Today I am thrilled to introduce to you Toby Neil, who is the author of Blood Orchids, a crime novel, and the ebook Building an Author Platform that can Launch Anything, which is FREE on Amazon this weekend 7-9 April.
Toby was raised on Kauai in Hawaii. She wrote and illustrated her first story at age 5 and has been published in magazines and won several writing contests. After initially majoring in Journalism, she eventually settled on mental health as a career and loves her work, saying, “I’m endlessly fascinated with people’s stories.”
She enjoys many outdoor sports including bodyboarding, scuba diving, beach walking, gardening and hiking. She lives in Hawaii with her family and dogs.
Toby credits her counseling background in adding depth to her characters–from the villains to Lei Texeira, the courageous and vulnerable heroine in the Lei Crime Series.
Thanks for guesting on my blog, Toby – you can take it from here. :)
How did this happen to me? I’m studying Forensics for Dummies with a pack of Post-its. I’m cutting up a chicken in the kitchen with a butcher knife as “research” for a paragraph on dismemberment, leaning in close to listen to the wet thunk and gristly snick of the knife. I’m looking at gruesome pictures of autopsies for accurate descriptions. I’m pulling over to the side of the road and sniffing roadkill, trying for accurate words for the scent of decay. Oh, and I’ve watched about a dozen YouTube videos on handgun cleaning, shooting, loading and handling (still never have touched a real one.)
I’m putting out FB questions—“Anybody know a real policewoman I can interview?” A friend puts me in contact and I meet this intrepid soul for coffee and flattery, studying her body language, stance, and verbiage while peppering with questions about procedure and the mysterious accoutrements on her duty belt. I’m jogging with my (tiny, fuzzy and idiotic) dogs, imagining myself as the physically fit, badass Lei Texeira, my protagonist, with her Rottweiler.
Through it all, and four books into it, I’m still baffled that I’m writing crime mysteries—but I’ve passed through the denial, bargaining, and anonymity stages and am well on my way to acceptance.
Here’s how it happened:
I wrote a short story on my anonymous blog about a policewoman who’d been sexually abused, who was brave and a little crazy in her persuit of justice. I wrote about the drowning of two young girls, a situation that I’d dealt with in my real life role as a therapist, helpless to do anything but grieve and help others grieve. I wrote this story to try to work through the trauma of it, to understand it all better somehow.
People wanted to know what happened next so I posted chapters. About 60 pages in, further than I’d ever made it on any of my other attempts, I realized I was so into Lei’s story I was going to be interested enough to actually finish a novel (after about 10 aborted novelets? Novelinas? No-vellums that petered out.)
And I finished Blood Orchids.
I found Lei had more to learn, more cases to solve, more islands to explore, healing to experience and sex to have—and I was still totally into her story. Four books in, and I haven’t lost interest in the seedy underbelly of humanity (did I mention I’m a therapist?) and the dual faces of Hawaii—paradise, and purgatory.
I’m a little embarrassed by this. I’m a nice person, a people helper—staid and a little matronly in my flowered pants and tank tops with pearls. This fascination with fighting crime really seems…unseemly.
But what I’ve also discovered is that I have a side that loves to root for the underdog, that revels in justice, and that wishes I could be more active than wiping the tears of victims. It’s that side that revels in Lei’s ass kicking of psychologically sick perpetrators… and so in a funny way I guess it all does make sense.
Anyone else surprised by what they like to write—and what they like to read?
Blood Orchids is ON SALE at Amazon (US) for only 99 cents through Saturday April 7!
A little bit about the book:
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. The girl’s harsh life and tragic death touches a chord with Lei, and she becomes obsessed with the case. The killer is drawn to her intensity and stalks her, feeding on her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity.
Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei’s quest for answers. She finds herself falling in love for the first time—but the stalker is closer than she can imagine, and threads of the past are tangled in her future. Lei is determined to find the killer—but he already knows where she lives.