strong words in the first novel of the series – but just wow. I wasn’t expecting it to be right there in scene. There are several more flutterings and flirtings of stronger words throughout the story; which of course, I wish hadn’t been inclusive. They cut the dialogue quite sharply and I’d rather error on softer words which strike the same punch of emotional angst.

On the writing style of Nancy Schoellkopf:

She definitely keeps you on your toes! I didn’t quite see the funeral mentioned in the synopsis to be Mariah’s father and when I hit that section in the novel, the world felt tilted somehow and turnt over. I was truly expecting the Dad to be in the story for the long haul – however, I also recognised this moment in Mariah and Samantha’s life as being a catalyst of not only change but of self-awakenings where the Mum and daughter could sort things out and potentially understand something quite critical about themselves and the world around them. Tragic moments sometimes have deeper meanings the more distance you put between their arrival and the moments in which you heal outside of them. Everything in life – the joys and the sorrows are part of our lessons as humans walking Earth. It makes sense the sorrow stemming out of this great loss would in effect be a crossroads for a mother and daughter to explore; seeking where their true path would lead them forward.

Equality in Lit:

There is a spotlighting on Asperger’s in the context of Samantha thinking out loud about her husband Charlie’s quirky behaviour patterns and how if you string everything together through a different angle of observation there was cause for seeing he could have lived on the Autistic Spectrum. This was a bit of a shock for his son Dale, but the more Samantha spoke to him about what she observed over the years, the more real it sounded to him. The author handles the subject with sensitivity and explains the reasons why Charlie might have been on the spectrum whilst owning to the fact, despite whether he was or wasn’t he lived a regular life. He was happily married and he raised his children to know he was a loving and proactive father in their lives.

Luisa returns as a correspondent for Dale who finds something in their friendship which was missing in his life. Despite her severe Autism she has learned to live a well-rounded life both personally and professionally. In meeting Dale, through their type conversations, she starts to realise she is transitioning into a new chapter of her life.

reading habit:

Lately, I am finding my reading exploits and adventures are best hooked into #SlackerRadio via headphones which give me this unique soundscape whilst I entreat inside the heart of the writer’s imagination. In this instance, rather than opting for a classical sound or an ambient soundscape – I felt directed to give a new station a whirl: Alternative Deep Dive! I’ve been wicked enthused by their Adult Alternative station but somehow, I wanted a slightly different vibe for reading this story. In effect, as the author writes Introspective narratives and evokes a style of her own within the Magical Realism variant. The songs and the back-beats of the selections helped me stay rooted to the pages whilst enjoying the unusually poignant songs which matched well with the narrative. I love serendipitous moments like these! You might want to give #SlackerRadio a try! The diverse stations and the wide variety of choices of sound and musical influences is what has me enjoying the tunes!

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Nancy Schoellkopf

Nancy Schoellkopf is the author of Yellow-billed Magpie, the first in her Easter Family series. Nancy has been telling stories and writing poems for many lifetimes. It goes without saying that she’d need a second income, so this time around she has happily taught amazing children in special education classes in two urban school districts in Sacramento, California. A full time writer now, she enjoys lavishing attention on her cats, her garden, and her intriguing circle of family and friends.

Site | Facebook | @nanschoellkopf

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As ‘Red-Tailed Hawk’ was inspired by a hawk which visited you in person – after you finished writing the story, did you find yourself in the presence of another hawk? Almost as a touching nod of the journey you took to tell the story as it was inspired? What do you find the most remarkable by the stillness of observing wildlife and the beauty of the ‘moments’ which alight in our lives?

Schoellkopf responds: Wow, such an intriguing question, Jorie. For readers who don’t know, the opening scene of Red Tailed Hawk was inspired by an encounter I had with a large hawk in the middle of my midtown neighborhood—but I was a grown woman walking home after leaving my car at the mechanic’s, and my fictional protagonist Mariah is a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. Mariah’s experience with the hawk sends her on a life-affirming quest, but my experience sent me to grab my notebook and pen.

