A special family member gets into a book


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.


Win-a-Book Wednesday: Palm Trees & Snowflakes


By Scott Bury


For Win-a-Book Wednesday this week, you could score a free e-copy of Scott Bury’s latest published work, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, just by answering this question in the Comments section below:

Without worrying about cost or how much vacation time you have, which Hawaiian Island would you most like to visit tomorrow?

Don’t forget to leave your email address.

What is Palm Trees & Snowflakes about?

A Lei Crime Kindle World Hawaii mystery 

Snowflake has a whole new meaning in Hawaii. The new designer drug being trafficked through Oahu gives users the perfect high–and slowly kills them.

In Honolulu, where the palm trees are strung with lights for the holidays, FBI Special Agents Vanessa Storm and Ken Yamada have their hands full trying to stop this deadly flow. Faulty intel brings the agents into a deadly firefight, which yields even more puzzles.

How do the drug lords change their smuggling routes and methods with every single shipment? Vanessa’s handsome, charming, and untrustworthy ex-boyfriend might have the answer.

Get Palm Trees & Snowflakes exclusively on Amazon.com.

About Amazon Kindle Worlds

Kindle Worlds is an Amazon initiative that allows authors to publish stories set in another author’s fictional universe. The Lei Crime Kindle World is based on the Lei Crime series, created by bestselling author Toby Neal.

About the author

Scott BuryScott Bury can’t stay in one category.

After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

Army of Worn Soles, published in 2014, tells the true story of Maurice Bury, a Canadian drafted into the USSR’s Red Army to face the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Invited to participate in two Kindle Worlds, he published Torn Roots: A Lei Crime Kindle World Novella and Jet – Stealth: A Jet Kindle World Novella. Both came out in July 2015. His latest is another story in the Lei Crime Kindle World, Palm Trees & Snowflakes.

Find Scott Bury:

and follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.


Focus Friday: Torn Roots


A Lei Crime World novella

By Scott Bury

Pono recognized a thin older Hawaiian woman standing to one side of the protesters, her long gray hair reaching down her back. So old Sophia Keahi is keeping an eye on this, he thought. It figures she’d be against off-island money developing the shoreline.

Facing the protesters were what Sam assumed were the developers: a slender Asian man in a light gray suit and tie, and Tyler Lopes, the man who had brought the complaint into the Hana Sheriff’s station.

And in the middle of it, a tall, slim woman stood on the concrete form that would one day be a wharf for luxury yachts. Her shoulder-length blond hair had been styled so that it would wave in the on-shore breeze, while setting off her blazing blue eyes. She drew her lips into thin lines as she screamed at the men in front of her. “This is a fragile ecosystem! There is no justification for building a luxury marina, a playground for trust fund babies. And the slope across the highway is a recognized national forest preserve, a site to be conserved for endangered Hawaiian flora and fauna, not for mansions for the elite! We say, stop the development and stop it now!”

“No yacht club here! No land for trust fund babies!” the other protesters chanted in unison. They’re well organized, Pono thought.

To one side were a young Asian woman dressed in a dark suit, holding a microphone in one hand and a headset to her ear with the other, and two men in KHIN-TV shirts. One, a local, held a video camera on his shoulder.

“Hey, Johnny, howzit, brah?” Pono asked the camera man in pidgin.

“Hey, Pono. Protest group doesn’t want the company to build the marina, nor the housing development up the hill, neither. Chick there like beef.” He nodded at the tall blond woman, meaning she was spoiling for a fight.

“Hello, officer,” said the young woman in the suit. If she hadn’t been wearing heels, the top of her head would have come up to the middle of Sam’s chest. “I’m Aisha Chen.”

Pono nodded at her. “Where’s Wendy?” he asked, referring to KHIN’s main reporter, Wendy Watanabe.

