My Secret Life

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

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 late sixties. I’ve been happily married for nearly forty 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 more than 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 more than 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, at least, I don’t have to hide.

Kiss Your Anonymity Goodbye


Authors have been using pseudonyms for almost as long as publishing has existed, for various reasons. Victorian George Eliot reportedly chose a male pseudonym because no one would have taken her literary creations seriously if they knew she was a woman. J.K. Rowling wrote her crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling as Robert Galbraith, to avoid contamination from her Harry Potter fame. Male authors of romance sometimes choose a female-sounding pen name to deal with the widely-held notion that men can’t write romantic fiction. Likewise, women writing thrillers may opt for a masculine or gender-neutral pen name. Many authors who write in multiple genres use different pen names for each, with the goal of building separate brands and reducing reader confusion.

Of course, for those of us who write sexually explicit material, a pseudonym may be more than just a convenience or a tool for maximizing sales. There’s a good reason why so many erotic works are attributed to the prolific Anonymous. In some countries, creating and selling erotic content is literally a crime. Even in nations that supposedly guarantee free speech, society often treats erotic authors or artists as psychologically deviant or dangerous to youth. We walk a fine line almost everywhere. Staying on the safe side of the law, avoiding being stigmatized or black listed, almost always requires that we publish under a false name. Furthermore, it’s essential that we keep our true identities secret from all but the narrowest group of trusted individuals where disclosure cannot be avoided, such as our publishers or accountants. Even our families may not be aware of our hidden lives as purveyors of the prurient.

Unfortunately, technology has made the preservation of anonymity almost impossible, and the situation is getting worse all the time. Back in 2012 I wrote a series of columns for ERWA called “Naughty Bits: The Erotogeek’s Guide for Technologically-Challenged Authors”. (You can download the entire series as a free ebook here.) One of those columns discussed some of the measures you can take to protect your identity and your privacy. Everything I said in that article is still true. However, even if you adhere to all my suggestions, you are still at significant risk.

Since 2012, computers have gotten even better at learning patterns and making connections between seemingly disparate items buried in huge amounts of data. You may see this discussed in the media under the general headings of “Big Data Analytics”, “Deep Learning” or “AI” – Artificial Intelligence. In fact, there’s not much real intelligence behind these processes, just extremely effective algorithms for sifting through massive amounts of information to discover previously hidden structure. These algorithms were already being explored in 2012, but there have been two important changes since then:

  • Computers have become faster and cheaper than ever, and these high powered computational capabilities are available to anyone via commercial cloud services.
  • The explosion of mobile applications and digital services has made nearly everyone’s data footprint a lot larger than it was in 2012.

Almost all these computational methods have the property that they become increasingly powerful and accurate as the size of their input data sets grows. Privacy through obscurity is a thing of the past.

As a consequence of these developments, even digital activity that you undertake anonymously (for instance, without logging in) can be easily linked to a well-known identity. This is a significant issue for responsible research. For instance, sensitive medical records used to investigate lifestyle correlates of health problems may be stripped of all personal identification (“anonymized”) to meet privacy restrictions. However, it has been demonstrated repeatedly that by combining multiple anonymized data sets, individual identities can be recovered.

Researchers may view this as a problem. Businesses see it as an enormous opportunity. Personalized, targeting marketing is demonstrably more effective than broadly designed, generic efforts. The more a business knows about you, the more they can influence you — not just what you buy, but how you think about them, how you talk about them, what you share with your friends. Meanwhile the data sets available to business becomes broader, richer and more informative every day,

Do you want a demonstration? Go to Google image search, You might not have realized that you don’t need to use keywords for image searching. If you click on the camera icon, you can search using a picture as the search key.

Click on the camera, then put the following into the URL box:

Then click on “Search by Image”. The results are labeled as “domestic short-haired cat” and many similar photos show up on the results page, as well as articles about cats.

You may think this is a bit crude (most of the cats don’t have double paws, like mine did!), but it’s only going to improve over time. How long do you think it will be before it’s possible to find every personal selfie you’ve ever posted? (My estimate: two years from now.)

If you use Facebook, here’s something else to try. Login to Facebook. Then in another browser tab, go to a hotel booking site such as Don’t log in (if you have an account), but search for hotels in San Francisco, and click on a few results to look at the details.

I’m willing to bet that within the next twenty four hours, Facebook will be showing you travel ads about San Francisco.