I thank you for this question because it led me to recall another hawk sighting that happened a year or so ago. I’ve moved from midtown to a house quite near a river levee so I do see hawks and vultures more often now. One morning I watched a hawk being harassed by three smaller, darker birds. Of course they were trying to keep the hawk away from their nests, but they looked like an entourage for a celebrity. The sight led me to write a poem reflecting on the relationship between predators and prey, and our own aversion to the reality of death.  So I guess this second hawk brought me full circle in my writing journey.

One thing I find remarkable about observing wild life is that it brings us back to the mundane and the earthiness of life, the ordinariness of eking out a living and experiencing death. Our contemporary world is so often inauthentic. The river, the jackrabbits and crows, the killdeer frantically trying to protect the eggs she laid in the gravel:  it’s real.

The inspiration for the story parlays on the Mystical – how certain objects can become touchstones and transcend both time and memory. How did you interweave your own interpretation but also pay homage to East of the Sun, West of the Moon? What elements of the Mystical side of your story were your favourites to give visual aide to the reader?

Schoellkopf responds: There are many reasons why I love “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” not least of which is its poetic title. It begins with a beauty/beast scenario: a young woman sent to live with a mysterious talking bear. But her curiosity traps him before the spell is broken and the enchanted prince inside the bear is forced to go live with the trolls in a castle east of the sun, west of the moon. I love that it is the maiden who then saves him with her persistence and cleverness. She is given three treasured objects, but she willingly trades them away to save her beloved. This latter part of the story is the part that influenced me while writing Red-Tailed Hawk.

Thinking about it now, I would say that both my story and the fairy tale speak to the dichotomy between the material and the spiritual worlds. So often traditional religions will teach that things are only things, ultimately unimportant. But I feel we must have respect for the time and effort, the craftsmanship and devotion that goes into making a thing. And yet everything that has form, whether living or inanimate, will eventually break down, change form and/or die, as Mariah discovers in the novel.  So we must learn to hold our loved ones and our treasured possessions lightly.

I can’t say I have a favorite element in my novel. I just followed the story where it led me.

As hinted about in the premise, Mariah’s family are keenly intuitive and sense things others might forsake as something other than foreknowledge – why do you think some families seek what they sense is a directed path whilst others might hesitate to take the first step towards that journey?

Schoellkopf responds: Despite the popularity of slogans like “Trust your heart,” and “Follow your bliss,” it’s actually very unusual for us to teach children how to use their intuition when making decisions. The fictional Mariah had a father who lived in the moment, but was he guided by angels or distracted by sensory integrations issues? Mariah’s mother strove to give her daughter some balance by teaching her rituals for prayer and meditation, which are often gateways to insight. My own mother taught me to say the rosary, which continues to be an important ritual for me.

I was not taught to seek as you say “a directed path,” but simply to trust that I am being led where I need to go, despite appearances to the contrary. I think finding The Path is not something you can make happen. As we’re leading our busy lives, facing deadlines, paying bills, we get distracted; we rely on routines and habits. Later we may be able to look back and realize that every detour was a gift and we were heading in the right direction all along.

Was part of this story inspired by the spirit guides in Native American culture and religion? As Mariah and the hawk are connected to each other in a way that evokes a passage for her to rise into an awareness she was always meant to understand. How did you approach reflecting their bond?

Schoellkopf responds: Although I did consult a book or two on Native American animal lore, I don’t feel learned enough to be able to represent the Native American culture in my books. Red-Tailed Hawk is influenced more by bits and pieces of my own ancestral background, for example, the Irish banshee and Catholic prayers. I’ve also relied on the Eastern notion of the reincarnation of the soul.

After I wrote Yellow-Billed Magpie, a friend suggested I next write a novel about Samantha and Charlie’s baby. I thought (spoiler alert!) the only thing I know about this person is that she had a twin who died in utero. So initially I was exploring the idea that the hawk indeed embodied the spirit of Mariah’s unborn sibling. I started writing and the story took me where it wanted me to go.

