Sunday, January 12, 2014

Paths to Publishing: Lisabet Sarai || HER SECRET INGREDIENT

The Accidental Author by Lisabet Sarai:

I've been writing pretty much all my life. The earliest poems I have in my files date from when I was seven. I recently discovered I'd kept copies of the plays I created in elementary school, one about the naughty antics of the Greek gods, another about meeting the Beatles. (That dates me, right?) Throughout high school, college and graduate school, I was probably the only student who loved term paper assignments. Influenced by my pretty much non-stop reading, I penned science fiction and romance, poetry, mysteries and (later) some pretty steamy erotic fantasies.

Somehow, though, I never fostered a strong ambition to be published. My career aspirations focused on science and engineering. I viewed my creative writing as more or less an amusing hobby, an outlet for my imagination.

Then in the late nineties, when I was vacationing with my husband in Instanbul, I happened to pick up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace novel Gemini Heat from a hotel book swap. These days, Black Lace books are marketed as erotic romance, but back then, the imprint's tag line was “Erotica for women, by women.” Anyway, I absolutely adored Portia's book, an imaginative, explicit tale of identical twins  seduced by a devastatingly attractive and masterful millionaire. Sounds rather conventional by today's standards, I guess, but at that point I'd never encountered a sexy tale that was transgressive and sexually diverse, yet at the same time intelligent and skillfully crafted.

I was an instant fan. (Portia and I still send each other holiday cards every year, though we've never met.)

As an American, I was not familiar with Black Lace, which at the time was a British imprint. The back pages of Portia's book had a list of delicious-sounding blurbs for other novels as well as a questionnaire soliciting reader preferences. After my heartbeat returned to normal, I started to think, “I bet I could write a book like this.” The title list at the back suggested a preference for exotic settings. I considered a story based in Bangkok, Thailand, where I'd lived and worked for several years.    

When we returned from Turkey, I got out my laptop and began writing, drawing heavily on both my own experiences and my fantasies. Before I knew it, I had three chapters. On a lark, I printed them out, along with a synopsis, and air mailed them to Kerry Sharp, the Black Lace editor.

Busy with work and family responsibilities, I forgot about the book. About a month later (remember we're talking the snail mail era), I received a post card from Black Lace, acknowledging my submission and warning me that due to the large number of proposals they received, I might not hear anything for several months. I shrugged and filed the card away. After all, I didn't have much invested in this effort. I knew it was a long shot.

Imagine my astonishment when, two days after the postcard arrived, I got an enthusiastic email from Ms. Sharp, offering me a contract and asking me when I could deliver the full manuscript!

Now I was really in trouble! I didn't have a clue how long it would take me to write an 80K word novel. I picked a date more or less out of the air and sat down to write.

It turned out to be easier than I expected. The tale was fueled more by passion than by craft. When I reread Raw Silk now, I cringe at the sometimes awkward dialogue and the overly-verbose descriptions. Still, the novel remains one of my most popular, perhaps because it carries so much of my heart.

That was almost fifteen years ago. I didn't intend to become a published author. It was more or less accidental. And lest other authors envy the ease with which I achieved my first publishing credit, I'll console you with the fact that Black Lace flatly rejected my next two proposals!

I wrote those two books anyway, and sold them to another publisher, who has since gone out of business. So I reclaimed the rights and sold them again. Without planning to, I got sucked into the author business. I bought a domain and created a web site. I joined a writing and critique group. I learned to read contracts and royalty reports. I'd become addicted to publishing, and I still am, I guess, because I'm still doing it.

It's not because of the money. I don't even want to calculate my pitiful hourly rate of return, especially if I include all the hours I spend on marketing (like writing this post, for instance). I've always loved writing, as I said at the start, and publishing lets me indulge my creativity and share my visions.

Over fifteen years, I've seen a lot of changes to the business. It's much easier to get published now, but a lot more difficult to get noticed. I deeply admire those of you who pursue publishing as a career, because it's rough and getting rougher. If I were just starting now, I might not have the courage and energy to persevere.

In any case, if my history has a moral, it's this: don't discount your fantasies, however improbably they might seem. You never know when you're going to have a happy accident.

Title:  Her Secret Ingredient
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Contemporary erotic romance 
Word count: 15,000

Read an excerpt
Watch the trailer.


Stir in a pinch to stir up his passion.

When the Tastes of France food channel offers Mei Lee 'Emily' Wong a series of guest spots, she jumps at the opportunity to take her culinary career to a whole new level. Ultimately, she wants a show of her own, but first she has to prove herself to Michelin-starred network founder and effective dictator, Etienne Duvalier. A legend in the world of classic French cuisine as well as a domineering perfectionist, Etienne is sceptical about the culinary abilities of a woman from Hong Kong. To make things more difficult, the master chef is also so gorgeous that Emily can't help being attracted to him.

Emily tries to solve both problems by spiking her luscious profiteroles with an ancient Oriental aphrodisiac. Unfortunately, Harry Sanborne, the low-key, bespectacled producer for Emily's show, samples the delicacies she intends for Etienne's consumption. His powerful reaction to her secret ingredient comes as a pleasant surprise to them both. Harry turns out to be far more impressive in bed than on the set. However, he can't do nearly as much to advance her ambitions as Etienne. Emily tries once more to tempt the exacting M Duvalier with her special cooking as well as her feminine charms. The outrageous results threaten to end her TV career forever-until Harry steps in to save her reputation and claim her heart.

“Even our Monsieur le Chef can be swayed by great food. The desserts – oh, I’ve just got to try one of these...”

“No! Harry...”