Now, maybe you don’t care. Maybe you want to see ads that reflect your current interests, even if that means that the different sites or apps you use are exchanging information without your explicit permission. If you’re an erotica author who uses a private pseudonym, though, I’d guess that you don’t want Google or Facebook connecting the dots between your author persona and your real world identity, revealing to your boss or your students or your church congregation that you’re actually Lulu Pinkcheeks, award-winning author of spanking erotica.

So what can you do about this? How can you reduce the risks?

I’m assuming you’re already following my recommendations from the earlier article. If not, start there. Below you’ll find additional precautions you should take, now that it’s nearly 2019.

Maintain separate login credentials for every site or digital service you use. Do not ever use a social media account (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to log in to a third party site.

Never maintain two accounts on the same social media platform, one for your real world identity and one for your author identity. In the real world, I use Facebook and LinkedIn. I don’t have an account on either as Lisabet. On the other hand, as an author I use Pinterest and Twitter.

Use a completely different computer for your writing-related work than you do for your other work. This may seem extreme, but today’s browsers and applications save large amounts of contextual information which can be used to link your two identities. Using separate computers also reduces the risk of errors, e.g sending an email from your author identity to someone in your real-world contact list.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have the money for multiple computers.” In fact, what I do is to use different virtual machines A virtual machine acts like a totally separate computer (and can have a different operating system than your native computer), but shares the hardware with its host machine. An additional advantage of virtual machines is the ability to have them reset back to a known state every time you shut them down. This can also help protect against malware.

By the way, the recommendation above also applies to your mobile devices. Don’t mix real world and author accounts, data or business on one device. In fact, mobile devices are significantly more vulnerable to data leaks and data theft than desktop devices, because the mobile network protocols are less secure and because app stores do not investigate or stringently police violations of privacy by the apps they host. (I can provide references to support this claim if you don’t believe it.)

Consider encrypting your author-related files. “Encryption” is a process that protects your data from being understood by malicious third parties, by translating it into a form that cannot be read by anyone without the encryption key. It’s comparable to keeping your information in a secret code. You can set up your computer so that it encrypts the full contents of a disk whenever the machine shuts down. This protects you if your computer is lost or stolen.

Consider using an anonymizing service. One problem that will remain, even if you use different computing devices as recommended above, is that your public IP address—the unique number that identifies you on the Internet—will very likely remain the same regardless of which computer or virtual machine you use, since this comes from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Thus it is possible to connect activity from the two different machines. Furthermore, your IP address will often tell an Internet application where you are located, since different countries are allocated different blocks of addresses.Anonymizing browsers, such as TOR, solve this problem by relaying your communications through different servers, to hide your actual IP address and location.

By now your head is probably aching. “I don’t want to worry about this,” you’re thinking. “It sounds so inconvenient!” You’re completely right.

In fact, increased convenience is one of the ways we’re seduced into giving away our personal data. It’s far more convenient to use your Facebook login than to create (and manage) a new account for each new website or service you use. It’s more convenient to wave your phone in front of reader and deduct money from your digital wallet than to carry cash or a credit card, even though you’re at much greater risk of being hacked. You might find it more comfortable to keep your mobile GPS location service enabled all the time, so you can quickly do online navigation, even though that means that your detailed movements are being tracked and saved.

Trying to maintain your anonymity is inconvenient. It takes thought and work. However, for me, living in a foreign country with stringent anti-pornography laws, the alternative is too dangerous to risk.

By the way, you may think I’m paranoid, but as it happens I’m a computer professional in real life. I can provide solid documentation for all the claims I’ve made in this article. Just get in touch.

~ Lisabet

Orthodox Erotica

By Oxartes (Guest Blogger)


I joined ERWA in September 2006 and began writing erotica, as a hobby, about a year before that. Nothing that would justify me being this month’s guest blogger, right? Well, what is out of the ordinary and what might justify my being this month’s guest blogger is that I’m an orthodox Jew.

You’ll have never read anything I’ve written, except on the ERWA site (with one exception, check out Jewrotica), for one very simple reason, other than I consider myself a rank amateur, especially in comparison to the excellent, excellent writers here at ERWA. I’m afraid, I’m very afraid. I certainly don’t see a contradiction between my writing erotica (that ranges from PG-13 to XXX) and my being an orthodox (as opposed to ultra-orthodox) Jew; if I did I wouldn’t be here. But I live in an entirely orthodox area here in Israel (moved here 27+ years ago) and I don’t think that my friends and neighbors would be so generous. On the contrary, they would probably consider what I right to be rank pornography. The fact that I’ve written several stories based on accounts in the Bible would only make it worse, much worse. I might be judging my friends and neighbors too harshly but I don’t care to ever find out. So, I have a mania about staying as deeply anonymous and underground as possible. I won’t risk my family being ostracized. So why do I write?

