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Adam Interviews...Gabriella Balcom!


Right, so this is less of an interview and more of a takeover. Gabriela's got a lot to say, so I'm going to let her get to it...


After this little introduction: Gabriella Balcom lives in Texas with her family, works full-time in the mental health field, and has loved reading and writing her entire life. She writes fantasy, horror, romance, sci-fi, literary fiction, children's stories, and more, and loves great stories, forests, mountains, and back roads. She has a weakness for lasagna, garlic bread, tacos, cheese, and chocolate, and adores Chinese, Italian, and Mexican food. Gabriella has had 390 works accepted for publication, and won the right to have a novel published by Clarendon House Publications when one of her short stories was voted best in the anthology in which it appeared. Her book, On the Wings of Ideas, came out afterward. She was nominated for the Washington Science Fiction Association's Small Press Award, and won second place in JayZoMon/Dark Myth Company's 2020 Open Contract Challenge (a competition in which around one hundred authors competed for cash prizes and publishing contracts). Gabriella's novelette, Worth Waiting For, was then released. She self-published a novelette, Free's Tale: No Home for Christmas-time, and Black Hare Press released her sci-fi novella, The Return, in 2021. In November of 2022, Dark Myth Publications released her horror novella, Down with the Sickness and Other Chilling Tales. Four other novellas pend publication. You can visit her Facebook author page: https://m.facebook.com/GabriellaBalcom.lonestarauthor


Hello. I’m Gabriella Balcom, and I want to thank you for interviewing me, Adam. It means a lot to me that you were willing to share your time and effort this way.


Before I answer the questions, I’d like to share a few things about myself.


I grew up in an abusive home, so the positives in my life had extra-special meaning for me. Reading was the main one, followed closely by writing, and I still adore them. I befriended a mother kitty when I was quite young, or maybe she befriended me. She meant a lot to me, and because of her, I’ve always loved cats, too.


I write fantasy, horror, sci-fi, romance, literary fiction, children’s stories, and more, and I create stories of all lengths, along with poetry. I feel truly blessed to say I’ve had 390 pieces accepted for publication and five books published; four others pend publication.



My first book to be published was On the Wings of Ideas. It’s a multi-genre anthology of short stories, including:

*****Jakob has survived everything life’s thrown at him, but can he survive his beloved mother’s death bed request?

*****Ralph deteriorates by the day, and Gertrude would do anything to save him, including sneaking into a top-secret facility.

*****Serial killers fascinate Bobby, who’s developed some unusual hobbies of his own. No one knows. No one would even guess.

*****Edwina and her classmates are storming Area 51. For them, it’s an adventure to boast about, but for her, it’s a matter of life and death.

*****Sandy struggles with low self-esteem after an abusive marriage, but a supernatural being gives her a chance for some well-deserved payback.

*****Mei longs for one thing more than life itself, and appeals to a goddess for help.

*****Dahlya wants to help an injured cat, but her father knows he can’t afford to feed it. He can barely keep himself and his daughter fed and housed.

*****Maggie stresses about Joe constantly. If anything happens to her, who’ll take care of him?

*****Sluuge has been trapped for eons, but the Boundary is about to come down.

*****Ruth’s attempt to save a badly damaged rose plant leads to her being unexpectedly transported to a marvelous, magical world.

*****Becky the Blabbermouth delights in trouble-making, but she’s about to learn karma is real.

*****Sylana hides in terror when He appears. Will her invisibility and protection spells work? Is war about to begin?

*****Jenny tries and tries, but can’t write a good story about fairies, and travels to Ireland for inspiration. If only magical creatures were real.


Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0898Z8FJN/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1593244938&sr=8-5


Reader comments include: "I loved each of these stories." "...great job putting unique twists... highly recommend..." "...a sweet delight." "...really touched my heart." "Each adventure is an easy read and thought provoking. Quite the journey." "great creation...five senses are tickled and tantalized... I was intrigued from the beginning to the end." "Bobby—You'd Never Guess... a Mini Masterwork in the Horror Genre." "Nun or Not? ... a true work of art... Can be read again and again with pleasure...I cannot recommend this tale more highly..."


