Thursday, January 3, 2019

My Secret Life -- #pseudonym #cyberspace #ERWA


Veiled Woman

By Lisabet Sarai

When I published my first novel, I didn’t realize how profoundly it would change my existence. After all, I’d submitted to Black Lace on a whim, intrigued by the fact that someone might be interested in reading stories inspired by my forbidden fantasies and my real-world sexual adventures. Since my book took place in the mysterious and exotic orient, I devised a pen name to match, with a hint of foreign glamor.

I even concocted a fake biography for “Lisabet Sarai”. The only child of a Lebanese belly dancer and a French army officer stationed in the Middle East, Lisabet split her childhood between the souks of Marrakesh and the cafés of Montmatre. As a precocious teenager, she danced for princes and sultans, one of whom financed her higher education. As much in demand for her exquisite erotic poetry as for her sensuous danse de ventre, Lisabet has traveled all over the world, capturing her impressions in her daring stories. Her dozens of lovers remember her with nostalgia and affection, years after their brief but incandescent liaisons.

Little did I realize that Lisabet would take on a life of her own.

There are some grains of truth in my tall tale. I did perform as a belly dancer in my youth.

 
I’ve visited every continent except Australia, and now live in Asia. And I did go through what I like to call my “sex goddess” period, in the golden age after the invention of the Pill and before AIDS, when I seemed to be overflowing with sexual exuberance which I shared pretty broadly. I like to believe that if my former lovers think of me, they do so fondly.

However, my public reality is far more prosaic than Lisabet’s. I’m in my sixties. I’ve been married for more than thirty years. I work in teaching and tech, occupations which do demand a certain sort of creativity, but which call on a different set of skills than my erotic writing. Most people who know me have never heard of Lisabet (though I occasionally fantasize that some of my friends or family might actually be Lisabet’s readers, without my knowing).

Although I’m genuinely proud of my body of work, stretching over nearly two decades, I can’t brag. I can’t even tell most people. Both my parents were avid readers—it’s no accident I’m a book worm—but they went to their graves not knowing about my alter-ego. They wouldn’t have disowned me or condemned me or anything like that, but I know my preferred subject matter would have made them uncomfortable. Once I went so far as to inscribe a print copy of Raw Silk (second edition) for my father, intending it as a birthday gift. At the last minute, I returned the book to my hidden stash of author’s copies, recognizing that my dad’s peace of mind was more important than my own desire for recognition.

Meanwhile, the need to keep my alternative existence a secret has become far more critical since I took up residence in a fairly conservative foreign country with strict anti-pornography laws. I love my adopted home and enjoy living here. If I were exposed as the notorious Lisabet Sarai, I could be kicked out, even put in jail. So I take precautions. I use a different computer for my Lisabet work and communications than for other tasks. I encrypt all my files. I don’t use the same social networks for my two identities. I never do anything related to Lisabet on my phone. I bite my tongue when someone starts talking about self-publishing.

I have friends here who are literary, creative types. I am so tempted to tell them about my carefully hidden career. I really have to watch myself. After twenty years of writing and publishing smut, I want to shout from the rooftops, give away copies to friends and family, do signings and readings like other authors. I don’t dare.

So my existence as Lisabet Sarai is pretty much limited to the cybersphere. I email. I blog. I participate in the Erotica Readers &Writers Association lists. Very rarely I get the chance to meet some of my erotica colleagues in person. When I do, it’s a tremendous high.

I love connecting with fellow erotic authors. To be honest, I feel closer to many of my on-line friends in the erotica community than I do to my meat space acquaintances. I suppose that’s because with them, I can be honest. I don’t have to hide behind a veil of respectability. I can be myself—experimental, iconoclastic, taboo, still chronicling the thrilling variations of desire even though I’m a senior citizen.

The thing is, Lisabet Sarai really is me, a hugely important part of me that I have to keep a secret from most of the world. It’s difficult, even a bit painful, to conceal my true nature. I’m grateful that with you readers, at least, I don’t have to hide.


13 comments:

  1. As a fan and hopefully a friend, I am grateful to know you as an electronic buddy. Like you, Foxy and I are in the somewhat forbidden Lifestyle of swingers. Like writers of smut, it's not something that you can talk about at Starbucks but often you'd like to. Congratulations on your upcoming Sin City Sweethearts, I know it's going to be a big hit.

    Foxy and Larry

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    1. I know from previous discussions that you face similar issues. Not everyone is as open minded as folks here.

