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Halfway to the Stars EBook Publication

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Hot off the Press! Halfway to the Stars, a novel by Marcy Sheiner, now available as an ebook!

I’ve just published my first ebook on Smashwords.com!  Titled  Halfway to the Stars from the old Tony Bennett song about San Francisco, it’s a birds-eye view of the city’s sex scene, a busy, thriving, outrageous night — and day — life of sex parties, masturbat-a-thons, S/M dances, sex workers, sex-positive radicals, and  workshops on a plethora of sexual techniques that includes everything from fisting to dominance.

Halfway to the Stars is actually my fifth novel. None of them have ever been published, though believe me, I tried with the first three. The third one got as far as an enthusiastic agent who sent it to every major publisher in New York — and there were more of them at that time (c. 1980). I had high hopes for that book, not to mention plans for what to wear on Oprah and who’d play me in the movie (Barbra Streisand, of course!). I even wrote my own reviews, mimicking what people with different points of view might say about it. These were by Ellen Willis (politically pro),  Andrea Dworkin  (politically outraged) and Anatole Broyard (snobbishly offended). (Interestingly, all three of those critics have since passed away.)

I’m still here, and still writing — but by the time I finished Halfway to the Stars — around 2005 — I’d lost the motivation for trying to get into print. I only sent it to two agents, both of whom represented writer friends of mine. One of their rejection letters said, “Rachel {my main character} is simply not my cup of tea.” I don’t remember the other letter — but after so many years of being subjected to this kind of crap, I just didn’t have the heart or energy for the process anymore. It wasn’t just the five novels — I’ve also sent out short stories, and articles to mainstream women’s magazines (Cosmo, Redbook, etc.), that got similar treatment. In those days submitting work meant making copies and sending out self-addressed stamped envelopes — and sometimes we didn’t even get those pricey stamps back!

Why am I telling you all this? First, because this is my blog, and where else do I get to be so self-indulgent? The more important reason, though, is that my decision to epublish is a political act. I did not make this decision out of the desperation of not getting into print; I made it when I heard Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, speak at the Berkeley library about his electronic publishing site and his reasons for starting it. Like me, Mark was fed up with the publishing process as dictated by a behemoth industry. Not only did he rant and rave in the best progressive tradition about the low advances and royalties, the lack of publicity for midlist writers, and the usual stuff we all complain about — he also talked about the psychological damage inflicted upon writers by an industry that treats us and our work carelessly, with their insulting rejection letters, making us believe our work isn’t good enough to be presented to readers. They’ve become the gatekeepers who decide what will and will not get read, and if they don’t like our work, the failure is surely ours.

For years I’ve been hoping, and pretty much believing, that the Internet would some day deliver the means of book production into the hands of writers. We were getting closer with all the self-publishing venues for print, print-on-demand, and ebooks–but we usually had to pay to publish, and didn’t make much money on sales. Mark Coker’s Smashwords is something entirely new: he doesn’t charge the writer a penny, and authors get about 80% of net sales. That alone got me pretty excited — but it was Mark Coker’s fire, his outrage, his commitment to writers that really spoke to me. As I said, I’d been waiting for the day when we’d take over the publishing process. With Mark Coker and Smashwords, my friends, that day has come.

I believe that electronic publishing is the wave of the future. Just today, a story in theNew York Times on the state of print noted, “In 2008 e-books were 0.6 percent of the total trade market; in 2010, they were 6.4 percent. Publishers have seen especially robust e-book sales in genre fiction like romance, mystery and thrillers, as well as literary fiction. In 2010, 114 million e-books were sold.”

Now for a few words about the book:

HALFWAY TO THE STARS is the story of a 20-something rookie journalist who

leaves her small New England town on a quest for adventure, love, and meaningful work, in that order. After a brief stint in LA with her two best friends, she ends up in San Francisco, working as an editor/reporter for Libertine, an online sex journal. Making her way through a maze of sex parties, sex workers, and sex-positive radicals, Rachel discovers aspects of her own eroticism, not all of it welcome news, and finds it quite a challenge to write about sex in the upbeat, lighthearted tone demanded by her publisher/ boss. The love and adventure she’d been looking for turns out to be a lot more complicated than she’d anticipated.

I think readers will  find the descriptions of the SF sex scene authentic, considering that I spent the better part of a decade writing about it for On Our Backs, The Spectator, and several other publications, including one in Norway. No, Rachel Max is not me, and Libertine is not On Our Backs, and the characters and plot are pure fiction — but the stuff Rachel encounters and learns are, if not exactly “ripped from the headlines,” taken straight out of reality.

So get thee over to Smashwords, buy my book, and take a look around. If you’re a writer, consider epublishing there. If you’re a reader, buy a few books.

Marcy Sheiner’s Smashwords Author Profile:

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Marshein 

Book page to sample or purchase Halfway to the Stars:

http://smashwords.com/b/79277

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