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Being a kid is complicated. There are rules, most of them unwritten, unspoken even, and heaven help you if you can’t unlock the secret code. Darrell H.Y. Lum not only has the key to the boy’s room in his collection of short stories in Pass On, No Pass Back!, he also has the contraband cigarettes.
And maybe a little something else.
The title refers to a kids’ game I remember well: somebody punches you in the arm, yells, “Pass on, no pass back!” and you have to find someone else to slam and pass it on. The playground politics in who you hit and how hard would make the UN weep. And Lum gets it.
Better yet, he helps us get it.
To anyone who grew up in Hawai‘i, Lum’s characters feel real. There’s tales of da Bag Man, karate class, scouts, toads, and mongooses from hell that still give me chicken skin. The stories are written in Hawaiian Pidgin English, a welcome sound of home for native speakers that adds another layer of authenticity to his words. Non-Pidgin speakers will have a tougher time, but it’s worth the work.
As a bonus there are also the comic strip adventures of Booly, Bullette, and Burrito by Art Kodani.
If you’re looking for authentic island writing, Pass On, No Pass Back! is fantastic.
This guest post comes from Berk Washburn, one half of the Brothers Washburn, authors of the Dimensions in Death Series. (I reviewed their book Pitch Green–you can see it here.) I asked the guys what it was like to collaborate with a brother. This was Berk’s response.
Please don’t get me wrong. My brother doesn’t need a keeper, though sometimes my wife says that I do, and if he did need a keeper, he has a bunch of sisters who would be happy to take the job. We have 7 sisters who have been trying to keep us out of trouble for a long time. We are two of 9 sons (16 children total) who grew up in the Mojave desert near Death Valley. Our father was a dentist, who built up a practice in Trona, California, a small mining town. While we were growing up, he was the only dentist in town. As the good citizens of Trona mined the minerals of Searles Valley, Dad mined their teeth.
When, in turn, Andy and I went off to college, we left the desert and never looked backed. We thought we were done with Trona forever, but couldn’t have been more wrong. For about 35 years, I was a business lawyer working for international commercial finance companies in Ohio, Michigan and Colorado. For about 25 years, Andy was a trial practice lawyer working in Southern California. While we have kept our law licenses current, we are now writing fiction full time. Though some would say that’s what we did as lawyers, this is different.
As lawyers, we were always solving other people’s problems. After we each moved to Colorado, we talked for some time about starting a business together where we only had to solve our own problems. We both have many years of formal writing experience, and we have always been story tellers, first to our siblings, then to our own children (I have 8 kids and Andy has 6 kids), and now to our grandkids (who are increasing exponentially in number). Scary stories have always been a family specialty. A few years ago, I started writing a young adult science fiction series, so when Andy also tried his hand at writing fiction, it didn’t take long for us to come together as The Brothers Washburn on a young adult horror series. The tale is of course set in Trona, California, which is the perfect setting for a horror series.
As a child, Andy loved Dr. Seuss, then later, A Collection of Short Stories, by O. Henry was a favorite. As a teenager, he was fascinated with The Illustrated Man, by Bradbury. Growing up, I was on the lookout for anything by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and as a teenager, I was always searching for new and interesting sci-fi writers. It is no surprise, then, that we are currently writing both a YA horror series as well as a separate YA sci-fi series. We find that once we start telling a horror or sci-fi story, the bounds of the story are limited only by our own creativity and imagination–though everything we write has to be grandchild approved.
As brothers, we get along well, and have a healthy level of mutual self-respect, so we can freely share ideas and challenge each other without worrying about egos. We are more creative when we are bouncing ideas off each other and discussing a general storyline, but we actually write separately, and then confer later on what we have been doing. Though we sometimes disagree on specific wording, there is usually some friendly give and take as we consider alternatives, and then we can agree quickly on the final wording. We both appreciate the different perspective and skills that the other brings to the joint process.
In key ways, we are different in how we approach a story. Andy used to be a planner (a habit he got from writing like an attorney), but in fiction writing, he no longer likes to plan ahead. He likes to develop his characters, and then let them take the story wherever it is going to go. On the other hand, I am definitely still a planner. I am always making lists and outlines, not only for the current story, but for future stories as well.
