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Adam Interviews...Gabriella Balcom (again!)


That's right!

We get plenty of repeat authors here, but rarely two weeks in a row.

But I had so much fun last week I decided I wanted Gabriela back.

In case you missed it, let's reintroduce you:


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


Hi. My name is Gabriella Balcom, and I appreciate you taking the time to interview me, Adam. Thank you.


Prior to answering the questions I was given, I’d like to tell you a little about myself.


Reading and writing were among my first loves, along with a cat I befriended when I was quite little (or maybe she befriended me). The home I grew up in was rather horrific, and I was abused physically and emotionally; I could have died many times. Therefore, things which were good and pleasant in my life meant a great deal to me, and gave me hope to hang on. I’ve always adored cats, great books, and writing. Texas is my home, and I live in the country, surrounded by trees and animals like rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, possums, deer, foxes, and bobcats. The things I enjoy in my free time include listening to music, watching my favorite shows, photography, traveling, collecting things like shells, and driving the back roads.


I write fantasy, horror, sci-fi, romance, literary fiction, children’s stories, and more, and I create stories of all lengths (drabble-size through novels) and poems. I believe I’ve been truly blessed, and I’ve had 390 pieces accepted for publication and five books published. Four others pend publication.



Today, I’d like to draw attention to my novellas, Worth Waiting For, and The Return. Here’s a little about them:


Worth Waiting For


This romance was published by JayZoMon/Dark Myth Publications after I won second place in their 2020 Open Contract Challenge (a competition in which around one hundred writers competed for cash prizes and publishing contracts).


It’s never too late for love, and getting older isn’t the end. Sometimes it’s just the beginning.


When Wilfred’s wife died, he was devastated. Their young children were, too. He left his military career and raised them alone, never regretting his choices. Years passed by, and being single was the norm for him. Being single was comfortable.


But Wilfred never dreamed he was lonely—not until Sadie came to his door.



Reader comments include:

“...I love this so much…” “A sweet story of love and companionship… nicely written.” “The characters are real, it’s emotional, and well written… I would recommend it to any romance reader.” “Great Story”


The Return


The world doesn’t know about the compound hidden underground, and the wealthy investors funding it want things to stay as they are. It’s 2030, and scientists have made numerous scientific advances. They use cutting-edge technology with their Feline Service Units and Human Replicas —HRs, as they’re commonly known. However, most of the research being conducted in the facility is illegal. If animal rights’ activists had an inkling of what went on, they’d clamor for justice. Human rights’ activists would scream for the rooftops.


More and more HRs are dying and they long for freedom. Surprisingly, a top scientist isn’t happy with the status quo, either.


Tensions are mounting, and things are not as they appear.



Reader comments:

“...This is a thrilling ride…” “...man, it got me good. Best plot twist I’ve read in a book...you’ll love this book!” “Fascinating and amazing!” “...had me on the edge of my seat.”



Interview Questions:


Firefly – gone too soon or overrated?


I loved the movie, but never saw the series. However, it it was anything like the original film (and going on a bit of faith), I’m sure it was gone too soon.


Reboots – a great idea or a lack of creativity?


I’d have to say both, depending on the movie or series. Some are great, while others are utterly disappointing.


What does your family think of your writing?


I work full-time in the mental health field, but hope to someday be able to live off my writing. I’m an extremely private person, and most of my relatives don’t know I write.



How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?


I’ve written five books and will list them here:


A. On the Wings of Ideas


This is a multi-genre anthology, and I won the publishing contract from Clarendon House when one of my short stories was voted best in the book in which it first appeared. Some of the included stories are:


*****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.

*****Kevin’s discovery shocks him. Could that be—a monster?


b. Worth Waiting For


This romance was published by JayZoMon/Dark Myth Publications after I won second place in their 2020 Open Contract Challenge (a competition in which around one hundred writers competed for cash prizes and publishing contracts.)


It’s never too late for love, and getting older isn’t the end. Sometimes it’s just the beginning.

