Thursday teaser: Freckled

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A Memoir of Growing Up Wild in Hawaii

By Toby Neal

At preschool I heard the ladies talking about ESP. There are two kinds of ESP: the kind where you hear other people’s thoughts, and the kind where people can make other people do what they want just with their thoughts. 

I always listen to grownups so I can know things— “Elephant ears” Mom calls me. Grandma Gigi, Pop’s mom, believes in ESP too. “I can tell when you’re thinking about me, so that’s when I call,” Gigi says. She does usually call when we need something, and I love when her packages come in the mail, even though Pop grumbles that I’m getting spoiled.

I want to have the make-people-do-stuff kind of ESP.

We’re at dinner, and the sun has gone down behind the ocean. I can hear the surf outside; it’s coming up bigger with a shushing sound.

“Should be good tomorrow,” Pop says, sipping his beer. Because my dad’s a surfer, we always pay attention to what the surf is doing and the weather conditions. There’s “onshore,” which means the wind is in my face off the ocean and that’s bad for surf—I don’t really know why. Then there’s “offshore,” which is best to make the waves good, and “Konas,” which means the wind is light and from the side. 

Mom is sitting between Pop and me. Her tummy is super big, almost touching the table, and she’s wearing her favorite blue muumuu that she sewed herself. There are some oven-baked fries, special because they are not goodforyou, and fish Pop caught, and Mom’s salad with bean sprouts. We have white plates with a flower border, a milk bottle filled with daisies, Mom’s favorite flower, and everything is pretty and good.

Even after he smoked today, Pop was still grumpy. I can see how he’s feeling like a black cloud over his head. Bad things can happen when I make him mad, and I do that a lot because I’m noisy and too bouncy. I’m always trying to get him to like me and see that I’m smart and can do things as good as a boy. Because I was supposed to be a boy and be named James Theodore the Third. 

Mom and Pop didn’t know what to call me when I was a girl, so they named me Toby after the redheaded boy who runs away to the circus in a movie Mom watched at the hospital. I have no middle name because “when you’re old enough, you can choose your own middle name.” This worries me. How do I pick the right name? I wish I could just be named James Theodore the Third, even if I am a redheaded girl.

Maybe I can make Pop do something with ESP. 

PICK UP THE KETCHUP, I think. PICK UP THE KETCHUP. PICK UP THE KETCHUP. 

Pop looks up at me. His green eyes have red around them. The overhead light shines on his curling blond hair, going thin at the top. I stare at him, my lips moving, as I think as hard as I can—PICK UP THE KETCHUP.

“What are you looking at?” His voice is a low thunder sound. He narrows his eyes. I don’t look away or answer. He’s going to PICK UP THE KETCHUP any second now. I just know it!

“Stop staring at me.” Pop gets louder and seems to swell.

I can tell how mad he’s getting, but I stare until my eyes hurt because I can feel it almost working—he’s going to hear me any minute now. I don’t blink. I want to be scary: eyes wide, mouth tight, staring hard as I think PICK UP THE KETCHUP. I will make him do what I want!

“I said stop looking at me, disrespectful little brat!” He stands up and his chair flies back and lands on the linoleum with a thud. He’s enormous. 

My mom makes fluttery noises, but it’s too late. Roaring something I don’t hear, he comes around the table and whips me off the chair by my hair. I crash onto the floor and hold onto my head and use my legs to hold myself up, trying to keep from being dragged—it hurts so bad, as he hauls me down the hall, but I won’t cry. I’m stubborn like that. I’m not afraid of pain.

I’m still thinking, PICK UP THE KETCHUP. Like it’s going to save me. Like he can hear me.

But he doesn’t. 

**Download Freckled and continue reading now!**

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Freckled

For fans of The Glass Castle and Educated, comes mystery author Toby Neal’s personal story of surviving a wild childhood in paradise.

We never call it homeless. We’re just “camping” in the jungle on Kauai…

We live in a place everyone calls paradise. Sure, Kauai’s beautiful, with empty beaches, drip-castle mountains, and perfect surf…but we’ve been “camping” for six months, eating boiled chicken feed for breakfast, and wearing camouflage clothes so no one sees us trespassing in our jungle hideout. The cockroaches leave rainbow colors all over everything from eating the crayons we left outside the tent, and now a tractor is coming to scrape our camp into the river.

Standing in front of the tent in my nightgown, clinging to my sister as we face the tractor, I know my own truth: I just want to be normal.

But Mom and Pop are addicted.

Addicted to Kauai’s beauty, to drugs, to surfing, to living a life according to their own rules out from under their high-achieving parents’ judgmental eyes. I’m just their red-headed, mouthy, oldest kid. What I want doesn’t matter.

But I’m smart. I will make a different life for myself someday if I keep up my grades no matter what happens.

No matter how often we run out of food.