In addition, Andy doesn’t like having other people around him when he is writing, especially when he is creating new material. There is no real reason for this, just sometimes people bug him. In my case, I have to organize my surrounding work environment. Once everything around me is in order, then I can detach from the world and write.
If Andy hits a tough spot in the story development, it is almost always because of outside distractions. If he can get rid of the distractions around him, he can keep writing. If I hit a tough spot, I don’t try to force it. I stop, leave the house, pick up some fast food, and then I can come back refreshed and ready to move the story forward. I find that fresh ideas just come naturally when I’m eating–Chipotle is always good.
Background research is important to both of us in two areas: theoretical science and local Trona geography. This series is an ongoing horror story based on principals of science rather than on demons, devils or magical creatures, so some understanding of the extremes of scientific theory is necessary and fun. But, Dimensions in Death is not a science fiction series with a few scary scenes. It is horror, suspense and fright in a fast pace narrative with a little science by way of explanation, sprinkled on for spice, as the truth is gradually discovered by our heroes in the story. Separately, the local geography in the story plays a critical role in setting the mood of the tale. Trona, California is a real place in this world located in a desolate region of the Mojave Desert by Death Valley, and we try to keep the series settings as real as possible.
The general outline for Pitch Green came together one evening in November of 2010. We were attending a writer’s seminar together in Manhattan and listening to panel discussions by top literary agents. As we rode the subway from one end-of-the-line stop across town to the opposite end-of-the-line stop, and then back again, we mapped out the basic elements we would need to expand a favorite childhood scary story into a full-length novel. Andy wrote the first rough draft, and then I took it over to edit and expand the tale. In the writing of the first book, the ground work was laid for both the sequels and the prequels of that series.
In Pitch Green, we meet two teenagers, Camm and Cal, who are destined by their wit, pluck and luck (not always good) to become the balancing force in this world against predators that keep showing up around an old mansion, which is apparently something more than just a mansion. Our heroes must make a stand against the mansion’s guardians, any visitors who might want to come through the mansion in search of easy prey, and the forces of the U.S. Federal Government, who are using the mansion to access unlimited natural resources. Camm is the brains, Cal is the muscle and together they make a formidable team when they decide to work together. They are joined by an FBI agent, Special Agent Linda Allen, who is smart, resourceful and not easily intimidated by those protecting the government’s secrets.
In this first book of the Dimensions in Death series, our heroes are introduced to the mansion and an other-worldly guardian while being hurled from one scene of horror to the next. They barely have time to catch their breath or scratch the surface of what is happening, and they do not understand the nature of what they are really facing. Though their intentions are good, by the end of the first book, they have left a doorway wide open and unguarded. Pitch Green is the opening act of a long and complex tale in which Camm, Cal and Agent Allen will be explorers in the dimensions in death.
Thanks for stopping by! Pitch Green is available as a hardback and eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and wherever fine books are sold.
Connect with The Brothers Washburn
Camm and Cal have a problem that’s stinkier than a sulfur lava vent, creepier than a naked rat tail, and hungrier than a shark. It’s a problem and puzzle they’ll have to solve before it strikes again and another child disappears.
Pitch Green, by Berk and Andy Washburn publishing as the Brothers Washburn, is the first in their young adult Dimensions in Death series. Set in the Mohave desert, Pitch Green introduces us to Trona, a small California town whose only claim to fame is a dry lakebed where chemicals are extracted and processed in the town’s factory and a huge deserted mansion that miraculously repairs and cleans itself. Seven years ago on Halloween night, Cal’s younger brother Hughie disappeared and Camm has never forgiven herself. Now high school seniors, Camm and Cal are in a race to discover one of Trona’s darkest secrets before it can kill again.
Of course, nothing is quite what it seems in Trona. There are layers to this town that I’m sure will be revealed as the series progresses. There are delicious hints of government conspiracies, mad scientists, and cover ups. There are also guns, puzzle boxes, Hebrew script, and barf-tainted kisses. Best friends and potential romantic couple Camm and Cal are intelligent, dedicated, resourceful, and brave—not lily-livered, hide your head under the sheets characters or girl/boy stereotypes—and refreshingly, the adults aren’t buffoons either.
By turns witty, funny, scary, thrilling, and chilling, it’s a horror story mystery that reminded me of a more sophisticated and modern spin on Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. It’s fresh, fast-paced and smart. Can’t wait for book two!