When Wilfred’s wife died, he was devastated. Their young children were, too. He left his military career and raised them alone, never regretting his choices. Years passed by, and being single was the norm for him. Being single was comfortable.

But Wilfred never dreamed he was lonely — not until Sadie came to his door.



Reader comments:


c. The Return


Black Hare Press published this sci-fi novella.


The world doesn’t know about the compound hidden underground, and the wealthy investors funding it want things to stay as they are. It’s 2030, and scientists have made numerous scientific advances. They use cutting-edge technology with their Feline Service Units and Human Replicas—HRs, as they’re commonly known. However, most of the research being conducted in the facility is illegal. If animal rights’ activists had an inkling of what went on, they’d clamor for justice. Human rights’ activists would scream for the rooftops.

Tensions are mounting, and things are not as they appear.


d. Free’s Tale: No Home for Christmas-time


Humans aren’t the only ones who dream. Dogs do, too.

Christmas is coming, but Free isn’t anywhere close to being happy. He’s dreamed of a loving home forever, but knows his chances of ever having one are slim to nonexistent. He’s homeless, injured, starving, and well on his way to freezing. But then he runs into a group of larger dogs, and wonders if he’s about to die.


You asked which of my books is my favorite. I don’t have one, because I love them all. I’m ecstatic that publishers liked my work and believed in me. I’m even more pleased some of my books won competitions.


What are common traps for aspiring writers?


Some assume their stories are ready for publication as soon as they finish their first drafts. Consequently, they may publish works that are full of errors and create a bad impression. Common mistakes include: telling versus showing, switching back and forth between tenses, head-hopping, and erring as far as sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation.


Discouragement may set in when writers submit things, only to receive rejection after rejection. They don’t realize this is commonplace, and they should work on their skills and keep trying.


Many individuals expect to rake in money right off the bat, but this is rare. Most authors make very little at first, with that amount increasing over time, especially if they’ve improved their writing and published more.


Are you traditionally or self-published? Or both? Do you feel there are advantages to one over the other?


Most of my stories and books were published by publishers and presses. I self-published one novelette, however—Free’s Tale: No Home for Christmas-time.



I believe both ways of publishing have their own drawbacks and advantages. For one thing, if a writer publishes her own work, she is no doubt going to have to account for her own editing, cover creation, formatting, release, promotion, etcetera. Being responsible for her own marketing can be either good or bad, depending on how much time, help, or money she has available. On the other hand, she will usually have the say over what occurs and when, rather than someone else having it and/or springing things on her last-minute. She can also expect to receive any resulting royalties, without them being kept by a publisher or publishing service.


Using a traditional publisher would theoretically mean he or she will bear the responsibility for editing, coming up with the cover, and other necessary items. This can save the author money and potentially spread the word about works and result in more sales. However, not all publishers cover everything that’s needed, or if they do, the results are not necessarily professional-looking inside or out. If a publisher promotes works effectively, that can be wonderful, but not all publishers do. Some sit back, doing little to help, even if that discourages the writers working with them, and even if this makes a bad impression on would-be customers. I’ve had people contact me privately before, asking why such and such publisher didn’t promote or do anything to help get the word out about specific books.


I know I haven’t covered every single facet of traditional versus self-publishing, but I hope the above at least highlights a few things for authors to consider.


What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters, if anything?

Most of my stories are not based upon real people, but on my imagination. Characters and backstories may pop into my mind fully-formed, without them being like anyone I know.


Occasionally, I might use actual personality traits or life events, but even when I do, I stretch them well beyond the truth. As to what I might “owe” people vaguely alluded to as far as traits, I’d have to say I owe them nothing but the ringing declaration, “I survived in spite of you.”


What’s the best way to market your books?


That’s a good question, one I can’t fully answer myself, but I’ll share some observations I’ve made.


