Focus Friday: An excerpt from Shattered Palms by Toby Neal

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Book Launch: Shattered Palms, Toby Neal’s sixth Lei Crime Novel, set in Hawai’i and featuring Detective Leilani Texeira

 Detective Leilani Texeira wished she’d come to this enchanted place for some reason other than death. She picked her way down the steps of the raised jungle boardwalk, turning her head to look upward at the canopy of interlaced branches of native koa and ohia trees. Droplets of moisture and golden light fell around her on an understory of massed ferns. She’d heard of the native forest sanctuary accessible from atop Haleakala volcano but had never taken the time to visit. Now she wished she could linger and take in the multitextured beauty of the place instead of hurrying on with their grim errand.

“So many shades of green,” Lei murmured, ducking under a lichen-covered branch crossing the walkway. Her curly brown hair caught on it anyway, and she gave it an impatient tug. The ranger who’d found the body, a wiry older Japanese man with the weathered skin of someone who’d lived his life outdoors, glanced back over his shoulder.

“This is what we call a cloud forest, not a rainforest, because it’s mostly watered by mist. All the plants you’ve seen since the helicopter landing area are native Hawaiian species. We’ve worked hard to keep the invasives out of this area.”

“Invasives?” A solitude pierced only by unfamiliar, sweet birdsong brought Lei’s heart rate down after the lurching helicopter ride to the remote area.

“Introduced plant species. There are thousands, and they are smothering the native plants and taking away feeding from the indigenous birds. The biggest enemies of this forest are pigs, axis deer, and goats, and the reason this area is so pristine is that we’ve fenced the entire top of Haleakala to keep them out.”

“Interesting.” Lei glanced back at her partner, Pono, following her, another ranger bringing up the rear.

“I do my part as a hunter.” Pono’s smile turned up his mouth behind a trademark bristly mustache. “Plenny game up here, and they’re all good eating.”

“Well, I don’t know what all this has to do with the body you found.” Lei wove her way around a giant curling fern frond bisecting the path, her athletic body moving easily even with the elevation.

“I didn’t touch the body, of course, but I think he looks like some kind of hunter,” Ranger Takama said. “He’s in camo gear. I’m no expert, but even I could see what killed him was an arrow, so it was probably a hunter up here that shot him by mistake. If it weren’t for the smell, we wouldn’t have found him at all.”

That smell had been steadily increasing, a sweetish reek that clung to the inside of Lei’s throat like mucus.

“We leave the boardwalk here.” Takama gestured and stepped down off the boardwalk. Lei jumped down beside him into thick underbrush made up of ferns and bushes. “Normally, no one but authorized personnel are allowed off the path.”

The smell of decomp almost made Lei’s eyes water. She dug a vial of Vicks out of her pocket and rubbed some under her nose, turning to hand it to Pono, who’d joined her beside the boardwalk. Takama also helped himself, and they followed him, feet sinking into the deep, soft leaf mulch on the forest floor.

Crime scene tape already marked the area around the body. A first responding officer jumped to his feet, holding the scene log on a clipboard.

“Good morning, sir.” The young man spoke in the nasal voice of someone whose nose is blocked. Lei spotted white cotton sprouting from his nostrils.

“Hey. Nice up here if it weren’t for the smell.” She took the clipboard, and each of them signed in.

Passing the tape, Lei spotted the hand first, extended toward them from beneath the ferns, palm up. The tissue was swollen and discolored, masked in a filmy gray gauze of mold that seemed to be drawing the body down into the forest floor. Lei could imagine that in just a few weeks, the body would have been all but gone in the biology of the cloud forest.

The victim lay on his stomach, his head turned away and facing into a fern clump, black hair already looking like just another lichen growing on the forest floor. The body was at the expansion phase, distending camouflage-patterned clothing as if inflated. A black fiberglass arrow fletched in plastic protruded from the man’s back.

Lei and Pono stayed well back from the body. Lei unpacked the police department’s camera from her backpack, and Pono took out his crime kit. The modest quarter-karat engagement ring on her finger caught a stray sunbeam and reminded her of her upcoming wedding, with all of its accompanying stress. She pushed the thought out of her mind with an effort—she had a job to do.

After living in “exile” for her education, Toby Neal returned to her native Hawai’i. In between her job as a mental health therapist, she writes and publishes the bestselling LeiCrime Series and other fine books.

The sixth in the series, Shattered Palms, is available on Amazon.

Visit

And follow her on Twitter @Tobywneal.

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Wordless Wednesday: Stolen in Paradise by Toby Neal

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Stolen (medium) (2)

One betta fish, two dead biologists, three trysts, four viable suspects and thirty-five pairs of designer shoes add up to complicated days in paradise for Special Agent Marcella Scott.