As you work with children who face incredible challenges in their daily lives but of whom are teachers in their own rights by the insightfulness they give to others through their unique perceptively in-tune analysis of their lives, did this in turn inspire you to have a character who had autism who could encourage someone to ‘step out’ of their previous train of thinking and re-see the world with a newfound appreciation for ‘things not yet understood’?

Schoellkopf responds: I have to admit that I don’t know anyone like Luisa and Dale in my ordinary, waking, nonfiction life.  When 12-year-old Luisa and her mother Anna moved east at the end of Yellow-Billed Magpie, I did not expect to revisit the relationship of Luisa with her former teacher Samantha. But I must trust my intuition in the creative process. It came to me that this is where the story led, and I had to follow. I do not intend to belittle the difficulties that those with autism face. This fictional relationship expresses my wish that we may all be loved, not for our appearances, but for our authentic selves.

What do you think is the one singular truth about remaining open to possibilities whilst tucking inside the moments which give us hidden dimensions of appreciating things which we might have previously overlooked?

Schoellkopf responds: I don’t know if there is one singular truth, but what comes to mind right now is an idea prevalent in the autism community, and that is “presumption of competence.” In this context, it means family members, teachers, behaviorists, and other helping professionals must presume that a person with an apparent disability may still be just as intelligent, creative, and eager to learn as a person without a disability. For example, a child who is unable to speak may still be able to read and write using a typewriter the way Luisa does in Magpie and Hawk. This is my roundabout way of saying that we must let go of appearances.

My real life friend Craig (who was the inspiration for the fictional Craig) used to tell me that we are all channels for Divine Energy. Sometimes it’s challenging to remember this when we are feeling angry or hurt. I don’t believe we can will ourselves past these feeling. We can only ask for guidance and trust it will be given to us.

What is your favourite place to soak inside the natural world and to find a respite from the ‘world’ whilst drawing back into the presence of those whose natural habitats become a self-renewing sanctuary for those of us who appreciate their acceptance of our footprints in their environ?

Schoellkopf responds: My very favorite place would have to be my own backyard, in the shadow of the river levee, where jackrabbits, possums, and skunks occasionally happen by.  Frequent visitors also include phoebes, killdeer, woodpeckers, western bluebirds, mourning doves, and of course yellow-billed magpies.

I’m also blessed to live close to the Pacific Ocean. Favorite hiking trails and beaches are at Point Reyes and Point Lobos.

Why do you think Magical Realism and Introspective novels give us the most to contemplate whilst finding a retrospective experience as we read to re-align what is being told to us through a character’s journey is in part, reflective of a portion of our own living experience?

Schoellkopf responds: We live in a time when things are changing so quickly that we sometimes feel like foreigners in our own culture. I think Magical Realism connects us back with the ancient art of story as healer and illuminator. It contends that magic is ordinary and mundane, and may be accessed by anyone willing to pay close attention. I think that’s a comforting notion in an anxiety-provoking world.

Thanks for the amazing questions, Jorie!

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Reader Interactive Question:

I look forward to hearing your reactions if you’ve read this novel too

and/or if your curiosity had become piqued to read it after reading my own ruminations!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Red-tailed Hawk”, book synopsis, author photograph of Nancy Schoellkopf, author biography, and the quotation from the novel and the tour badge were all provided by iRead Book Tours and used with permission. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers and My Thoughts badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna  and the Comment Box Banner.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 25 April, 2017 by jorielov in 21st Century, Autism, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Bookish Discussions, California, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Content Note, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Equality In Literature, Father-Daughter Relationships, Fly in the Ointment, Indie Author, iRead Book Tours, Learning Difficulties, Modern Day, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Native American Fiction, Parapsychological Gifts, Special Needs Children, Vulgarity in Literature

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