Interview Questions:


Star Trek or Star Wars?


Definitely Star Trek. While I’ve always enjoyed Star Wars — some characters more than others — I just adore Star Trek and I like re-watching episodes and movies (sometimes back-to-back).


Coffee, tea, or cacao?


I don’t drink coffee, but I enjoy certain kinds of decaffeinated tea, including green, camomile, peppermint, blueberry, and others. And, I’ve loved cocoa my entire life, regardless of season or weather.


Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?


I quite literally get ideas from everything and everywhere: things I hear and see, nature (like the woods that surround me, which I love), animal sounds, history, people around me, life events, music, pictures, my imagination, and a lot more.


What’s your work schedule like when you’re writing?


I’ve always longed for more free time, because I work full-time (and usually extra). I try to set aside time for writing before I go to work and after. On my days off, I spend multiple hours on writing.


What do you like to do when you’re not writing?


The things I enjoy in my free time include listening to music, watching my favorite shows, photography, traveling, and driving the back roads. Texas is my home, and I live in the country, surrounded by trees.



Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?


a. Hire an editor. Many people assume they’re ready to publish as soon as they’ve finished a story, but that isn’t necessarily the case. New authors may overlook errors of all sorts. A good, reputable editor can help in multiple ways.


b. Be open to constructive criticism.

c. Exercise caution when it comes to trusting people with your work. Some editors won’t have your best interests in mind, or may try to twist your writing into their vision rather than honoring yours. Others may cheat you, charging for work they haven’t done, and/or promising things they don’t deliver on.

d. Be your own cheering squad if you don’t have others’ support. It’s okay to believe in yourself, and sometimes you have to—especially if you’re out there trying to succeed on your own.


Do you like to create books for adults?


I write creations of all lengths, from drabbles to novels, and most of my writing is for adults. However, I occasionally produce children’s stories, also.


As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?


My parents loved James Bond movies, and took me to see all of them, sometimes multiple times. I once wanted to be a spy, and I’d spend time studying myself in the mirror, posing as if I was about to shoot, jumping out from behind corners, or peeking around them.


When I got older, I considered multiple careers: teacher, actress, singer, doctor, and other options.


What is the first book that made you cry?


The first time I tried to read Where the Wild Things Are, I was terrorized and believe I teared up. I remember studying the cover, opening the book, but not being able to get far. I believe that was because I was growing up in an abusive home, and couldn’t handle anything that reminded me of scary stuff.


Does writing energize or exhaust you?


Writing gets my mind off problems and helps me unwind and release tension. It gives me energy and boosts my self-esteem.


What is your writing Kryptonite?


It bugs me if I’m working on a project, and someone interrupts me again and again, especially if I’m on a roll.


Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?


My stories and books mostly stand alone, so readers can dive into them without needing to first read something else. Some of my works-in-progress are connected, but they’re not available to the public yet.


If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?


a. Keep writing, no matter what! (If you stop, you’ll regret it later.)

b. Don’t let anyone shred your self-esteem or make you feel less than who you are.

c. If you have goals and dreams, work toward them, giving everything you’ve got.


What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?


A few years ago, I saw a submission call, and wrote my first two short stories as an adult. I hired my first editor, and that was an excellent decision, because she was quite helpful.


A truly good editor can help you discover plot holes, errors in tense or grammar, examples of telling versus showing, and other issues.


What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?


I mentioned earlier about growing up in an abusive home. I was physically and emotionally abused, could have died multiple times, and the abuse went on for years. Loud, raging, harsh words were thrown around, along with pain, most aimed at me, and what I experienced and heard had powerful, lasting effects.