Pitch Green, Book 1 in Dimensions in Death series, written by the Brothers Washburn and published by Jolly Fish Press, is available in hardback, paperback, and eBook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other purveyors of fine literature.
Thanks so much for having me here today, Lehua! As my first blog tour, spreading word of my debut novel, Persistence of Vision, draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on it a great deal. Have I learned lessons? Oh, you betcha. Some good (the questions interviewers ask can give you new insight into your own story) and bad ones (not all bloggers are as dependable as you’d hope) but overall, I’m happy to say that I’ve had a great experience and have a positive outlook for future tours.
I thought today I’d share a few pearls of wisdom I’ve gleaned along the way.
1) Reminder emails are your friends! If you have a ridiculously long tour (more than a month long) many people will probably forget about their tour stop. As much as I wish all people were meticulous as I am about dates and record-keeping, people are human and even I let things slip through my fingers sometimes. Wake up to reminders.
2) Brainstorm a list of things to guest post about and don’t agree to more guest posts than you can come up with. Otherwise, you’ll end up writing quite a few guest posts on the same subject. Also, don’t agree to more than a handful of author interviews unless you know the questions are unique beforehand. Otherwise, you will also end up answering a lot of the same questions. In short, you get to know yourself VERY well.
3) A little kindness and common courtesy, especially where bloggers hosting you are concerned goes a long way. ‘Nuff said.
4) When you’re feeling bogged down by writing, reading, editing, blog tour posts and regular posts, and dozens of emails every morning, well, dark chocolate can really perk you up.
So, if you ever find yourself embarking on a long, intimidating blog tour, make sure to prepare for lots of (friendly and tasteful) reminder emails, a plethora of blogging ideas, an awesome attitude, and plenty of endorphin-inducing sweets.
A special thank you to Lehua and all those who’ve been so helpful to me on my first blog tour. You’ll never know how much I appreciate it. Here’s to debut novels and the lengths we go to to get them read. Cheers!
Persistence of Vision, Book 1 of Interchron, written by Liesel K. Hill and published by Tate Publishing is available in paperback and eBook. Click here for the link.
Connect with Liesel
Imagine you wake up in Las Vegas to discover you’re missing hours in a blackout that you fear is the result of a drugged assault. Now imagine that a few months later, just when you’re finding your groove, you get attacked again, but this time you’re rescued by a mysterious stranger who takes you to a remote location and tells you that he’s from the future.
Yeah, Maggie had a tough time with that one, too.
Past, present, and future blend a little in this series and a good portion of the beginning of the novel is taken up with explaining it all. Maggie was scooped from her original timeline and taken to the future where she was part of a rebellion fighting against the big collectives, hive-like mind control groups who have mastered time travel and want to enslave all humans throughout history. She lived and fought with the rebels for a year developing strong bonds as friends, family, and even the love of her life. Maggie got captured during a mission and had her mind erased, so she has no memories of her year with the rebels. Once rescued, the rebels decided that this was the perfect time to return her to her original timeline, resulting in the missing hours and bruises she couldn’t explain back in Las Vegas. Now for her own safety and to protect the ultimate destiny of mankind, she’s been scooped back into the rebel’s timeline. She’s surrounded by people who know her intimately who she doesn’t remember at all, fighting against the collectives in a highly specialized team.
There’s a lot to chew on in this book. There are elements in this series that echo some of the deeper mythologies in classic science fiction series like Dune. Readers who like to get into the nuances of how things work and what makes people tick will enjoy it—it’s an intellectually satisfying read. Once the backstory comes out, the pace picks up substantially and the pay-off’s good.
Persistence of Vision, Book 1 of Interchron, written by Liesel K. Hill and published by Tate Publishing is available in paperback and eBook. Click here for the link. http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=978-1-62024-796-9
There’s been a lot of debate in the blogosphere lately about the future of digital books. Most of the debates center around price point, format, and distribution channels. Traditional publishers are bemoaning the self-publishing frenzy as the death of good, quality fiction that has at least kissed an editor and proofreader’s desks, and big eBook distributors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble are fighting over formats, traditional vs. wholesale pricing models, and proprietary content. Small imprints and large publishing houses alike are clamoring that Amazon is trying to seduce authors away from them and into the brave, new world of self-publishing, while authors are busy running numbers, looking for the magic option that allows them to make rent next month. It’s all about getting a bigger slice of the digital book pie.