“This story is too minor for her, so she’s letting the intern handle it,” she replied, looking toward the protest on the shore. She bounced on her toes and slapped the microphone into her palm. “Did you get the chanting?” she asked Johnny, the cameraman. He nodded. “Okay, I’m ready.” She stepped between the camera and the shore, straightened her jacket, swept a hand through her long black hair and cleared her throat. A red light came on the front of the camera.

“This is Aisha Chen from the site of the Kipahulu Marina, where an environmental group is preventing the Halawa Construction Company from proceeding with building a wharf for luxury yachts. Led by this young woman, reportedly from Canada, the group says they will not leave until Halawa and the owners of the property, Enterprise Shore LLC, cease and desist from building in what the environmentalists say is a pristine, and fragile shoreline.” She paused, looking straight into the camera, for a count of three, then visibly relaxed. “Look okay?” she asked the cameraman. He nodded.

“How do you know she’s Canadian?” Pono asked her.

“She’s been hanging around the island for a few months, now, showing up at different meetings and so on. But I think that’s all I should tell you, Officer, until I clear it with the station’s legal department.”

“Hey, sista, no get all li’dat,” Pono said. “We don’t need to get so formal.” He turned to Sam. “Canadian. What, are you all six-footers up there in the snow?”

“She’s one hundred eighty-two centimeters tall, or five-foot-eleven-and-a-half, and I’m six-four. So, no.” Sam replied.

Pono looked at him for a few seconds, head tilted. Then he smiled, a dimple flashing under his moustache. “Six-four. Okay. Didn’t mean to cut you down, haole.”

“I was born here, remember? My Dad guys haole, but my Mom guys all Hawaiian”—his father was from off-island, but his mother was Hawaiian.

“So sensitive,” Pono said, wiggling his eyebrows.

About Torn Roots

Hawaii is known for volcanoes and sandy beaches. Beauty and danger reign.

After breaking a case of murdered poachers in Maui’s national park, Detective Pono Kaihale accepts a short-term position as Acting Lieutenant in Hana on the island’s rain-forest coast. He is looking forward to redirecting lost hikers and moderating mild lovers’ spats and enjoying the natural beauty of the southeast coast. But by his second week on the job, Pono finds trouble here comes in unexpected forms.

Environmentalists, property developers, protesters, arsonists, kidnappers, and a rogue Homeland Security agent converge on his new post, Pono feels like the eye of a brewing storm. And when a new FBI agent gets involved, Pono realizes the stakes are much higher than a quiet period in his career.

Lives will be lost if he doesn’t solve this mystery quickly.

About the author

Pic-ScottBuryScott Bury is a journalist, editor and writer living in Ottawa, Canada. His articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia, including Macworld, the Ottawa Citizen, the Financial Post, Applied Arts and others.

He was invited to write a short book for the Lei Crime Kindle World series of Toby Neal. Torn Roots appeared in July 2015, almost the same day as another Kindle World novella, Jet – Stealth, a part of the Jet Kindle World of Russell Blake.

Scott will publish a new Lei Crime Kindle World story in time for Christmas 2015. Palm Fronds and Snowflakes will feature Vanessa Storm from Torn Roots, as well as other beloved characters from Toby Neal’s Lei Crime world.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He holds a BA from Carleton University’s School of Journalism. He has two sons, an orange cat and a loving wife who puts up with a lot.

Read his full bio on his BestSelling Reads Author page.

And visit his:

And follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.



Focus Friday: An excerpt from Shattered Palms by Toby Neal



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.


And follow her on Twitter @Tobywneal.


What Does Your Bedside Table Say About You? by Toby Neal



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

Toby Neal



What does your bedside table say about you? I’m a mystery/suspense writer and diagnostic mental health therapist, and I began my “profiling” of people very early—as an 11-year-old babysitter.

(I was the oldest of four in an alcoholic home. “Responsible” doesn’t begin to describe what an anal-retentive little control freak I was at eleven.)