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  2. Lisabet, what an interesting yet intriguing situation you're in! Your exploits at having to hide the real you could make an incredible story by itself--if it hasn't already.

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    1. Thanks, Tim. That's actually an interesting idea. I've already written one book where the protagonist is an erotic author... she gets into huge trouble, actually, when someone posts a video on YouTube of her having sex with a demon... ;^)

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    2. Wow, that kind of video ought to be able to be monetized! I don't actually know anything about how YouTube works, but a scene like that should require a fee to observe, not to mention publicizing a writer's work big-time. (But I guess that would be a whole different story.)

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    3. The video causes such an uproar that her publisher cancels her series contract. This is in retaliation for the heroine having exercised the escape clause on the infernal agreement bartering her soul for success... ;^)

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  3. Wow! Most people blush at the thought of telling their friends and family what they write, but I would wager that most of them don't have anywhere near the same real-world consequences that you do if the word got out. I used to live my writing life in secret, but as I've gotten to grow in it, I've told more people and gotten far more comfortable with it, to the point where my mom proofread New York Heat (with its 27 or so gay sex scenes). Nowadays, I don't think I could not tell folks I write smut.

    Also, I think this is a fantastic kick-off to the revamped OGaG!

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    1. I think I'd be more open if I were still living in the US. Americans have a lot to complain about, but we can be seriously grateful for the level of freedom of speech we enjoy.

      Your mom proofed New York Heat? She must be quite a gal!

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  4. One of my sons and my daughter have read all of my books. Son says I write "in a literary style, with tasteful sex scenes." The other 2 boys gag even discussing their Mom's smutty porn. To each their own! I write what my own Mom would have loved to read. Good on your Mom, Cameron, that she's so open-minded.

    Lisabet, your saying that your smut personna is a cherished part of yourself reminds me of when I was in my 40's and raising a houseful of kids. I got my 2nd tattoo for our 10-year anniversary, and our 4th, our only daughter, was a baby. For the next 10 years, I would plan my next one(s) on my way home from getting new ink. I finally realized that when I looked into the mirror, I was petrified that I had disappeared into my everyday world of PTA meetings, being a Girl Scout leader, being a mom and wife, working 3 part-time jobs, etc. I was scared that the real me was gone! So the tattoos were my way of reassuring myself that I was still me. Your writing (and mine also) does the same thing.

    How lucky for all of us!

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    1. To each her own indeed.... What are the subjects of your tattoos?

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    2. Mostly family...husband's name in a heart on my upper thigh, his 10-year anniversary gift. Then my kids initials are on hearts on an anklet. I also have my zodiac sign on my leg (remember, I was in high school and college during the 70's!), along with some other symbols I admire, like a green peace sign (get it? Greenpeace), the Ankh for eternal life, the Celtic Triskele for birth/death/rebirth. I have a Celtic bracelet on my wrist, and Iggdrasil, the tree of life, in a stylized depiction with Celtic knots, on my back, along with a small, "two hearts melting into one" picture. Then there are the huge butterflies landing on a flower on my right breast, with 4 smaller butterflies on my shoulder. And of course, when Mom passed away and I cried for a year, my artist designed the perfect way for me to honor her, and it's on my leg. It's one of my biggest ones, but then, I still miss her terribly.

      I read a comment once, about how a tattoo is "a public expression of a prayer." I think that. Look at mine, and you can see what's important to me. My life and loves. And they all have lots of color on them, because I'm a colorful kind of gal!

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  5. Lisabet, I admire your courage as well as the sexy photos from your youth which apparently couldn't be used to identify you now. In 2011, when I was preparing to give a workshop on grammar with the writer called Shar Azade (a version of Shaharazade, the storyteller of The Arabian Nights stories) at the first conference of the Erotic Authors Association in Las Vegas, I mentioned in an email that I still didn't know her real name. That was insensitive of me. She pointed out that she was living in Asia and faced the same level of danger that you do, and that she couldn't afford to have her erotic-writer persona connected to her real-life identity. I was impressed that she actually came to the conference, was very helpful in the workshop, and generally seemed honest in her way. Since then, I haven't asked anyone to "come out" when they have a reason to stay anonymous.

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    1. The photos were heavily airbrushed. I never looked that good!

      You're brave too, though, sharing your experiences as an escort.

      I remember Shar and her stories. Haven't seen or heard from her in a long time. So many of us just evaporate... our secret lives perhaps turning out to be totally insubstantial.

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