From what I’ve seen, most industry players think of eBooks as digital versions of print on a page. Out of all the work they do to create a print book—from editing, book design, and marketing—most simply take the final text file and tweak it so it looks good on various eReaders and add a jpeg of the book cover. There are several easy to use and inexpensive software programs that do a reasonable job of creating digital books from text files; it’s no wonder that many authors are now choosing to self-publish. Unfortunately, based on the thousand or so eBooks I’ve read on a variety of devices, “reasonable” is really all you get with a digital book, regardless if published by self-starters or the big boys.
Did I mention most people think in terms of simply translating print on a page to print on a screen?
But as an author and former interactive instructional designer, I think the industry is missing a huge opportunity. While the vast majority of adult and young adult fiction works well as Print on a Screen, I think there is a market in the middle grade, chapter, picture, and non-fiction book arenas for what I call Enhanced Interactive versions.
Beyond the current standard of linking to internal dictionaries, providing the capability for user-specific notes, highlights, and bookmarks, and simple chapter-based menu structures, Enhanced Interactive versions elevate the reading experience to a whole new level. For example, an EI version of a book that explores a foreign culture or science concepts could link to additional information embedded in the digital book (but not included in the print version—differentiating and driving more people to the digital version) or maintained on external websites. In picture or chapter books, young readers could color or embellish illustrations, watch characters come to life through animation, or even add their own drawings to stories or new words to pictures—everything from writing an entirely original narrative to the existing illustrations to adding their own wacky nouns, adverbs, and verbs á la mad libs. Cookbooks linked to the internet could provide an outlet for home cooks to share their adaptations, tips, and photos. EI books could even take a cue from social media to create virtual book clubs filled with all the minutiae an author knows about his characters, plots, and backstories, along with all the things he writes that never (and often for good reason) make it into the book. For the rabid fan, too much is never enough.
The possibilities are endless; I could write 20 blogs on how Enhanced Interactive versions of various book types could function and the markets they’d appeal to. In a nutshell, simply think of all the ways we game, learn, communicate, and interact with digital media and embed these features in digital text through icons, color cues, menus, tabs—whatever you can imagine. That’s my vision of Enhanced Interactive digital books.
Of course, not all digital books would make great EI books. But designed, targeted, and marketed to the right audiences, EI books have the potential to revolutionize the publishing industry in ways as profound as Gutenberg’s wonderful moveable type and the Kindle’s digital format.
All of which should be good news to traditional publishers. Since creating versions of digital books that go beyond print on a screen requires skill sets and deeper pockets most self-publishers possess, this EI market fits squarely into the bailiwick of imprint and large publication houses. Properly managed, publishers could turn their versions of EI digital books into virtual seals of approval, allowing them to quietly reassume their self-appointed gate-keeper roles as guardians of good writing and purveyors of quality product. The crowd goes wild.
I know just the series to start.
Among my bibliophile friends, I’m the only one who loves eBooks. When you read as many and as fast as I do, being able to keep a stack of novels on hand without hauling a small trailer around is a definite plus. So is packing an eReader or smart phone into a purse instead of a 700+ page hardback the size of a loaf of bread. I also like being able to change the size of the font with a flick of the thumb so I can read without my glasses. There are still many nights when I read far longer than I should, but the side table light no longer shines in my husband’s eyes when he’s trying to sleep. He probably considers that a plus, too.
Unlike most digital gadget owners, in those odd moments of waiting for piano or soccer practice to end, I’d rather pick up my phone and lose myself in a novel instead of playing another round of Angry Birds. In our house book apps in all their forms are on everything—smart phones, Kindles, IPads, IPods, laptops, desktops, and Nooks. Our four family members share accounts and content, so it’s not unusual for two of us to be reading the same digital book. It works well if everyone disables auto-sync and uses a virtual bookmark. The kids also like having the literature they’re studying in school available on their IPods, so they can tell me they’re studying when they’re probably doing something else. I especially like that most of the classics they’re studying can be downloaded for free and don’t result in overdue library fines.
I made the switch to mostly eBooks when the first Kindle came out. Back then new releases were about half the cost of a hardback, a significant savings for someone who devours new fiction like potato chips, and while I did miss passing around books I’d finished, I no longer had to worry about where I was going to put them all if I got them back.