No matter how many times I change schools…or don’t go to school at all.

No matter how many bullies beat me up for the color of my skin.

I might be growing up wild in Hawaii, but I have dreams I’m going to reach, no matter how crazy things get.

Toby Neal

Award-winning, USA Today bestselling social worker turned author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Neal is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her stories. Neal’s mysteries and thrillers explore the crimes and issues of Hawaii from the bottom of the ocean to the top of volcanoes. Fans call her stories, “Immersive, addicting, and the next best thing to being there.”

Neal also pens romance, romantic thrillers, and writes memoir/nonfiction under TW Neal.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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A special family member gets into a book

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Monday musings

By Toby Neal

Memory can be a powerful source of writing inspiration…

Her eyes are milky now, this old dog of ours, and her muzzle adrift in silver. She gets up in the mornings from her bed and walks like I feel some days, stiff and sorry that dawn has stolen comfort. She has never been a dog to make assumptions, boldly thrust her nose into my hand and demand petting like my young dog Liko, with his bold stares and entitlement. No, she’s respectful, and keeps her eyes down, and merely follows me from room to room to make sure I’m safe and okay. If I’m sad she will sense it, and come close, and sit with me, and it’s powerful because I know it costs her something.

She came to us fifteen years ago when the kids were young, a tiny pup the kids discovered on Kauai while we were camping.  A hippie girl had the litter in her tent, and the pups were adorable even if the hygiene wasn’t.

We’d had a trail of failed dogs thus far: the Dalmatian that was too hyper, the beagle mix that bit, and Shepherd that knocked the kids over and tracked dirt everywhere. We’d always had to give them away with accompanying heartache and tears, so I said no. And no again the next day. And finally, as the begging reached a crescendo, yes.

Nalu, named because of wave shapes in the markings on her cheeks, was so little that we carried her home to Maui in my purse.

Nalu protecting her people on a beach walk.

She patrols the grounds every day to protect the family, even now with her limp, and the hunch in her back since she fought a pit bull who dared to come too close to our home, and was shaken like a chew toy for her courage.

Nalu has always been a very big dog, for a Chihuahua.

Nalu loves going to bed, because we give the dogs a treat, and pets too, and she can lie down with that sigh she gives at the end of the day, knowing her work guarding us and keeping us company is done.

And Nalu, passed away now, was the model for Keiki, the fiercely loving and loyal Rottweiler who’s been Sergeant Lei Teixeira’s companion in 12 USA Today award-winning books, the Paradise Crime Mysteries. She will live forever, now.

See the books at https://tobyneal.net/ and meet Keiki yourself!

And if you like true stories, you might enjoy my memoir, Freckled. It’s a whole lot of memories strung together.

Toby Neal

Award-winning, USA Today bestselling social worker turned author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Neal is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her stories. Neal’s mysteries and thrillers explore the crimes and issues of Hawaii from the bottom of the ocean to the top of volcanoes. Fans call her stories, “Immersive, addicting, and the next best thing to being there.”

Neal also pens romance, romantic thrillers, and writes memoir/nonfiction under TW Neal.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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New book announcement: Wired Courage

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The 9th book in the bestselling Paradise Crime series launches today.

By Toby Neal

Paradise is stalked by a relentless evil.

What would you do if your family was threatened?

Sophie just wants to settle down with her unusual family—but a powerful presence sweeps in to steal her joy. At her most vulnerable physically and emotionally, Sophie must rise up to hunt down those who would take what’s most precious to her. The boundaries of love and friendship are tested as the men in her life grapple with their roles, each trying to help—but in the end, it’s Sophie who must face the darkness from her past and vanquish it.

Now available from all major e-tailers

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Toby Neal

grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. A mental health therapist, Toby’s career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her mystery, thriller and romance books.

She writes fast-paced, character-driven stories set in wonderful places. “No one can read just one!” exclaims one fan.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography, and hiking.

 Visit her on her:

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Writing unforgettable villains

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By Toby Neal

Batman villains: The Penguin, The Riddler, The Joker 1967

Public domain image. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Crime writing is fun—and the most fun is dreaming up evil characters who do unspeakable things! Without good villains, the mystery genre would be dead. These deviants drive the plots!

As a former therapist in the psychology field, I have a bit of an advantage in creating bad guys and gals who exemplify the worst of the human race—and showing them in a way that’s believable because its based in an understanding of the human psyche. The best villains are shades of gray, spookily relatable because they are us … in the right situation and circumstance.

Bestselling Hawaii mystery Torch GingerA good villain teaches us something about the world, other humans, and most thought-provoking of all, about ourselves. What would we do, given the situation, circumstances and background of the villain in the story? Some part of us wonders if we’d be much different.

