Limestone Genre Expo, 2017

20170603_135856.jpgThe Limestone Genre Expo, which brought together Canadian authors of genre fiction, took place in Kingston Ontario, from June 3 to 4, 2017. The event involved panel discussions, workshops, readings, pitch sessions, and a large sales event on books written by both indie and traditionally published authors. Among guests and presenters were Alyssa Cooper, Nancy Kilpatrik, Laura Baumbach, Kris Jacen, Kim McDougal, and Eve Langlais. Attendees included some of my colleagues from the editing industry, whom I met back in Toronto through various professional membership events.

Most panels focused on specific literary genres, such as fantasy, mystery, horror, and romance. Authors, editors, and other industry professionals shared their insight on what it takes to be a successful writer. Nowadays, writing high-quality fiction is only half the battle. In order to be discovered by the readers, a book needs to have an outstanding cover (and yes, people do judge books by their covers) and be available through various social media platforms for discovery. Building readership was one of the workshops offered during the Expo. Other workshops included story development, world building, self editing, and writing in a particular genre.

Murney Tower

I greatly benefited from this event. Not only did I get to learn about some of the latest trends and developments in the industry, but also I got to enjoy the beautiful town of Kingston together with my husband. Founded in 1838, Kingston is known for a number of historical sites, including Fort Frontenac, Fort Henry, Murney Tower, Kingston City Hall and Market Square, and the infamous Kingston Penitentiary. 1000 islands is a famous sightseeing destination that attracts visitors from across Canada and, broadly speaking, from across the globe.

Although we didn’t have the time to see all the points of interest, we were still able to take a short walk in the downtown, take photos of the historic architecture, and enjoy the breeze of St. Lawrence River. On the first evening of the Expo, our group dined at the Merchant Tap House, a downtown pub that offers a finest selection of food and drink items. It was nice to sit together, discuss our recent and upcoming works, and pass along occasional jokes.

I am grateful to the organizing team for the opportunity to attend the Limestone Genre Expo as one of the authors. It was truly a fun and educational event!


A Few Words about My Book

A young happily-married woman who is stuck with a boring job travels to Israel to participate in an archaeological dig. As time passes by, she learns more about the world around her, develops a new crush, and discovers her true calling in academia while toiling for hours under the sun, organizing shards of ancient pottery, and translating an article on the Neanderthals. When tensions in her marriage rise, she must decide if she’s ready to sacrifice the comfortable and familiar path for the sake of her dream. In the end, she’ll learn that it is possible to have the best of both worlds, but not until she’ll nearly lose everything. That’s the short summary of my newly-released novel. Although written in a light style, this piece of chick lit explores many important themes, including self-discovery, sacrifice, loyalty, and quest for personal happiness.

The Background Story

The idea of writing a full-length novel came to me back in grad school. Many things happened that year, and winning a scholarship to travel to Ashkelon for a dig was one of them. I applied for a bursary through Biblical Archaeology Review—a magazine that gets mentioned in the novel several times—in hopes of gaining fieldwork experience for my master’s program. Well, I ended up turning it down because of a huge renovation project that was meant to happen during the weeks of my purported travel.

So instead of chasing adventures on the other side of the globe, I ended up scrubbing the old paint from the walls of our newly-bought condo and priming them for a new layer of paint. And although learning the ins and outs of a successful home renovation was fun (no pun intended), I often felt bouts of regret about having missed this opportunity. That’s how the idea for my novel was born.

It took me two years to produce the first draft. A lot of changes happened during this period. I enrolled in a teachers’ college but dropped out after realizing that managing a group of thirty teenagers was making me miserable, got a new job, traveled to Bethsaida the following summer (also on a grant but this time from the ASOR), enrolled in a Publishing program, lost my job, and stepped on the path to motherhood. Sometime around July of 2014, when the Operation Protective Edge was raging through that very part of the world where my story was meant to take place, I got the first draft jotted down.

The story of My Journey revolves around the inner world of Rebecca O’Connor-Smith, a married twenty-six year old, who travels through various parts of Israel, struggles with an illicit crush, and ultimately discovers that her true passion lies in studying ancient civilizations. Although the book is heavily-based on my travels to Israel, especially on my experience in Bethsaida, the story is by no means autobiographical. The parts about the protagonist’s marital woes are pure fiction and were used merely to illustrate the challenges one may face when making major life choices.

Why Self-Publishing?

I chose this option for a variety of reasons, and sometimes, I did doubt my decision. Up to today, I wonder if I should’ve gone through two hundred rejections first when I chose to stop at nine. During the submissions process, however, I realized that my novel is somewhat different from the mainstream chick lit.