Marcella gets into sand way over her Manolos investigating the death of a prominent scientist washed up on a Waikiki beach with a bullet hole between the eyes. BioGreen, a genetically-engineered algae that could solve the world fuel crisis, has been stolen from the development lab—a hotbed of intrigue where everyone on the project has something to hide.

Marcella also has a secret vice, more dangerous than expensive shoes—and it leads her into arms that are too close for comfort. 

Stolen in Paradise has 4.6 stars on 176 reviews!

Toby Neal will give away a signed trade paperback to a reader answering: what is your favorite thing about Hawaii? 

Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawaii and makes the Islands home after living elsewhere for “stretches of exile” to pursue education. Toby enjoys outdoor activities including bodyboarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking as well as writing. A mental health therapist, Toby credits that career with adding depth to the characters in the Lei Crime Series.

Visit Toby Neal’s Best-Selling Reads Author page.

Visit Toby Neal’s Amazon Author page.

Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @tobywneal.

 

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Monday Musings: Eight Ways to Savor Alone Time by Toby Neal

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pathIn addition to being an author, I’m also a licensed therapist.

It’s good, in general principle, to practice “aloneness tolerance.” After all, we never know shen we will find ourselves in an alone phase and it’s healthy to develop an appreciation for it that later enhances relationships. Recently while husband was on an extended trip, I distilled these joys:

1. Eat whatever you want, whenever you want. I ate eggs for dinner one night, a yogurt another. (My husband, a “3 squares” meat and potatoes man, would not consider this dinner in any form.)

2. Get up and read or work anytime throughout the night, without worrying about waking others.

3. Go braless, nude, or unshaven. (Sometimes all three.)

4. Enjoy forbidden scents, activities and products. Husband is allergic to scents, so I hosed myself down with perfume, lit scent candles, and used smelly hair

product. I’m lighting another incense stick as I write this!

5. Things are the way you left them, when you left them!

6. Catching up all the movies and shows he or she’d hate on Netflix.

7. Listen to favorite music at all hours. He’s not a music person and I am, so Pandora rules the house now.

8. Enjoy sharing these activities with new or old relationships. It’s good to “do your own thing” so you can enjoy stretches of solitude instead of wishing it were over.

These are just a few of the many tiny rewards of alone time. What are some of yours?

How have you cultivated a taste for your own company?

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Friday Focus: Unsound by Toby Neal

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UNSOUND2 (414x640)Only a volcano can cure some things.

Dr. Caprice Wilson, police psychologist, has spent her life unraveling the mysteries of the human mind—only to find herself in a deep crisis. Caprice prescribes herself a walkabout and goes hiking on Maui—but the solitary retreat she has in mind does not go as planned. Caprice faces an enemy she never knew she had and wrestles with questions of hope, identity, loss, and the nature of psychopathy in a cat-and-mouse game with survival at stake.

“Toby Neal weaves a spell-binding suspense that pulls you in with breathtaking scenery, flawed characters, and brilliantly twisted psychology.” Gae-Lynn Woods, author of the Cass Elliott Crime Series

Except from Chapter ONE:

I think I started getting really worried when I found the shoe. I was done with my last client of the day and had opened the door to leave. There it lay on the jute mat leading into my office—a cream-colored leather heel splotched with mud, all by itself like a question mark. I picked it up and looked around as if its owner might jump out of the red gingers planted beside the building. The little graveled parking lot was deserted. Not for the first time, I wondered if I should have chosen this remote location with its pretty little restored cottage set back from the University of Hawaii, Hilo campus. It had seemed a good decision—easy access and privacy for clients—but now I wished I’d taken the office space in downtown Hilo I’d been offered. I set the shoe inside the door against the wall, aligned and pointed outward as if inviting its owner to reclaim it. The golden imitation-leather insole was printed with “Jessica Simpson” in curlicued girly writing. A few blades of grass were stuck to the sole, and mud had made a splash pattern on the sides and up the way-too-tall heel. She had run in these. I’d stake my psychologist’s license on it. I provide consultation and support services for law enforcement for the state of Hawaii, and maybe it was time to give one of my colleagues over there a call. Next to the shoe was another find, a child’s blue plastic ball. Beside that, a rhinestone- studded dog collar missing a tag. Each of these items, innocuous in themselves, had turned up on the office porch. Taken together, they were creeping me out. I couldn’t help but remember the ordeal one of my clients, Lei Texeira, had gone through with a stalker. I hate stalkers, narcissistic bastards that they are. I really didn’t want one of my own. I locked the office door, looked around again, and walked down the wooden steps. The yard guy needed to come. The gingers were getting a little leggy, and the grass, loving the wet Hilo weather, was trying to take over the gravel walkway. I beeped open my car—a cream- colored Mini Cooper, special edition with real red leather seats. Its beautiful design, round retro dials and all, made me a little bit happy every time I got in. And I needed every little bit of happy I could get these days.