However, I was also exposed to books at an early age, and I saw firsthand how much power they had (and have) for good and hope.


Do you write novels, novellas, short stories, episodic fiction, poems, screenplays, or something else? What is your preferred format?


I write drabbles, poems, short stories, novellas, and novels—multiple lengths, in other words.


What do you have coming next?

I’ve been working on a set of fantasy novellas, and have a few completed. My intention is to possibly self-publish the first in a few months, and another before the end of the year. The story line revolves around magic, dreams, past pain and healing, castles, knights, a dragon, and more.


I’m working on several short stories of all lengths, along with other novellas and novels. Among my other goals, I plan to complete sequels to The Return, Free’s Tale: No Home at Christmas-time, and other currently short works.


Adam, I want to thank you again for interviewing me. This has been great!


And now, a special bonus excerpt from On the Wings of Ideas!



Nun or Not?

Dedicated to my grandparents


Glossary of Slovene Words


Ata -- father; dad

dinar -- early-1900s Slovenian coin

dragi sin -- dear son

Februar -- February

kruh -- bread

Mamica -- mama; mommy

polenta -- porridge

policist -- police

ricet -- thick soup

struklji -- meat- or vegetable-filled dough

zganci -- mush from cornbread or potatoes




3 Februar 1905


"Dragi sin," Marijeta began, but stopped as deep coughs racked her body.

Jakob patted her back. When her coughing subsided, he held a cup of water to her lips. "Take a sip."

After she drank, she spoke in English instead of their native Slovene. "My heart aches for you. Too many burdens weigh you down."

“Mama, I––."

“My time is limited, so I must speak while I can." Seeing him tighten his lips and shake his head, she knew he rejected the idea of her dying. "From the time I carried you inside me, I knew a great destiny awaited you."

“I know. You've told me before." Dipping a cloth in a basin of cool water, he wrung out the excess and gently wiped her sweaty forehead.

“Not everything." Breathing hurt and she winced. "I loved Stefan. I wanted to be with him more than anything, and I didn't make him wait. Then he left to fight. People spoke harshly to me when they learned I was with child, because I wasn't married. Some said I would burn in hell."

"You didn't become pregnant alone," Jakob's eyes were hard, his voice cold. "I wish I'd been there when they spoke ill of you. Their first words would have been their last."

"I know you would have defended me, dragi. Your father also would have, if he had been here. Some people said I'd chased him, but the opposite was true. They said, 'Let him go. Forget him.' That he was too much a military man to settle down or make a good husband anyway. They insisted it was my duty to marry someone else, but I held out for what I wanted."

“Imagine that." Jakob's eyes twinkled. "Stubbornness doesn't run in our family."

Marijeta laughed, her cheeks creasing into a network of fine wrinkles. "Stefan wanted to be with me as much as I did him, but he also believed he'd make a poor husband. You were born illegitimate, but I knew God would bring your father safely back to me. He returned when the battle ended and I became pregnant again. He married me, acknowledged you as his, and your illegitimacy was removed in the eyes of the church. Some people remained spiteful, but..." She paused. "I didn't say this for sympathy. I need to apologize to you for our choices."

“You and Ata didn’t wrong me.”

“But we did. After he died, I treated you like an adult and relied on you to help raise your brothers and sisters. And you did, despite being little yourself. Your father didn't have to die. When the war resumed, he could have stayed home. He took advantage of your nature, knowing you'd be here even if he wasn't. Knowing you'd never abandon us like he did."

Jakob's eyes met hers. "Ata wasn't to blame for the war."

“I know, but he would have served even if it hadn't been required."

"The last time I saw him," Jakob said softly, "he went out the door. I ran after him. He stood silhouetted by the sun, but picked me up, and hugged me so tightly I couldn't breathe. Then he said, 'You're the man of the house now,' and to take care of you."

"So he knew he wouldn't return." Marijeta's voice broke. "He didn't warn me."