As I said, most of the story takes place in several parts of Israel, some of which are awe-inspiring and others are wrought with conflict. The characters often engage in scholarly debates about different topics surrounding archaeology of Southern Levant. Various artifacts and sightseeing destinations are described with the same zeal as shoes and bags are described in the Shopaholic series. So the story I wrote is hardly the right material for mass-market fiction.

However, it didn’t stop me from taking the chance, and I hope it won’t stop potential readers either. If you’re a traveler at heart, an archaeology geek, or simply a twenty-something-year-old who is still figuring out the future, I strongly recommend My Journey to you. It will take you through thousands of years of human history, make you fall in love with the colorful sceneries of Israel, and, hopefully, inspire you to go after something you love the most in your life.

Indie Titles: Are They Worth Your Time?

If you are an avid reader, most likely, you are getting all your books either from some major chain store, like Chapters Indigo or Walmart, or your local library. But did you know that what you see at these places is a tiny fraction of all the books that had ever been written? Most stores  distribute only books released by major publishers, such as Random House or Harper Collins. Thousands of titles get published by smaller presses every year, and millions become self-published. Some independently published titles make it to small bookstores and gift shops, but most of the time, their authors have to rely solely on Kobo, Amazon, and a few other online stores.

It doesn’t always mean that independent titles are of any lesser quality than those that have made it to New York Times bestseller lists. Many less popular titles are just as amazing as top bestsellers and deserve more attention than they actually get.

First things first, let’s clarify the terminology. By the term “independent,” I mean both self-published books and those released by small, independent presses. The reason why I decided to lump them into one group is because of the endless struggle many authors from both categories have to face.

The truth is, not everyone has patience for two hundred rejections. Some aspiring authors are lucky enough to get a contract from a smaller press. Many others turn to self publishing. Nowadays, tools for creating a professionally-looking book are available almost to anyone with basic computer skills.  Platforms, such as Createspace and Lulu, make the entire process relatively easy.

Although many independent authors eventually do become successful, a stigma around the indie market still exists. Books produced without help of a substantive editor or a professional designer are more likely to have grammatical errors, unprofessionally-looking covers, and unconventional plots. However, I strongly believe everyone should at least consider buying an independently published title. Here are the main reasons why:

Terrible books exist both in indie and traditional markets.

You won’t believe the number of times I’d come across bestselling novels with plot holes and bad grammar. I’d even encountered an error-ridden classical title! I won’t mention the names because I don’t intend to offend anyone. However, this is true. Even the traditional market, no matter how competitive, isn’t perfect. Making errors is part of the human nature. Most of the time, editors and proofreaders will work hard to eliminate all mistakes and make sure the plot is top notch. However, there will always be an odd time when you’ll see a typo in print. Does it mean the author or the publisher doesn’t stand a chance? Not at all. It simply means there’s still room for improvement.

Indie books are more unique than mainstream books.

These books often don’t fit within the mass market for a reason. Since most publishers are on a tight budget, they can only afford to choose those titles that will appeal to large segments of the population. However, all people are different, and something that appeals to one person might not appeal to another. By exploring independently published titles, you have a higher chance of finding something that will appeal to you on a personal level.

Many independent authors are highly educated and are amazing at writing.

While MFA is not necessary for becoming a great writer, general education is always a bonus. Among independent authors, you’ll find many talented professionals from varying fields with an aptitude for creativity. Their writing style is often sophisticated, and their content is filled with interesting facts. Also, small presses are more likely to produce literary fiction and poetry, the two genres many big publishers shy away from.

Indie market is an amazing source for freebies and discounts.

If you haven’t heard about BookBub yet, you should definitely check it out. Every week, the web site lists hundreds of books available either on a big discount or completely for free. Authors of series often offer the first title at no charge in hopes readers will want to buy sequels. Oftentimes, they are successful. Getting a free book through BookBub or another similar platform doesn’t oblige you to anything and is a good way to figure out whether this particular author is right for you.

FINALLY… By buying an indie book, you’re helping someone to fulfill his/her dreams.

As I’ve mentioned, publishing world is tough, and getting a book out there is often half the battle. By buying a non-best seller, you are giving someone a chance to prove him/herself worthy to the world.


After reading the final point, you might be wondering why you should bother helping some stranger get more exposure for his/her writing. Well, let me reassure you that you don’t owe anything to anyone. So if you don’t feel like risking your fortune for some obscure book no one else is reading, you are not obliged to do so. However, you just never know what you might find if you look a little wider.

Over the past decade, I’d found myself enjoying music that had never been marketed in my area, connecting with characters from books few people know about, and listening to talk shows from overseas. With the world being so small and technology so advanced, you might always discover something less obvious but more fascinating.