My best villains

I’ve written a serial killer with social anxiety and schizophrenia (Torch Ginger). I’ve written a sadistic gangster villain (Wired In). I’ve written a heroic bandit who stole from the rich to give to the homeless (Broken Ferns) and I’ve written a sociopathic identity thief who falls in love with a ruthless gangster (Black Jasmine.) I’ve written 20 mystery/thrillers, and every one of them needed a villain to drive the story—so I have a special soft spot for them. So many villains, so little time!

My favorite villains have been women. Women, statistically, commit less than a fourth of the violent crime (or any crime, really) than men. But when a woman goes bad? Truly bad? She can wreak a swath of havoc a mile wide, leaving nothing but rubble, ash and broken hearts in her wake.

bestselling Paradise Crime boxed setMy current favorite villainess is Pim Wat Smithson, mother of Sophie Ang, heroine of the Paradise Crime Series. Pim Wat is supposedly institutionalized as a catatonic depressive in Thailand. But really, all the years she was supposedly having a lie-down with a cold cloth on her forehead, Pim Wat was traveling the world, killing people as an assassin.

Pim Wat is a consummate actress, deadly as a viper, and completely narcissistic. She loves what she does and “scripts” her kills, with costumes, dialogue, and little theatrical flourishes. That she is the mother of Sophie, a character we’ve come to know as heroic, dedicated, and self sacrificing, is a wonderful juxtaposition that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings.

Toby Neal

After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, Toby returned to the Hawai’ian Islands where she was born. have been home for the last fifteen years. Her career as a mental health therapist has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography, and hiking.

 Get to know her on:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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Thursday teaser: Wired Dawn

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This week’s Thursday teaser excerpt is extra-special: it’s from Chapter 1 of the latest Paradise Crime novel—which releases tomorrow!

Read on to learn how you could win a free copy.

By Toby Neal

The boy ran, stumbling in the darkness, toward the farthest black corner of the cave. His breath tore through his lungs. He put his hands out, slowing as the fire got further away, its flickering light dimming behind him. The darkness thickened, and he tripped and almost fell on the loose, jagged stones of the cavern floor.

That voice like warm honey called his name. “Come, Nakai. What you running for? Where you think you can go?”

Nakai reached the back corner of the cave, a dark and drafty spot where he could feel fresh air welling like spring water from somewhere deep in the earth.

The man’s footsteps approached, unhurried and confident. Nakai glanced back and saw his flashlight swinging, illuminating the harsh volcanic walls with every swing. “Stop this foolishness, boy.”

Frantic, Nakai felt down the wall to the vent where the air came through. There was a small opening there, and he dropped to his knees and wriggled through.

Pitch darkness on the other side of the wall was thick as a muffling black blanket. Nakai crawled forward, biting his lips to keep from whimpering at the pain of rocks digging into his hands and knees.

“What, boy? You trying fo’ get away?” That voice was the sound of evil disguised as a friend, the sound of the worst kind of betrayal. Even now, the boy’s skin crawled at the memory of the man’s hands on him, touching him, stroking and petting, pinching and forcing. “You want to leave so bad? You go, then. And sleep well in the dark.”

Nakai stopped, holding his breath, turning back toward the slit illuminated by the flashlight’s beam. He heard the scrape of a rock, and then the light blinked out.

He was in total darkness, and he was trapped.

Nakai turned and felt his way back in the direction from which he’d come.

Panic rose in a strangling wave and sweat burst out over his body as he crawled forward, and forward, and forward—and felt nothing ahead. No cleft, no wall. No light whatsoever.

He was lost in the dark already.

“Let me out! Help me!”

The stone seemed to vibrate around him, as if he sat on the head of a giant drum. “That’s why music sounds so good in the cave,” the man had told the circle of boys on Nakai’s first night with the group of runaways.  “This lava tube goes on for miles, and the porousness of the stone helps sound carry.”

Maybe it would carry his calls for help. “Let me out!” Nakai cried again. “Help! I’m stuck in here!”

Nothing but the faintest echo of his terror came back to him.

Nakai crawled rapidly now, heedless of bleeding, determined to at least hit some kind of surface—and suddenly, he was out in space, falling into blackness that swallowed his scream.

What’s Wired Dawn about?

Paradise has no protection from a hidden evil.

Security specialist Sophie Ang goes “off the grid” into the remote valley of Kalalau on Kaua`i, where she stumbles across the disappearance of a young boy. As she races against time to save him, uncovering ugly secrets hidden in the heart of the jungle, the events she tried to flee on Oahu gather momentum.

Special Agent Marcella Scott straps on her Manolos and wades in to help deal with what the cyber vigilante the Ghost has left behind, trying to clear her friend from a murder charge.

Can Sophie and Marcella find their way to the truth through the tangled layers of darkness surrounding them?

