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Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Barbra Campbell!

Today we’re welcoming 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Barbra Campbell, another of the fabulous Persisters, who has been nominated for Best Short Contemporary Romance for her manuscript WATCHING.

Barbra grew up in the suburbs of Houston but feels much more at home in the mountains of Colorado with few people and an abundance of wildlife. Other than writing, two of her many passions are playing the cello and placing exchange students with local families. But with all life has to offer, she’s pretty sure she needs to be reincarnated because there’s not enough time in this life to do all the things that fascinate her.

Her author tagline isRomance served with a side of spice.”

Here’s a blurb for WATCHING:

Cassie is taking control of her life and that means taking matters into her own hands when it comes to her drug dealing ex. If the cops can’t do anything about his stalking, she’ll get the evidence they need to put him away for good.

Gabe had a crush on Cassie in high school, and grasps the opportunity for a second chance when he crosses paths with her ten years later. But his military and cop training won’t let him take a backseat while Cassie cleans her life up.

Personal and professional lines blur when Gabe agrees to a fling with Cassie. Neither wants the other hurt. Neither can turn away. But Cassie’s ex will do his best to keep them apart.

How much risk will Cassie take to get her ex locked up? Can Gabe let Cassie have the control she seeks?

I love the title and the multiple layers of meaning in “Watching”! And her need to stay in control mixed with his need to protect makes for some great internal and external conflict! Can’t wait to learn more!

It’s a lovely day here today, so let’s all stretch out on lounge chairs poolside with some cold iced tea and watermelon popsicles while Barbra and I chat about breaking locks and the complicated (but wonderful!) nature of love.

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Welcome, Barbra! Tell us a little about your Golden Heart book. Where did the idea for WATCHING come from, and what does the word represent for you?

When I was in Copenhagen, I saw a bridge with a bunch of locks clamped onto it. The idea of ‘love locks’ became an obsession for me and I knew they’d end up in a story or three. Seeing all the locks, I couldn’t help but wonder how each relationship worked out, and thus the heroine in my GH story is cutting a lock off a bridge in the opening scene.

When I started brainstorming my GH story, WATCHING, which contains a stalker, the concept of ‘watching’ became my secondary theme. Whether we think about it or not we’re always watching people (at least I am) and they’re always watching us (even though that creeps me out to think about it). As the story developed, the various ways we watch each other, or ourselves, kept popping into my mind, so I had a fun time letting my characters explore the concept.

Nice! The title is even more layered than I guessed! And I love the idea of opening with the breaking of a “love lock” (surely not all those optimistic “lockings” end up lasting forever, after all!). So…that little moment during travel led you to a Golden Heart nomination. What was it like when you got that coveted phone call letting you know you were a finalist?

A little backstory…I’m trained as a geneticist, but a brain injury brought my world to a stifling halt ten years ago. There’s a long story that involves a fortune teller and losing self-awareness, but I don’t have enough space to delve into that here. So basically the brain injury gave me a personality reset and I had to relearn who I was and what I wanted out of life. Yes, this was quite a challenge for my husband too, but again, not enough space.

While I’m obviously a writer, I’ve only known the writer version of me for a limited number of years. Couple that with strangely low self-confidence and a burning desire to get things done, and it shouldn’t be too hard to believe I have a massive case of Imposter Syndrome, such as was talked about on the Ruby blog recently. I wouldn’t even have entered the Golden Heart except a wonderful mentor loved my story and told me I had to.

Since this was my first romance writing contest, even finaling would have been a win for me, but that seemed pretty unrealistic.

On the day calls were being made to finalists, I promised myself I wouldn’t obsess over names populating onto the website. I’m generally good at keeping promises, but not that one. Backup plan: wash dishes so my hands would be wet and I couldn’t touch my phone. Great idea, except my phone rang.

I’m pretty sure my heart stopped and panic set in. As I fumbled my phone with damp hands, I rationalized the caller was probably a helpful telemarketer letting me know my car warranty was about to expire. Always helpful since our vehicles don’t have warranties.