Before I could stop him, though, he’d nipped a cream puff off the pile and popped it into his mouth. His eyes went wide as he chewed and swallowed.

“Unbelievable! Give me another...”

“Please, no...!” I grabbed at his arm, but it was too late. He’d already devoured a second choux.  “Those are supposed to be for Etienne...”

“Come on, you’ve made at least two dozen. He won’t miss one or two.”  Harry made as if to reach for a third puff. I hung on, trying to restrain him, but he was far stronger than I. Under that dorky clothing, I felt his muscles tense and shift.

He halted, his fingers inches away from its target, as if suddenly aware of my touch.  Turning away from the tower of pastries, he gazed down at me. Behind his glasses, his mocha-coloured eyes gleamed with powerful purpose.

“Harry?” My stomach did a somersault. My cheeks felt as though they’d just come out of the oven. Meanwhile he held me in that fierce, all-consuming stare.

My right hand still gripped his left arm, near the shoulder. He reached out to rest his on my shoulder, as if we were about to dance. “You know, I actually see something a lot sweeter right here.” He slid his palm down my back and pulled me to his chest with a decisiveness that sent my pulse into overdrive. When he leaned in close, I smelled the almonds on his breath.

“Harry...I don’t think...”

“Shh!” He enforced this directive by fastening his mouth on mine in an energetic kiss.

He tasted, unsurprisingly, of sugar and cream. His firm lips moulded to mine while his tongue teased at the seam, coaxing me to open. I shouldn’t have given in, but I honestly couldn’t help it. He might look like a bit of nerd, but this guy really knew what he was doing. Wet, but not sloppy – forceful, but not brutal – alternating between deep penetration and playful flickering –he kissed with consummate sensuality. All I wanted was to swoon in his arms, to let him take me over.  He seemed eager to oblige.

Available for purchase:

Author Bio:

Lisabet Sarai became addicted to words at an early age. She began reading when she was four. She wrote her first story at five years old and her first poem at seven. Since then, she has written plays, tutorials, scholarly articles, marketing brochures, software specifications, self-help books, press releases, a five-hundred page dissertation, and lots of erotica and erotic romance – nearly fifty single author titles, plus dozens of short stories in various erotic anthologies, including the Lambda winner Where the Girls Are and the IPPIE Best Erotic Book of 2011, Carnal Machines. Her gay scifi erotic romance Quarantine won a Rainbow Awards 2012 Honorable Mention.

In addition to writing, Lisabet also edits erotica and erotic romance. Her editing credits include the ground breaking anthology Sacred Exchange, which explores the spiritual aspects of BDSM, the massive collection Cream: The Best of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, the charity anthology Coming Together: In Vein, a collection of vampire tales that benefits Doctors Without Borders, and six volumes of the Coming Together: Presents series of single author charitable erotica books. You'll also find her writing the newsletter and occasional articles for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association ( and monthly reviews for Erotica Revealed (

Lisabet has more degrees than anyone would ever need, from prestigious educational institutions who would no doubt be deeply embarrassed by her chosen genre.  She has traveled widely and currently lives in Southeast Asia with her indulgent husband and two exceptional felines, where she pursues an alternative career that is completely unrelated to her creative writing.

Author Links:

The author is offering an e-copy of Her Secret Ingredient to one lucky randomly drawn commenter. (Please include an email address.)


  1. Hello, Melissa,

    Thanks for inviting me to be part of this great series!

    1. Lisabet, You're welcome! Thank you for sharing your publishing journey with us today. I think you're absolutely right. Anyone sitting down to calculate their hourly rate is in for a severe shock, especially after promotional time is included.

      Best of luck with your new title!

  2. Great story on how you got your start. I was recently introduced to your book and I can't wait to read more

  3. Great story on how you got your start. I was recently introduced to your book and I can't wait to read more

  4. I enjoyed reading about your path to publishing. Great to read how everyone does that. I have read so many of your stories but not the first one.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  5. I was an accidental author too. Still don't know how I got here.

  6. Lovely story, Lisbet. The excerpt sounds like the story will be fun. Congrats!

  7. Thank you for sharing your journey, very inspirational. Fun excerpt as well! elewkf1 at yahoo dot com

  8. I always love hearing Lisabet's story. She's such an inspiration!

  9. Wonderful story, Lisabet. Thanks for sharing. Fun excerpt, too!

  10. I so enjoyed hearing your story. I understood fully the rocky road (sometimes littered with boulders) the climb to publishing would take, but you're correct. It's getting your name out there that is equally challenging. All the best!

  11. Enjoyed the story. Thanks for the giveaway. turtle6422 (at) gmail (dot) com

  12. Hello everyone!

    Thanks for your comments. I'm having serious Internet problems and Blogger won't cooperate with me, so I can't seem to reply individually. I'm not sure this comment will "take" either.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Nice excerpt

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  15. You know, in all the time I've known you, I realized that I never did know how you got started, so it was fun learning all about it. Thanks Lisabet!


  16. I always love to hear about authors' paths to publication, and I've been looking forward to this particular book!

    Trix, vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

  17. Hello, everyone!

    This post has been up for more than a week, so I thought I should choose a winner. selected Mary Morgan.

    Congratulations, Mary! However, you didn't leave your email address (naughty girl!)

    Please contact me at lisabet -- at--- lisabetsarai -- dot --- com.

    Thanks to all for visiting and commenting.

    1. Lisabet,
      I left Mary a message in Google+. Hopefully, she'll see it and answer.

  18. Hi, again,

    Since Mary is an author, she decided to bow out and offer the prize to someone else. So I did another draw. The winner was Trix!

    Thanks again, everyone.