Some authors believe success starts with selling their works to their immediate family, relatives, and friends, with those individuals then posting reviews (typically positive) and helping promote. Not everyone believes this, however. A decent number of authors have few relatives, if any, or the existing ones aren’t supportive, so they can’t count on that same support.


Sometimes writers talk about the importance of having personal websites or blogs, so they can contact their readers and followers regularly, advertise to them, and keep them in the loop, per se. Many speak of the importance of marketing well in advance of publication dates, so as to make the best use of anticipation and pre-orders. Another group tend to go with a sort of “surprise” approach, announcing releases only at the last minute and doing little or nothing beforehand to help promote. Various authors form their own publishing companies and end up with at least some “built-in” sales (from putting out books containing the works of multiple contributors, and keeping any profits made, with the included authors having to purchase copies to end up with some or at least purchase printed versions). And, yet others believe in paying for professional promotions via other people or organizations.


Hopefully, I’ll learn more about the above options myself, and find some successful options.


What do you have coming next?


I had many writing goals and hopes for the future, and they include publishing more books. Recently, I’ve been working on a set of fantasy novellas centered around magic, dreams, past pain and healing, castles, wizards, knights, and a dragon. I hope to release the first novella in a few months, then at least one more before the end of the year.


I’m also working on several other projects, including short stories, novellas, and a couple novel-length works. Among my other goals, I’m planning sequels to The Return, Free’s Tale: No Home for Christmas-time, and other stories.


My author page: https://m.facebook.com/GabriellaBalcom.lonestarauthor


Adam, thank you again for featuring me. I greatly appreciate you!


Our FIRST Excerpt is from THE RETURN



The Return

August 2027

"Let there be light," the woman said with a sly smile before touching her tablet. Chuckles sounded from around the room.

In unison, the units opened their eyes and scanned their surroundings.

"Stand," the woman instructed.

They obeyed, facing the men and women in white lab coats, who laughed, clapped, and murmured in reaction.

"What are you?" a blond man asked.

"FSU," the units replied as one.

"We can program the Feline Service Units’ individual designations next," the blond told the gathered scientists. He then asked the FSUs, "Where are you?"

"Here," they answered.

"Technically, that's accurate." The woman with the tablet glanced at her companions. "It's overly simplistic and one-dimensional thinking at best, but their comprehension will increase once we start programming them with simple commands and responses."

"Too bad we can't do as much with the human replicas as we can with these," the blond man commented.

"Oh, we'll eventually get there with the HRs, too." The woman nodded as she spoke. "It's only a matter of time. FSU brains are less complex than human ones, so it was logical that we were able to map them first."

"I'm looking forward to the day we fully integrate Artificial Intelligence into the human brain," another scientist commented.

The woman smiled. "The possiblities are endless."


February, 2030

Most of the HRs looked toward the door as it opened.

"I have nutritious snacks for you," the Feline Service Unit announced in its pleasant, modulated voice. Part flesh-and-blood and part mechanized AI, FSUs looked like domestic cats—feline faces, fur, and tails—but with slightly larger bodies, and all had a female voice. They could either walk on all fours or their back legs, depending on their assigned tasks, and retained their feline vocal responses. Given their simple functions, their range of pre-programmed statements and responses wasn't as broad as typical human communication, but it was speech nonetheless.

Standing three-and-a-half feet tall on its hind legs, the FSU pushed a refrigerated cart containing a selection of fruit, food bars, cheese, and juice.

Stopping by the first bed, it asked, "What would you like, Sir?" It waited for the HR to say which things he wanted, then transferred the requested items to plastic plates and cups with its oversized paws, which performed almost as well as human hands.

After reaching HR-7974's bed, the FSU recited, "What would you like, Sir?" It gazed at the floor, awaiting instruction with respect and subservience—two integral features of FSUs.

"I'd like blueberries and melon, please," 7974 said. "Swiss cheese, two strawberry protein bars and a spinach bar. An avocado and two pomegranite-grapefruit bars also." Once he received his choices, he added, "I see by your number you're the FSU who brings us food each day. I appreciate that. Thank you."