Living in the middle of a forest, we don’t get very good cell phone reception which was an immediate problem when I couldn’t understand what the lady on the other end said. I asked her to repeat herself. Then I started crying. Then I worried since nothing she said had been clear, and I might have misunderstood. When I got off the phone I started checking the website frantically, needing to see my name. Over an hour passed before my name showed up. And yes, I continued checking even though I took a screenshot of it.

That call literally changed my life as I accepted the fact I was ready to pursue my dream of being published. The support from the other Golden Heart finalists and The Golden Network has been amazing in helping me realize I could indeed accept the glory and continue putting one foot in front of the other while Facebook allows us to work on pitches, taglines, dresses, and not being imposters.

Ohmigosh!! What a story! Seriously, I wish we could have you back another day to tell us about the fortune teller and the loss of self-awareness and the “personality reset!” It almost sounds like you’ve already gotten your wish to be reincarnated, or maybe the flip side of reincarnated—like a new self in the same body instead of the same self in a different body. But maybe we should wait until you make a book out of those experiences!!! Wow—what a story that would make!!

Like the breaking of the “love lock,” there seems to be a core theme for you of going through the hard process of letting go of past things. Though in your real life, you and your husband are clearly still going strong! Those experiences must have given you some very interesting insights into the nature of love. At this point in your life, how would you define love?

Love is so complex, I can’t imagine trying to define it. What I do know, is while it happens naturally, it also takes a lot of work to keep it strong, even if the underlying feeling is there.

Growing up, I saw a lot of bad relationships and divorce in the general world around me. My parents are awesome people but I didn’t understand why they couldn’t live together. (I get it now.) When Hans and I started dating in college, everyone realized we would get married. Our friends even decided to be helpful by holding a mock shotgun wedding, yes with a real shotgun.

Sometime after that we talked about marriage, and I told Hans I was in it for the long haul. Till death do us part. He didn’t run away or even throw scenarios at me of why people get divorced. Instead, we’re twenty-six years into our roller coaster of a life together.

I have an intense fantasy world of everyone finding what Hans and I found, although I don’t wish anyone the struggles we’ve been through. But experiencing those hardships with him by my side has taught me more about myself and life than I ever realized I didn’t know. I suppose that’s why I love writing romance. Even if I have to fight for it, I believe in the Happily Ever After.

Sweet! I think many romance writers can identify with the wish to spread Happily Ever Afters far and wide—or at least help readers experience them on the page. What other writing projects are you working on at the moment?

I brainstormed characters and plots for a series called ‘The Seven Deadly Sinners and the Women Who Conquer Them.’ But first I’m writing a short story series called ‘Tales of the Nightie’ about a woman who owns a struggling lingerie company. To try to boost sales she’s holding a contest. Customers send in stories of how the company’s lingerie made a difference in their life, and she’s selecting her favorite story every month for a $100 gift certificate.

That sounds incredibly fun! You could find endless inspiration for linking tales! You said you’ve only identified as a writer for a limited time. Just how long has it been?

I’ve only been writing romance for a year and a half and only found out about RWA a year ago. Didn’t have enough money on hand to go to Nationals on short notice last year, so this will be my first time.

Oh, wow! You’ll be like Dorothy on the road to the Emerald City (the Ruby Slippered Sisters know the feeling well!! I think you’re going to love it!

Well, we’re about out of time to talk right now (more at Nationals, I hope!), and we should open the floor to today’s readers. Do you have a question to get the conversation started?

I was talking to a minister about writing sex, and he believes open door sex scenes are immoral, largely because they’re not realistic. However, he’s fine with the innuendo of sex, with ideas such as a couple getting frisky over a bottle of scotch, then cut to a new scene with clothes hanging off the ceiling fan…

I’ve had great sex, but never have I ever ended up with clothes on the ceiling fan! To me that is unrealistic…but let’s not get too personal here!

I’d love to hear how other writers have decided whether to open or close the door when a sex scene happens. And have you dealt with any conversations like I did with the minister?

 

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Connect with Barbra on social media:

www.BarbraCampbell.com

Facebook: Campbell Writes

Instagram: campbellwrites

Barbra@barbracampbell.com

46 responses to “Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Barbra Campbell!”

  1. Welcome, Barbra! Your stories all sound great. I especially like the one about the lingerie company. What a cute title! And I love the title for the series. You have some fantastic ideas for only having written romance for a year and a half. Go, you!