"Loved ones leaving is always hard on those left behind, Mama, but I would have gone, too." Jakob's voice was soft but firm. "Fighting for our country was right."

Her response was inaudible.

"What did you say?"

"I believe in defending ourselves, but I've missed him all these––." Another coughing fit struck her and she soon gasped for air. When she spoke again, her voice was hoarse. "Stefan was an army man through and through. A gunner like his father, though he held a higher rank. He loved our county. He told me it was the heart beating in his chest, the blood running through his veins. That his blood watered its soil. I knew where his heart lay from the beginning, and I knew he'd always fight." Her son brushed her tears away.

Stefan––the love of her life––had died in the last battle for which he'd left home. In a heartbeat Marijeta had gone from cherished wife to young widow with five small children and a sixth on the way. But Stefan had lived his life with honor and ended it with honor, defending their people and saving lives. He'd received a hero's burial and posthumous medals from Emperor Franz Josef.

"People told me," Marijeta said, "'Be proud of your husband's service. The medals he earned. He was a hero, and you share his good name.' But I would have traded all those medals and more for more time with him."

Jakob gazed out a nearby window, and Marijeta studied him. Standing at attention––chest out, shoulders back––he epitomized a proud soldier. He'd been a Lieutenant-Colonel in the army. Their village, Trnovska vas, was inhabited by Slovenian people but still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Jakob had served beyond the required time, been promoted, and several medals attested to the kind of man he was––brave and honorable. Chest tight and aching in earnest, Marijeta thought he resembled Stefan.

She desperately longed for more time. She'd already outlived the three years the doctor estimated when he diagnosed her tuberculosis and heart condition. Twelve years had passed since then, but she didn't have the strength to hold on any longer. When she died, Jakob would be all alone––despite already having been alone too long.

He'd been expected to follow in Stefan's footsteps, becoming "man of the house” at seven years old. He'd refused to acknowledge his grief, but she'd heard him sobbing at night, and his former grins, exuberance, and laughter had vanished.

He'd taken the need to care for his family seriously––cleaning, cooking, dealing with crying babies, caring for his siblings so much they'd called him Ata. Marijeta could hear those long-ago voices––"Ata, look at me!"

But his work hadn't been limited to their home. He'd stuck his feet into the small boots Stefan had fashioned after his own, seeking work in the village days after his father's death. She remembered the dinars he'd proudly handed her, and how rapidly they'd disappeared to buy food. With five hundred and seven people in the village, jobs had been scarce. She and Jakob had often gone without food, giving the children their scant portions of kruh, zganci, or polenta.

He'd kept dinars trickling in, working harder and longer than many full-grown men, doing any work he could get while continuing school. She'd earned some money doing laundry, sewing, or cooking for others, but she'd often found Jakob doing her wash or mending by candlelight. He'd pursued more education and joined the army when his siblings were old enough to help, and supported Marijeta after they'd left home. Last year his sister, Lucia, had lost her husband and house, returned home with her children, and Jakob still provided for them.

Pride, guilt, and sadness warred inside Marijeta. Pride triumphed, as always. “You were such a good boy. You still are, and you've become a great man." An unmistakable rattling came from deep inside her chest as she coughed. "I regret the burdens you've carried."

Turning from the window, he shook his head. She understood. Jakob was Jakob. He'd deny weakness to his death.

"I regret I must ask something else of you," she said, her voice raspy and hoarse.

***

Jakob relaxed his rigid stance and knelt at his mother's bedside, taking her trembling hands in his. Wrinkled and spotted with age, her veins stood out from years of labor. She'd deteriorated and regained her strength repeatedly, but not this time. He studied her deeply-lined face. Considered the most beautiful woman in Trnovka vas once, she'd aged beyond her sixty-four years but remained beautiful to him. She was the only true love he’d ever known. She’d never let him down. Always been proud. He could lose her any moment, so how could he deny her anything? "Yes, Mamica. Anything."



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