I loved nothing more than to put the aforementioned babysat children to bed, wash the dishes, vacuum the house,  turn on the TV (in case anyone came home unexpected) and begin an FBI-level search through my clients’ homes. It was my idea of a good time all through my teens, and no one ever knew, suspected, and did anything but sing my praises as the Best Babysitter Ever. (“She plays with the kids, and even does the dishes!”)

I would begin with the bathroom cabinets, making note of medications (looking them up as best I could pre-internet) progressing through kitchen cabinets (where I inventoried food choices and drew conclusions) to underwear drawers, and I would end these curiosity-satisfying forays at the bedside table.

Ah, what a wealth of personal info can be found in a decent bedside table.

I catalogued money, threatening notes, hair pieces, hash pipes, sex toys, love letters, bodice rippers, porn stashes, handcuffs and knives. .

Compared to that, and perhaps because of it, my own bedside table is sadly bare. It has wire legs, and a stack of books underneath. Those books are nearly high enough to lift it off the ground, but that’s my rule: when the bedside table achieves liftoff, I have to finish something and put it away on the (bulging) shelves in the front hall.

But first, I know you want to know what’s on top of the aforementioned bedside table. I keep three things on top of the table: my Kindle (which has helped reduce the bookstack a lot, but not entirely, and is where I have hundreds of indie books stored) a pair of earplugs, and a big pump-bottle of Cetaphil lotion.(It’s not good for lube, in case your dirty little minds were wondering. Soaks in too fast.)

Underneath the bedside table is where things get really confusing, if you were trying to “profile” me. Top of the stack of towering books is:

The Mental Health Diagnostic Desk Reference, Carlton Munson, Ph.D. (Yes, I do mental health evaluations as part of my practice, and sometimes before bed a client’s symptoms will be aggravating me, and I need to take out my earplugs—you detectives out there, yes, I’m married and the hubby snores, God bless him—turn on the light, and read through to make sure I gave the right diagnosis, or maybe there’s something different…for instance, there are 33 subtypes of Bipolar Disorder alone. And I like to get it right.)

Nine Rules to Break when Seducing a Rake, by Sarah McClean. One step down from a bodice ripper. (I do love a romance now and again! Titles change but there’s always one in the stack for when I need a happy feeling)

Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, by John Douglas & Mark Olshaker. (Horrifying and fascinating reading, research for my writing.)Image showing three Hawaii mysteries by bestselling author Toby Neal, Blood Orchid, Torch Ginger and Black Jasmine

Abundance: the Future is Better than You Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. (I need good news, and this nonfiction, about the potential of humans to solve problems, is a mind expander and very well written. Plus has a great cover!)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. (My daughter is a cell scientist at Stanford. In addition to being fascinated by biology, I’m writing a mystery that centers on a lab, all of which reasons got me to buy the book. This one makes me feel virtuous just for reading it—and it’s a damn good book.)

The South Beach Diet, by Arthur Agatson. (Always there to make me feel crappy about my eating habits and extra pounds, but there to show I have intentions to change.)

The Poet, by Michael Connelly. (This is the best book of his I’ve read, and while I should have put it in the front shelves by now, I can’t bear to move it away, as if I could absorb some of his magic by having it near.)

The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter, by Holly Robinson. (funny and wonderful memoir by my good friend Holly. It’s signed.)

The Liar’s Club, by Mary Karr. (Another memoir. Are you detecting a trend? Yes, I’m getting ready to write my own, by doing “market research.” Funny, touching and horrible, just as a memoir should be.)

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. (I wrote a whole blog post on this, and how it inspired my new YA novel, Aumakua. I keep it near for magical purposes, like the Connelly book)

What does your bedside table say about you?


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Stop by tomorrow for “Show. Don’t Tell,” by Rebecca Tsaros-Dickson, author of Say My Name. Learn the secret why you love some books and hate others with a passion. Subscribe to the BestsellingReads newsletter to receive a daily dose of fresh voices in your mailbox.