    For me, writing sex was a big decision. I was very much on the fence until I just bit the bullet and decided to go big or go home. (Sorry for all the cliches. Wow.) But now I write sex very unapologetically and I’m not sorry. (Hehehe. See what I did there?)

    Okay, it’s late. I’m working on revisions, but I just wanted to welcome you and say that I hope we get to meet in Denver!

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    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Darynda, Yes, I’m having a lot of fun with the lingerie company.
      And so funny that you said ‘go big or go home’ since that’s my husband’s favorite saying. Can’t wait to read some of your stories!
      See you in Denver.
      Barbra

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  2. Welcome to the Ruby blog, Barbra. (Funny your name came up as my next heroine is Barbra) I love your story. And I LOVE that opening scene. I can’t just picture it. Please, please let me know when it’s published.

    I actually hated the thought of writing sex scenes. Fought it. Still do, but now instead of writing the scene last, I write it early on and plug it into my file. When I get to the place the scene needs to be, it changes because now I know my characters and the emotions that occur come out naturally.

    Congrats on getting the call. Have fun in Denver.

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    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Thank you Autumn, It is crazy your next heroine is Barbra, and spelled the same. There’s so few of us. And fewer people understand when I say it’s spelled like Barbra Streisand!
      Let’s hope I can be in touch soon about when I get it published!
      Interesting idea to write the sex scene first. And yes, so often our pesky characters get their own mindsets and change as we go so I can imagine a rewrite is in order, but at least the foundation is there.

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  3. Julia Day says:

    Hi Barbra and welcome to the Ruby Blog. I love all the shades of meaning to Watching! Those are my favorite kinds of titles–with the promise of layers in the story.

    I write YA, so my books don’t have sex on the page. (Not that there aren’t plenty of sexy YAs.) I’m working on two adult romances right now, and I’ve tried with one of them but… Ida know. I’m thinking the door is going to stay closed for now because the skill set just doesn’t seem to be there (writing wise, of course.)

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    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Thanks for having me on the Ruby blog, Julia. It’s so exciting and surreal to be here.
      Yes, I love layers. Much like Shrek and all of his. Just can’t get enough.
      You’re right, there are many sexy stories out there without graphic sex, YA and otherwise. Thankfully there’s room for everyone’s tastes and abilities.
      Originally I intended to write closed door scenes but my characters seemed to mandate otherwise when their sexual encounter helped develop their relationship. So I opened the door and shared it. I was terrified what my critique group would say, but they loved it. Then in my next story I closed the door, but my CP’s said I needed to open it. You never know! The important thing is to keep writing and see where your stories take you!

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  4. Tamara Hogan says:

    Hi Barbra, and congratulations on your GH final!

    Having had some personal experience with stalking, this aspect of your story intrigues me. Most people are completely oblivious about how easy it is for someone to do this – which makes sense, I guess. One often doesn’t realize how fragile one’s physical safety is until it’s threatened in some way…

    I have to most vociferously disagree with your minister about sex scenes being immoral and unrealistic. I see sex and love scenes as an expression – nay, a celebration – of our humanity. They depict an important component of peoples’ physical and emotional relationships. Last I checked, we write books about relationships.

    Of course, each reader and writer to their own re: heat level, but IMO, if the sex is consensual, it’s good – and fair game for the page.

    2+
    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Tamara, We may be kindred spirits. In my quest to come to grips with my high heat level, I kept coming back to the same thing…what happens in the bedroom (or elsewhere) says a lot about who we are, and helps us learn about ourselves and each other. For me, showing that development was vital. But I’ve read incredible stories that didn’t show it, so yes, to each his own!
      And I’m sorry to hear you’ve experienced stalking. Hopefully over. There’s so much to it most people don’t understand, like how much power the stalker has legally and mentally. I haven’t gone through this personally but one of my best friends did. I was shocked by what her experience taught me. I hope I did it justice in my story.

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  5. Whoooo, boy! I need to sit next to you and hear the story of the fortune teller!

    As for closed door/open door sex scenes, my personal feeling as a reader is that I want to read that first sexual encounter between the h/h — especially if the author has done a great job setting up the characters’ obstacles to a relationship and then knocking them down. After that first one, though, subsequent sex scenes need to have a *real reason* to be there (as in, furthering the plot or deepening conflicts/stakes) or it’s just something I tend to page through until breasts stop heaving and backs stop clenching.