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Win A Book Wednesday: Blood Orchids by Toby Neal

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Toby Neal

Toby Neal

To win a copy of Blood Orchids, put your favorite food, flower or activity from Hawaii in the comments and the author, Toby Neal, will pick a random winner.

Hawaii is palm trees, black sand and blue water—but for policewoman Lei Texeira, there’s a dark side to paradise.

Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers—one of whom she’d recently busted. With its echoes of her o

wn past, the murdered girl’s harsh life and tragic death affect Lei deeply. She becomes obsessed—even as the killer is drawn to Lei’s intensity, feeding off her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity.

Despite her obsession with the case and fear that she’s being stalked, Lei finds herself falling in love for the first time. Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei’s quest for answers—and the stalker is closer than she can imagine, as threads of the past tangle in her future. Lei is determined to find the killer—but he knows where to find her first.

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EXCERPT: Stolen in Paradise by Toby Neal

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Stolen (medium) (2)The smell—seaweed with overnotes of decomp—hit Special Agent Marcella Scott as she ducked under the crime-scene tape roping off a rocky corner of Waikiki Beach.  A woman’s body was wedged between slippery boulders, waves rocking her in a parody of a lullaby.

Marcella squatted between the boulders for a better look at the bullet hole set between the woman’s brows like a misplaced Indian bindi. The expression on her face was one of astonishment—mouth ajar, eyes wide and opaque. Iron-gray hair tangled over utilitarian clothing split in unsightly places.

The body still wore a plastic ID tag on a lanyard, and it was the name on it—Dr. Trudy Pettigrew—that had the Honolulu Police Department calling in the FBI. Pettigrew was on a short list of researchers who worked for the University of Hawaii on security-sensitive projects.

Marcella glanced up at Matt Rogers, her partner. “Looks like an execution.”

Toby Neal, bestselling author of Hawaii mysteries Blood Orchid and Torch Ginger

Toby Neal

“Yep. I’m wondering if this lady scientist was working on something that got her killed.” Rogers, an ex-military man, was from the Texas Panhandle and clung to a drawl even after five years in the islands.

“She was a biologist. Maybe her project was involved.” Marcella straightened up, catching the uniformed patrol officer with his eyes on her ass. Not without reason—it was the best Italian heritage and Tae Kwon Do could brew up. She tucked the tail of her plain white blouse back into light gray trousers. “Maybe it was a crime of passion.”

Rogers just snorted, folding his muscled arms. The substantial body before them seemed the antithesis of passion. “I don’t think we can find much else here. No sign that this is the original crime scene.”

The medical examiner, Dr. Fukushima, a prim-looking Japanese woman in a wide sun hat, had been fussing with the body bag and her supplies, waiting for them to finish. Marcella shot the scene and a few more photos with her point-and-shoot, including a pano spread of the high-rise hotels fronted by calm turquoise water, the gleaming beach, and colorful carved dragon boats and canoes pulled onto the sand nearby.

Just beyond the site was the Waikiki Yacht Harbor, sunshine sparkling off the boats—and the mouth of the Ala Wai Canal, a water conduit that ran through downtown Honolulu. She shot that too. Context was important.

She turned to the ME. “Thanks so much, Dr. Fukushima, for waiting on us.”

“No problem,” the doctor said. “I’ll let you know what I find when I’ve completed my report.” The medical examiner picked her way carefully among the slippery rocks to squat beside the body, opening a black old-fashioned doctor’s bag. She covered the woman’s hands, slipping rubber bands over clear plastic bags. She then got out a pair of scissors and gestured to her assistant. “Let’s roll the body.”

“Want some help?” Rogers asked when the assistant, a young woman, and Dr. Fukushima failed to turn the heavy corpse. With the three of them putting some heave into it, what was left of Dr. Trudy Pettigrew flopped with a splash facedown. Dr. Fukushima wielded her scissors and added a coup de grace of indignity by inserting a thermometer deep into the rectum.

Marcella looked away—she wasn’t squeamish, but she sensed how much this particular woman would have hated being this kind of spectacle. “I’m thinking she was shot somewhere else and washed up here.”

 § § § § § § §

Toby Neal was raised on Kaua`i in Hawaii. She wrote and illustrated her first story at age five and credits her counseling background with adding depth to her characters–from the villains to Lei Texeira, the courageous multicultural heroine of the Lei Crime Series. “I’m endlessly fascinated with people’s stories.”

Find out more and sign up for news of upcoming titles at: tobyneal.net

LINK: http://amzn.to/16IdhCd

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