As an adult I’ve found most books are like a box of tissues; I read them once then toss. It’s the same with movies; I almost never want to watch a movie twice, even ones I really like. For me, knowing what’s going to happen seems to suck the joy right out of the experience, like a balloon minus the helium or a wrapper minus the candy.
But things were different when I was a kid. You could argue that books and movies were rarer back then and that would be true. However, I’ve seen this with my own and other kids who grew up with over-flowing cornucopias of books. Favorite children’s books are read and re-read. They’re treasured.
Over the years almost all of my adult books have migrated to the local library or thrift shop. However, through the years I’ve kept the books I owned as a child along with most of my kids’ children’s books. Packed away in waterproof boxes in the basement are Dr. Seuss, the Magic Tree House, Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, and friends, all patiently waiting for the next generation of young readers to discover their words and worlds. I find a sense of peace in knowing that regardless of changing digital formats, battery life, screen glare, and economic upswings and downturns someday some little kid will get to hold a well-loved and often read book. He or she will get to turn the pages and step into the story, stray crayon marks, peanut butter-jelly thumbprints, and all.
So even though I really love the practicality of eBooks, when Jolly Fish Press said they wanted to publish One Boy, No Water and the rest of the Niuhi Shark Adventure Series as hardback children’s books, I was thrilled. After all, it’s tough pack an eBook in the basement for the grandkids.
I admit it. I’m not a scrapbooker. I have boxes and files of my children’s lives stashed in random places in my office and in directories on my computer because I know this stuff is too important to throw away, but the thought of sorting through it all to create a meaningful tapestry gives me hives. So when I started getting invites from friends to join Pinterest, the image sharing social networking site, I ignored them. After all, did I really need to spend more time looking at cute bedroom designs I’d never use or read recipes for dishes I’d never cook? Did I mention I’m not the scrapbooking type?
But a couple of days ago, Kirk Cunningham, my publicist at Jolly Fish Press, sent me an email detailing what he wanted me to do with social media to promote my book One Boy, No Water and The Niuhi Shark Adventure Series. Pinterest was on his list, although he listed it only as an option rather than a must do like Facebook and Twitter. Thinking perhaps someday some bored tech savvy tween or teen might check out Pinterest, I half-flippantly wrote back that I was thinking about creating some Pinterest boards based on the main characters. I set up an account and started playing around, first looking for images of food I describe in the book. You know us Hawaiians; it’s all about the food.
Oh. My. Pinterest.
A few clicks and suddenly all of the images in my head about my characters’ likes and dislikes exploded onto the screen. I realized I could pin images about places, food, activities, music—everything from hula halaus to old pineapple plantation hip waders to custom surfboard art—to create complete character profiles and share them with anybody who wanted to know more about the people in my books, more than I could ever write in a novel. Characters who were already living and breathing in my own head could come alive in ways I didn’t anticipate.
Holy cow. What a way to blow an afternoon!
Pinterest as a character design tool is not perfect. Many of the images I wanted to pin to a character didn’t work, probably due to an issue with the originating site not wanting to share images. I get it, but it’s frustrating. I also have to remind myself not to switch back and forth in my descriptions from author to character. I finally decided to create these boards as if they were done by the characters themselves to keep the descriptions from feeling a little schizophrenic. Besides, if a picture is really worth a thousand words, I don’t think I really need to add much, which is probably why most of my pins are labeled in caveman speak.
Still, I gotta admit, it’s a lot more fun than I ever imagined. Maybe someday I will get those scrapbooks organized. (Don’t hold your breath!)
To see how the character profiles are evolving, check out Lehua Parker on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/lehuaparker/
The Hunger Games movie opens this weekend. My kids and I been waiting for over a year to see how this story and characters transition to the screen, sighing or exclaiming over every casting choice and set design chronicled in Entertainment Weekly. Wanting to be surprised, my son has refused to watch any trailers and has resorted to sticking his fingers in his ears when the ads come on tv.
I just finished re-reading the series and fell in love with Suzanne Collins’s imagination and writing style all over again. Like all really good fiction, it’s a story that can be read on many levels. It’s a little unfortunate that the one generating the most buzz around the tween and teen sets is about the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.