    But that’s me. 😉

    As a writer, I work very hard to make my characters fight for that first time together, and to make that event something the reader wants as much as the h/h do. While I do write several sex scenes in my books, I only do it if I make sure there’s a *reason* they need to have sex at that point in the story.

    I’m really looking forward to meeting you in Denver!

    3+
    • Tracy Brody says:

      I agree about making the H/h overcome obstacles and making me as a reader care about them before sex and that the subsequent sex scenes need to be integral to the plot or character/relationship development (at least for me) rather than there for titillation purposes or because the publisher wants X # of sex scenes.

      2+
      • I *know*! I can always tell when I sex scene was added in (rather than integral to the flow of the story). It makes me flip through pages faster than just about anything…

        3+
      • Barbra Campbell says:

        Tracy and Eileen, This is a great point! Of course we can extend it to all things writing…the reader needs to feel everything is justified, not just sex scenes. The trick…there’s no way we can appeal to every reader! I’m always amazed in a critique group when five different people can have five different takes on a scene. Good luck to all of us in finding the match that feels good to us and our readers.

        1+
    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Eileen,
      I’d love to sit and chat with you. The fortune teller freaked me out. She knew I’d had a major life change and predicted I would go into an artistic field, contrary to my scientific training. She also said I had a secondary lifeline because I have a committed guardian angel…maybe my daughter who passed away and subsequently saved my life by sending me a vision…

      1+
      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Wow, wow, wow!! Eileen and I will have to buy you a drink at Nationals and hear the details!!

        1+
        • Barbra Campbell says:

          Elisa,
          Fine, we can make it a group thing. But I’m a lightweight so I may focus on water.
          How are you with real life ghost stories? I’ve got some of those too. And yes, I have a few paranormal romances floating around my mind, plenty of life experience to draw from.

          1+
  6. Hi Barbra,

    Congratulations on your Golden Heart final. Your novels sound intriguing. I’d love to read them all when published!

    I’ve only written closed door/sweet romance scenes, probably because I can imagine the ribbing I’d receive from my family if I wrote anything too saucy! My scenes would be more “Four Shades of Beige” than “Fifty Shades of Gray.” 🙂 But you’ve inspired me – maybe I’ll up my beige to a full-on plaid, or a polka dot!

    I’m so looking forward to meeting you in Denver.

    All the best,

    Elizabeth

    4+
    • suzanne says:

      Four shades of beige! I’m in!!

      3+
    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Elizabeth, You are hysterical! I’d suggest sticking with a simple polka dot, rather than an all out plaid, so much weaving!
      I try not to think about what anyone else will think. Kinda weird since I hope to have readers someday, but so far I’ve gotten good reviews from family and critique partners. Gotta start somewhere. 🙂 But sweet definitely has it’s place and it’s following. If it works for you, that may be your niche, along with humor.

      1+
  7. suzanne says:

    Wow Barbra! So much rich detail to dive into, not enough space. Which means drinks (iced tea acceptable) at Denver and lots of chatting. I love those love locks — I saw them for the first time in Venice and at first I thought they were the scars of stolen bicycles. Apparently, I’m not enough of a romantic.

    Because my genre requires some heat (historical romance–they don’t call it bodice ripper for nothing), I do have to write the scenes and I’m always super shy and embarrassed and wanting to run away when I do. I try to channel those emotions into the scene as best I can.

    See you in Denver!

    3+
    • For those “Historical-required” sex scenes, I highly recommend a nice glass of wine while writing. 😉 Maybe a dark room, some bass-heavy music, and a little visual inspiration.

      Richard Armitage is my visual inspiration of choice. 🙂

      2+
    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Suzanne,
      Stolen bicycles, I love it!
      Channeling emotion is great. I was about to throttle my son one day, so I chose the high road and wrote a scene where my characters experienced intense frustration.
      You personal comfort level probably shows up as part of your voice. I bet your readers love you for it.

