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I met Toby Neal during the A to Z Challenge last year. She has become a great blog-friend ever since, and today she is here on Daily (w)rite as a guest, to talk about life, aging, and her new book, Blood Orchids.

Blood Orchids is available as a FREE download on Saturday, Mar 3, Sun 4, and Mon. 5. Go find it now!

Take it away, Toby!!


Getting older. It’s a popular subject these days, and recently my husband and I had a tough year with health issues. Still, even aging brings gifts and I thought I’d share a few I’ve found.

  • The kids are grown. Unlike most of my generation who waited to have kids, I was a mom at 22 and an empty nester by 42. We miss them, the number of rubber slippers by the front door down to only two pairs, but we celebrate the awesome people they are and think happy thoughts of grandparenting someday and being done with college costs.
  • You can afford the hot-babe car. I have one, and maybe I don’t look like a hot babe in it, but when I put down the sunroof and lay down some rubber it hardly f**king matters, I feel so great.
  • You know who you are. For better for worse, half a century of experience has taught us who we are and what we’re about, and I for one have stopped apologizing or trying to be different.
  • You have time-tested, loyal friends. Like good wine, friendships ripen and richen and develop depth, complexity and nuance that has to do with shared history and story.
  • You learn what really matters. I can’t say what it is for you, but for me its doing meaningful work that helps others, following my dream of writing (wherever it leads) and being a person of integrity.
  • You find the courage of your convictions. With the hourglass sifting your days more rapidly than ever, you may find yourself saying and doing things you didn’t expect—circulating a petition, marching in a parade, writing a book, and starting a nonprofit. (Yep, I surprised myself with all the aforementioned)
  • You savor things. You learn wonderful experiences and even miserable ones shouldn’t be missed or dulled by too much alcohol, watered down by excess or cheapened by drugs. Even pain can remind you how alive you are and that each day is precious.
  • You have stories. Oh my, you have stories. The trick is finding people it’s appropriate to tell them to.
  • You get to experience new levels of personal growth. This is my re-frame (something we therapists like) to the PHYSICAL challenges of ageing. I’ll have to do a separate blog on the mental/emotional ones. If I can remember to…*attention wanders*
  • You look death in the eye and begin a friendship. Either that or you run away as fast as you can, probably in your hot-babe car, but either way, Death becomes a regular guest—because now you know a lot of people who’ve died. I count this as Upside because it’s real, and to me, real is good.
  • Sometimes you get things back. My husband’s joint replacement surgery went well, and two months afterward we hike along the Pali (cliffs) with the wind in our hair and our eyes on the cobalt sea, watching whales.  We both feel hopeful that life can get even better and there’s lots more ahead for us.


Toby’s book, Blood Orchids, is a fast-paced crime novel with a twist of romance that readers call “unputdownable!”

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 own 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.

About author Toby Neal:

Toby Neal 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.

Wishing Toby all the best with the book—Blood Orchids is available as a FREE download on Saturday, Mar 3, Sun 4, and Mon. 5. It is a great opportunity to go get the book, so grab your copy now!

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Toby, you make maturity sound more inviting than it should. 🙂 Read your good news on Blood Orchids. Rooting for you here. You deserve every success for having written such a good book.

    Thanks for hosting, Damyanti!

  • Love it! I turn 39 this year and I’m starting to creak a little.