I started erotic and/or paranormal fiction, as an escape, a sanctuary from the darkling plain (I love that poem) outside my door. (I do live in the Middle East.) The shadows that I create sure beat the insanity outside. Lots of people here live, eat, breathe and sleep “the situation” (as we call the Arab-Israeli conflict). They read books about it, talk about it on Shabbat and are totally preoccupied with it. It defines them. I can’t and won’t live like that. I live it and will never be away from it. But I won’t become consumed by it, I won’t let it define me. In order to keep my sanity, I need some respite and sanctuary from it. This is where writing fits in. It’s where I can forget the reality outside my window and help keep the wolves at bay. It’s where I can relax, unwind and have fun. I write purely as a (secret) hobby, as R&R and as a kind of therapy (to let off emotional/psychic steam). That I can immerse myself in fictional realities helps me deal with “real” reality. This is what writing does for me. I’ve never really had a hobby before; it’s very relaxing. Why specifically erotica? I really don’t know but it’s a lot of fun and I’m enjoying the hell out of myself.

Verse #45 of Omar Khayyam’s “The Rubaiyat” says:

“But leave the Wise to wrangle,

and with me The Quarrel of the Universe let be:

And, in some corner of the Hubbub coucht,

Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee.”

Writing is the corner in which I leave the Wise to wrangle, let the Quarrel of the Universe be and in which I couch and make Game of the lot! Writing has become such a part of me that I really can’t see not writing.

Erica Jong writes:

“Never does she feel more truly ‘successful’ as a writer than when she sees what passions her works arouse in people. One writes alone in blissful, or paranoid, solitude…So, to see actual fellow humans being moved to laughter, tears, and argument by one’s work — that is vindication. One is a good social being after all.”

I’ve created a series of stories about succubi and incubi. I’ve written several stories based on people/accounts from the Bible. Being an orthodox Jew, I’ve created an orthodox Jewish couple and written about them.

If I cause my readers to laugh (or just smile; I’m not greedy), cry, puke, argue or be entertained or moved in any way, then I figure I must be doing something right.

Do I have moral qualms about writing erotica?

There are certain things, especially in regard to Bible-based stories that I won’t do. Someone suggested that I write about David and Jonathan. I’ll pass. (Personally, I find the idea that they were gay wholly unsupported by the text. But I have written gay/lesbian stories.) On the other hand, I had no qualms whatsoever about writing how Delilah sexually tortured Samson into telling her the secret of his strength (our sages comment on Judges 16:16 and say that’s exactly what she did) or about King Solomon sleeping with the Queen of Sheba (our sages say he did) or about creating wholly fictional accounts about who the woman from Thebez was who dropped a millstone on Abimelech’s head (Judges 9:53-55), or how evil Queen Athaliah could’ve actually gone into the Temple at the precise moment when High Priest Jehoiada was launching his coup d’etat against her. (II Kings 11:13-16). I started a story about David and Bath-Sheba from Bath-Sheba’s point-of-view but didn’t like the way it was going; I’ve shelved it for now.

On Yom Kippur, whatever qualms I still have about writing erotica give way to thoughts about my temper and judging others, about being a better husband/father/son, etc. Am I shortchanging God thereby? I don’t mean to and I sure hope that He doesn’t see it that way. I see myself as kind of like God’s court jester. His Majesty keeps me around and lets me say outrageous stuff (within limits) because He knows that I love Him and am His most loyal subject, flawed as I am.

I love to read history. My pen name, “Oxartes”, is a hybrid of “Oxus” and “Jaxartes“. These Asian rivers were, to the ancient Greeks and Romans, the barely known end/edge of the civilized world. They were mysterious in and of themselves and marked the border between the known and the vast unknown. I find writing a way to explore the unknown in my psyche.

I adore Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I have a little Bantam paperback edition (very dog-eared by now) that I reread every year or so. It has an introduction by someone named George Stade who writes:


Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in short, is an apparition of what we repress, particularly eros. To be bitten by Dracula is to become slave to a kind of lust, abandoned to unlawful hungers, a projection of the beholder’s desire and dread…

Dracula is the symptom of a wish, largely sexual, that we wish we did not have. The effect of repression is to turn a hunger into a horror; the image of a repressed longing as it appears in a dream or a fiction is a sinister shape that threatens with what it promises, that insinuates the desire beneath the fear…

…For Dracula is a classic, a book that tells us not what happened but shows us something of what happens wherever there are humans. The fear of death and the fear of the dead and the dream of immortality; the psychological and sexual dialectic within us of mastery and submission, of sadism and masochism, of the desire to hurt those we love and be hurt by them for our desires, the conflict within us between knowledge turned into civilizing power and the power of unknowable and uncivil urges, the alternating control over us of the moonlit energies of the night, when fantasies rise from our sleeping heads to enact our darkest desires, and the waking renunciations of the day, and define manhood and womanhood — these have always been with us. In Dracula, for all its occasional clumsiness and systematic naivete, Stoker transformed what was merely personal or only of his time into images of something more — of something at once monstrous and definitively human.”