      1+
  8. Well, I’ve never discussed sex scenes with a minister…but none of us would be here without it! 🙂

    What a life story, and you just scratched the surface! I’ve seen some love-lock bridges in Europe. They stir the imagination and I love that you used this in your writing.

    3+
    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Alexia,
      I love hearing what people think. Maybe that’s why I write so much introspection sometimes and have to dial it back!
      And yes, my imagination ran wild when I saw the love locks. Then again, lots of things make a writer’s imagination run wild.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      ” none of us would be here without it!”…excellent point, Alexia!!

      0
  9. Hi Barbra,
    What a coincidence – I used to live in Denver, now I live near Houston. I miss the mountains!

    I had intended my book to have closed door sex, but after my critique partner encouraged me to at least try a sex scene, I found it really enhanced the emotional connection between the hero and heroine. It needed it!

    Congrats on being a GH finalist. I can’t wait to meet you at the Persisters gatherings.

    2+
    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Leslie,
      We flip-flopping where we live. Other than having friends and family in Houston, I have no affinity for the city. The mountains are home!
      Isn’t it funny how we sometimes hold ourselves back by not trying. Glad you tried a sex scene, and now it’s part of your skillset. And of course, always at the discretion of the characters. Not like we have control! 😉
      I’m eager to meet you too!

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Yes! I think characters are emotionally as well as physically naked during sex….so much can change between people when they let down their guards. For me, those scenes are intense and very important for the kind of storytelling I do!

      That’s not to say I think everybody needs to keep the door open. I’ve always enjoyed Kristan Higgins’ romances, and they’re closed-door.

      1+
  10. Welcome, Barbra, and congratulations on your final! I loved your call story!

    I’ve written all different levels of sexytimes in my books and to me there is nothing immoral about it, but everyone will form their own opinion on that score. As for how realistic those scenes are – I think it all depends on the way they are written not whether they appear on the page at all! But that’s just my two cents. 🙂

    Good luck in Denver!

    1+
    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Exactly Vivi,
      After talking to the minister who is fine with clothes hanging off the ceiling fan, but not graphic sex, I did a lot of thinking. A few nights later, I was watching a TV show with my teen boys and there was a hint of a rowdy sex scene. I couldn’t help but think I’d rather my boys read one of my graphic scenes and see how people treat the ones they love, and get into their hopes, worries, and emotions, than think all sex is wild and crazy. ‘Sexy’ is a lot more than a frenzy. But I don’t think my boys will be reading my stuff anytime soon. 🙂

      1+
      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Yes, yes, yes!! Given how many teens get their info about sex from online porn (ugh!!), I’d so much rather they learn about it from romance writers. At least romance writers care about emotions and real connection between human beings, not just Slot A / Tab B, and they insist on the mutuality of pleasure (not just male pleasure, with women as objects).

        1+
        • Barbra Campbell says:

          Elisa,
          Wouldn’t it be great if sex was taught through our eyes! Yes, we care about more than the physical act!!!
          I asked my husband to read a couple romances so he could tell me if my manuscript felt comparable. He’s a trooper. After he read the first one, he said ‘Why don’t guys read these? What incredible insight!’ Maybe we’re not marketing correctly.

          2+
          • Elisa Beatty says:

            Awww!!! I love it!! What a great husband!!

            Yes, I think lots of men would really enjoy these novels, if they weren’t embarrassed by the idea of reading a “girly” book. (They’re not girly books, dammit!!! They have suspense and murders and strong men and women and lots of adventure!! And sex!!!)Guys who don’t read romance are seriously missing out.

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  11. Tracy Brody says:

    Congrats on your GH final, Barbra. Glad it wasn’t one of those annoying telemarketers calling. 😉 Glad you have overcome the brain injury and found a way to be a new you.

    Despite attending a Southern Baptist Church, I don’t close the door on my sex scenes. Church and other Christian friends have been my beta readers and found my love scenes to be tasteful — there are certain words I avoid. My characters may not have clothes hanging from the ceiling fan, but they might have to go looking for where they landed. I agree there are a lot of unrealistic sex scenes with multiple orgasms and sex several times a night and I truly felt like a failure as a wife/lover for years so I try not to go over the top.

