Maui Business

Maui Author Toby Neal Wins National Book Award

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Toby Neal courtesy photo.

Toby Neal photo credit: Mike Neal at

Author Toby Neal, a Makawao resident known internationally for her writing, won a Bronze Medal in the 2016 Independent Publisher Book (IPPY) award for her USA Today Bestselling book, Rip Tides and was also recognized as a Notable Indie in 2015 by Shelf Unbound.

The “IPPY” Awards, in its 20th year, are designed to bring increased recognition to the deserving but often unsung titles published by independent authors and publishers. Shelf Unbound book review magazine annually offers the Shelf Unbound Competition for Best Indie/Self-Published Book.

Rip Tides is the ninth book in her bestselling Lei Crime Series—mysteries that take place in Hawai‘i.

The series centers on Leilani “Lei” Matsumoto Texeira, a multicultural female detective who solves a range of complicated mysteries in the Hawaiian Islands.


Rip Tides is a suspenseful story that takes place on the North Shore of O‘ahu, where Texeira investigates the murder of Maui surf star Makoa Simmons.

Dark and tangled motives reach deep into the elite world of professional surfing. Neal’s career as a clinical social worker informs the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

Neal grew up on Kaua‘i. After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, the islands have been home for the last 17 years. She is very familiar with the local surfing scene.

“Surfing is close to my heart,” said Neal. “I come from a three generation surfing family. I surfed myself when I was younger and I married a surfer.”


For a week in January 2015, Neal returned to the North Shore of O‘ahu during book research trip; her family had lived in a beach cottage there from 1967 to 1970.

“I loved being on that famous stretch of golden sand, hearing the thunder of the breaking waves through the night, watching the most amazing surfing in the world during the day,” said Neal.

In writing Rip Tides, her immersion experience that winter shaped her descriptions, which were particularly rich, because she went to Pipeline and hung out at the beach to investigate the scene.

“I even found the beach cottage where our family lived,” said Neal. “I’m also gathering material for my memoir, so locating it was exciting!”


Neal is the author of 19 novels and several novellas in the mystery, contemporary romance and young adult genres. The Lei Crime Series debuted with Blood Orchids in December of 2010 and the books have been featured on the USA Today bestseller list, with eBook downloads of close to a million and more than 10,000 print copies sold.

In 2015, Amazon launched the Lei Crime Kindle World, which allows authors to build upon Neal’s works through special licensing agreements. There are now 33 top-reviewed works in the fan fiction world starring Neal’s characters.

This month, Neal’s stories, along with many other top quality works, launched on the free Tapas app, a platform that “gamifies reading.” Tapas is the first market player in the US to apply the proven business model of free-to-play games and apply it to mobile reading. Users start by reading chapters free, and then unlock subsequent episodes as they progress using virtual keys while having the option to unlock the complete book at any time.

For more information, visit


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