“If you’re ready to hold your breath and drop everything for hours, find your most comfy chair and start reading this series!”—Laura P., Goodreads

Get it on starting December 8 from:

Write a comment for a chance to win a free copy.

About the author

Fast paced, character-driven stories set in wonderful places. “No one can read just one!”

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, the islands have been home for the last fifteen years.

Toby is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography, and hiking.

Visit her on:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

 

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Thursday teaser: Scorch Road

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An exciting collaboration of two BestSelling authors:
Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman

Elizabeth

“You’re the whole cold transport chain, Elizabeth. Don’t take your eyes off that thing until you get it to the CDC in Washington.” Dr. Fellerman stepped away, returning to his side of the big wooden desk. “There are ten vials of the isolated virus in there. And that case will keep it cold for at least three days.” He flopped into his chair and it rolled back a few inches. Dr. Fellerman closed his eyes. “It’s too late for me, but there are still a lot of people to save.”

Elizabeth stepped forward, wanting to hug him or say something to mark this parting. Dr. Fellerman had offered her guidance without pushing, and he’d been a great teacher—one of the rare people she trusted.

He frowned at her approach. “Don’t get too close. You’re not sick now, but you know how contagious this thing is.”

She nodded. “Thank you for everything.”

Dr. Fellerman gave her a weak smile. “Thank you, Elizabeth. And Godspeed.”

Elizabeth left his office and retraced her steps through the lab. As she waited for the elevator, Elizabeth looked down at the cryocase. Inside the insulated screw top, a smaller metal cylinder held the vials of cells. Liquid nitrogen filled the larger container, keeping the isolated virus at the optimum temperature, well below freezing. It had to stay that way or vaccine production would be set back by months.

What if she failed? The thought chilled her to her bones.

***

JT

Wind drafted up his naked body as JT surveyed the land for the threat he knew was coming, but as usual he saw nothing but waving corn, velvety alfalfa, grazing pigs in their fenced pen, and the wind-ruffled leaves of soybeans and potato fields, picturesque in late summer glory.

JT had a powerful intuition, a sense of coming things. Mama called it the Sight and told him he’d inherited it from his deceased grandmother, rumored to be una strega, a witch.

“You’re a canary in a coal mine,” she had said, pulling him in for a hug after he’d told her to get her car fixed, that there was something wrong with it. The mechanic discovered a broken brake line that might have killed her. “You’ve been given the Sight. Be sure to use it for good, caro Jacobino.”

JT had tried to use that sense, along with an environmental biology degree, for good. But no one ever listened to his warnings, even those backed up by science. He’d got so tired of watching disaster strike again and again, waves on a seashore, that he’d left the EPA for this, his own place, where he could prepare.

Away from other people, JT was able to screen the stress of the Sight out better, but so close to water, he felt it acutely: the tremor of a shadow moving across the land.

A sickness was coming.

His family—five brothers, his mom, and his precious little sister—were all still out there, ignoring his warnings and invitations to the Haven. It hurt like a bruise that would never heal, a bruise that kept him up at night.

JT duckwalked around the metal platform’s edge, pleasure in the day evaporated—he was just hot, tired, and very alone. He arrowed into the pond in a swan dive. At the cool weedy bottom, he paused, his eyes shut. His mysterious sense was buffered, and yet amplified, by the water.

The scorching of the earth was coming here—right to his doorstep—into his fields.

The knowledge chilled JT more than the cold green water at the bottom of the pond. He shot for the sunlight, gasping for breath.

About Scorch Road

A new romantic action adventure series for fans of romance thriller and family romance sagas!

One of six Italian brothers and a sister, JT Luciano is a widowed environmental biologist with a touch of the Sight who is preparing for an apocalyptic event he knows is coming. Holed up at the military survival camp prepared for his family, the Haven, JT is ready for whatever might come… except for one woman.

Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, virologist and Senator’s daughter, is carrying precious cells for a vaccine against the swiftly-evolving, deadly flu that’s sweeping the nation. Her plane crashes in JT’s potato field–and she must convince him to leave the Haven and help her get to Washington, DC.

One by one, the structures of society implode in the face of the flu’s devastation as JT and Elizabeth travel a scorching road cross country.

Can danger bring them together to find one good, true thing in a changing world?

Get it on Amazon.

About the authors

Emily Kimelman is the author of the best selling Sydney Rye Series, which feature a strong female protagonist and her canine best friend, Blue. It is recommended for the 18+ who enjoy some violence, don’t mind dirty language, and are up for a dash of sex. Not to mention an awesome, rollicking good mystery!

Emily can be found:

Website   |   Facebook    |   Twitter

Toby Neal is the author of the bestselling Lei Crime series featuring Maui police detective Lei Texeira, the Paradise Crime series featuring security specialist Sophie Ang, the Michaels Family Romance series, and the new Scorch Series romantic thrillers with Emily Kimelman.

Visit her:

 

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