    We got a new pastor who was my age a few years ago. When I ran into his wife at the grocery, I told her about my writing and said, “I don’t write for the pastor’s wives or missionaries, but figured the women who go to church and even have their kids in Christian schools could handle my books. She wasn’t offended and even asked me to lead small groups in Bible study.

    When one of our counseling pastor’s taught last year on Song of Songs, he even said the church does a disservice in saying “Sex is wrong. Don’t do it!” Then, “Oh, you’re married? It’s okay now.” but by then the sex is bad message is ingrained and hard to overcome for many. I have a WF story planned in which the heroine has to overcome her church instilled hangups that she shouldn’t enjoy sex so I can relate to your question and judgment of others.

    3+
    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Tracy,
      Thanks for sharing those personal stories. I think people have a lot of hang ups for various reasons, including self-inflicted, but those still largely originate from our experiences.
      I too am thankful for many friends who are able to fulfill their religious beliefs and not judge me too harshly, even if they are surprised. Ultimately we have to be ourselves.

      1+
  12. Great interview! I too kept looking at my name as a GH finalist on the RWA website afraid someone would realize their mistake and take it away.

    I was a church secretary for 14 years before becoming a full-time writer and I have to say a group of church members came to my book signing and the pastor’s mother has dub herself my #1 fan after reading my debut and can’t wait for my next.

    2+
    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Carrie,
      Thanks. I guess the fear of having something taken away is a sure sign we value it. Glad we’ve both ended up here, and no one’s going around taking it away.
      You have fans! Something I still have to look forward to. Right now my biggest fan is my mom. Not sure anyone can bump her from the #1 spot, but I’ll be happy to have someone try. This is just the beginning.

      1+
  13. Elisa Beatty says:

    I’m always surprised by the number of romance writers who say they have trouble making themselves write sex scenes. I seem to be unusual in actually liking to write them, and feeling that they’re an essential part of the romance arc for my characters. (My Lara Archer books are definitely in the steamy category!)

    As I said above, I love the fact that romance assumes the importance of women’s pleasure (not just men’s) and also the importance of the emotional connection between lovers. Too many representations of sex in our culture turn women into objects. I’m happy to do all I can to fight against objectification. That’s a moral good!

    1+
    • I for one am not totally comfortable with the sex scenes but I put my big girl panties on and wrote one for my Harlequin Special Edition. When I got my edits my editor commented “Did she have an orgasm? It’s not clear. Please fix.” I went ahead and wrote one for another story and my agent sold that one to Entangled Bliss and when I got my edits back the editor said it needed to be behind closed doors. “Please cut before the nipple makes an appearance.” LOL!

      2+
      • Barbra Campbell says:

        Carrie,
        “Please cut before the nipple makes an appearance.” That is my favorite line! Too bad the TV crew didn’t know that before Janet Jackson took the stage. At least you know what they’re looking for now.
        Plus our writing should be better if we’re writing what we’re comfortable with. And we should probably remember to stretch our wings once in a while just to see. But that’s the post-brain injury version of me speaking. Before the brain injury I liked straight and narrow consistency.

        2+
      • Elisa Beatty says:

        LOL! I love that the first editor was making damn sure the heroine had an orgasm!! As it should be!!

        0
    • Barbra Campbell says:

      Elisa,
      My kids taught me the acronym, SJW, for Social Justice Warrior, but we could be Social Justice Writers! Stop objectification! And we can do it quietly from behind our computers. 🙂

      1+
  14. Elisa Beatty says:

    Thanks for being with us today, Barbra! This was a fun discussion!

    And I really am going to get you to tell me ghost stories at Nationals!!

    0
  15. I’m a day late–sorry!You have a fascinating life story. I can’t wait to see it in biographies in the backs of your books!

    I noticed similar locks in Paris a few years back, and had the same thought about the stories behind them. All the locks looked so individual. Our guide told us the authorities have to cut them off occasionally or the weight becomes too much for the bridge. Looking forward to reading Watching to see what you do with the concept.

    0
  16. Janet Raye Stevens says:

    Hi Barbra, my Persister sister! Great interview. Your story sounds amazing (and so does your “nightie” idea!). I enjoy reading steamy scenes, but I can’t write them. Even writing a kiss that involves tongue can make me blush–LOL. Looking forward to meeting you in Denver!

    0

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