This is particularly frustrating to Aaron, my 14-year-old son. “Did any of these people actually read the book? Team Peeta? Team Gale? Get real.”
Cheryl, my 12-year-old daughter agrees. “This is not about the boys. It’s not even about the girl and the boys. It’s about Katniss. I hope the movie doesn’t screw that up.”
Me too. While The Hunger Games is ultimately a story about love, it’s not about the kind of teenage puppy love that features so prominently in Young Adult fiction. Aloof and prickly Katniss loves deeply; it is her greatest strength and weakness; it is her weapon and her shield. The arch villains in the novel—Snow and Coin—don’t understand love and that ultimately leads to each of their downfalls. Snow fails to understand that “forbidden” love is the biggest form of rebellion and galvanization to action, and Coin, well, what can you say about someone who thinks marriage is no more than a new housing assignment? It’s an epic failure on both their parts to understand that what motivates Katniss is not power, political change, safety, or even fear of death. It’s love for those she calls family that motivates Katniss to greatness, that throws her into a spotlight she’d rather not seek. As Machiavellian as some of her actions are, it’s her underlying motivation of love for her family that elevate her character into a real three-dimensional personality and out of the clichés of so much of Young Adult fiction.
Katniss is a pawn, but a pawn with teeth and claws. She can be manipulated, yet also understands something of the dance of illusion versus reality she has to move through to survive in Panem. She wastes very little time bemoaning how unfairly life in the Districts compares with the Capitol. Collins is a master of showing the contrasts and letting the reader come to the logical conclusion. Katniss doesn’t deal with what should be; she deals with what is right in front of her, and this keeps the novels from bogging down into an Orwellian treatise on human nature while still developing much deeper themes than survival and teen romance.
I can’t recall another character in fiction quite like her. Team Katniss anyone?
For an author, once a debut novel has a publication date it’s no longer about writing, it’s about marketing. A large amount of time and energy is spent by publishers on getting the book in front of People Who Matter, begging them to first read it and then, cross your fingers, positively review it in blogs, book reviews, online services, catalogs–anywhere, really, where people who buy books might find out about your book and want to pick it up.
As a debut author, one thing I’ve been asked to do by Jolly Fish Press is to develop relationships within the middle grade/young adult authors’ community. They suggested I join various readers’ and writers’ online groups, read and review books for other authors, and generally play nice with others. It’s a lot like fourth grade where you get invited to birthday parties based on who you invited to yours.
No problem, I thought. As much as I read, I can easily knock out a couple of book reviews a week. Glad to help other writers.
So I started reading and reviewing books on websites for debut and often self-published authors, the ones most willing to share their work and hungry for the buzz.
Words fail. After a few weeks and a couple dozen books later, it wasn’t just the grammar or misspelling or unintentional malaprop or errors with homophones throughout the texts–those can be easily fixed. The problems in these books were larger and more fundamental. Often there was no plot or even characters that made me care about what happened to them. There was no story. Reading those books was like having a conversation with my autistic nephew, perfectly clear in his mind and utterly confused in mine.
I wanted to be supportive; I really did. I tried to find good things to say about the novels, but when all I could honestly say is “I liked the cover” I knew I had to take a time out. I didn’t want to discourage people from writing, but I also didn’t want to say something was good when I couldn’t honestly recommend it to anyone.
I’m having a hard time figuring out my role here. I’m not the author’s editor, mother, or cheerleader. I’m not a credentialed book reviewer with followers hanging on my every word, which should make my opinion rather unimportant. However, I’ve seen “bad” reviews on some of these websites turn into ugly name-calling fests involving the reviewer, the author, the best friend, the mother, and sometimes even the publisher–reminding me again of fourth grade. I believe if you publish you should be grown-up enough to realize not everyone is going to like your work and that arguing, explaining, and name-calling never changes anyone’s opinion. It’s obvious that not everyone feels this way.
If I could only publish reviews about books that I liked, it would be much simpler. Unfortunately, these burgeoning author websites insist that if you get a free copy–e-book or print–you basically have to publicly review it or you’ll get kicked out of the club.
Be nice or else.
Which is unfortunate for everybody–readers, authors, and reviewers. If every indie, self-published, or small press book is four or five stars and fantastic, the reviews are meaningless and we’re back to relying on the opinions of the People Who Matter.