For me, much of the erotica that I write is where I give voice to those repressed hungers and uncivil urges and enact my (darkest?) desires, and not only let them frolic in the moonlit energies of the night but get naked and frolic right there with them (as it were).

I suppose some/much of what I write is personal fantasy and repressed wish fulfillment. It’s fun, and I suppose, therapeutic to be able to give voice to my fantasies and repressed wishes.

As fun as writing the occasional raunchy stroke piece (i.e. sex for sex’s sake) can be, the story is very important to me. I like writing stories with varied, often historical, backgrounds. I’ve always liked doing research and try to make my historical settings as accurate as possible. Among the earlier things that I wrote is a series of ten stories about succubi and incubi. In the order in which I wrote them, they take place in modern-day New York, 1302 Ghent, modern-day New York again, 9th-century west Africa, modern-day Buffalo, 1880’s London (involving Jack the Ripper), a Jewish community in 1702 Pinsk, Atlantis and then Carthage on the eve of its fall to Rome (this is the “origin” story), Tibet during the Cultural Revolution and 10th-century Mesoamerica. I would like to go back to the series one day, rewrite some of the earlier stories (I think my writing has improved since then) and write some new ones. I have ideas for stories in modern-day Honduras, ancient India (with a guest appearance by the Buddha, no less!) and late 19th century Samoa.

I’ve written a trilogy of short stories set in ancient China, a few Norse mythology tales, two (unrelated) stories set against the background of the US Civil War and several Israeli (as opposed to Jewish) stories. I’ve given an erotic makeover to several classic fairy tales, written about voracious snake- and spider-women and tried some fan fiction (if Darth Vader was motivated by anger, guess what motivated Darth Maia??).

One of the things I love about the creative process is how ideas take root and develop. Once in a while an idea will spring fully-formed, Athena-like, from my head and I will just have to flesh it out. What has become my magnum opus, what I’m working on now and which I would eventually like to try and publish, has been the exact opposite.

In November 2007, I wrote a 4,000-word story “The Vow” (in the ERWA Treasure Chest) about Alex, an orthodox Jewish private investigator, a former cop and a widower, in New York who stumbles across a ghost, a beautiful Jewish woman who died in 1931, and with whom he must have sex in order to release her from a terrible vow. When I wrote it I had no idea for a sequel.

But an idea took root and just wouldn’t let go. Building on the characters and setting of “Vow” (which I did not rewrite), in May 2010, “Fiend in Need” was born. (It is just under 20,000 words and is also in the ERWA Treasure Chest.). As opposed to “Vow” (which is an almost sweet story of self-discovery), the issues in “Fiend” are larger and considerably darker. Here’s a spoiler: “Fiend” and the as-yet nameless sequel (almost 37,000 words so far) are my version of the Lilith legend. Lilith stars in “Fiend”, as does my other new main character, Devorah, whom Lilith possesses and whom Alex eventually marries. “Vow” and “Fiend” are told in the first person, by Alex. As-yet-nameless sequel (in which the issues are larger and darker still) is being told in the first person, by Devorah. Writing in a female voice is proving to be quite a challenge, and a lot of fun.

Creating Lilith is a challenge in and of herself. She is the villain but I want her to be understandable, tragic, even sympathetic to a degree. I do not want her to be some monochrome figure who is more caricature than character. As-yet-nameless sequel really revolves around the struggle between two strong-willed women, Lilith and Devorah, with Alex playing more of a supporting role.

I have a general idea for the plot for “sequel” but I’m finding that I’m changing things as I go along. Often an idea that I have in my head just doesn’t come out right on my monitor. Often, as I’m writing, an idea will take shape and run more or less on its own and it fits and I like it. The creative process can be such a hoot.

I guess this is me.




Oxartes is 50, married for 25+ years, the proud the father of two teenage sons and the proud owner of two dogs (who, unlike the teenage sons, actually listen). He moved to Israel from the US 27+ years ago.

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