Raising its head, FSU-419 stared blankly at him, blinked, then gazed at the floor again. "You are welcome, Sir. I have a nice assortment of meat bars. Beef, chicken, buffalo, duck, and fish. Would you like one, Sir?"

"No, thank you, but it's nice of you to ask. I prefer vegetables and fruit to meat. I would like some orange juice, though." He accepted the cup held out to him, immediately drinking the contents. "Could I have more, please?" Once it was given to him, he smiled. "Thank you."

"You are welcome, Sir." The FSU moved on to the next man.

Another HR asked 7974, "Why do you always treat that thing like a person, saying 'please' and 'thank you?' It's nothing but a robot designed to serve us."

"Part-robot. And showing gratitude doesn't hurt anything."

"You tell us we have great potential, and while I agree with you on that, sometimes you confuse me. It's odd how you treat those creatures. They're only things and there isn't any point in making an effort. Manners mean nothing to them."

"That might be so, and maybe I am odd." 7974 shrugged. "I like cats."

"They're okay, I guess. I'm more of a dog person."

"I like dogs, too, but cats are smarter."

"Real cats, maybe, but not FSUs. They're mindless servants."

"They do serve." What 7974 didn't say was, "That's only how they're programmed. Who knows what they're capable of?"


AND NOW OUR SECOND EXCERPT, from Worth Waiting For!



Worth Waiting For


Wilfred pulled a framed photograph from a box and studied it, trying to decide whether to put it on the mantle over the fireplace or hang it on the living room wall. Sounds came from the direction of his front porch and he tensed. Peering through a window, he caught a glimpse of someone but couldn't tell if it was a man or woman. He couldn't see what the person was doing either. The realtor who'd sold Wilfred this home told him the neighborhood was a great place to live, both quiet and safe, but he wondered if she'd been truthful. Maybe she'd only cared about earning a commission. Thinking of the tools he'd left out on the porch, he wondered if thefts were a problem and yanked open the door, nearly bumping into a woman who stood there with her right hand raised to knock.

"Well, this is a little awkward," she said, her cheeks flushing as she smiled.

Wilfred responded to the stranger's warm smile with one of his own, guessing she was in her early-to-mid fifties and around five-foot-three—eight inches shorter than him. Her auburn hair had streaks of grey and she was slightly overweight, but her hazel eyes made the biggest impression on him. They were kind. Gentle.

Realizing her left arm was behind her back, he stiffened, though. She didn't seem like a threat, but a past mugging attempt had taught the fifty-nine-year-old man to be cautious. After all, looks could be quite deceiving. But he relaxed when she brought her other hand forward. The only thing she held was an oversized wicker basket with a dish towel over the top. A few papers protruded from the side.

Not wanting to waste anybody's time, he cut straight to the reason he assumed she'd come. "I wish you a good day, Ma'am, but I don't need any Girl Scout cookies or treats your children might be selling. I don't need magazine subscriptions, tornado insurance, or anything else either."

"I'm not here to sell anything." Grinning at him, her eyes sparkled. "I don't know whether to be flattered you think I'm young enough to have kids the right age for Scouts, or worried you mentioned tornado insurance. Do you know something I don't? Is a tornado coming?"

Wilfred couldn't help but chuckle. "As far as I know, we're not due for one. We're not supposed to have any type of bad weather at all. Of course, this is Texas so anything could happen." They both laughed, because that was nothing but the truth, after which he asked, "Did you come by because you need help with something?"

"No. I saw your moving van when I drove by yesterday and just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood. So I brought you a bit of food."

"That's mighty kind of you." Tantalizing odors reached his nose, and he bent toward the basket to sniff. "Smells great, too. Meat loaf?"

"You have a good nose."

Trying to be modest, he shrugged and admitted, "I'm starving. I meant to eat earlier, but lost track of time going through boxes." He gave a rueful look when she started snickering. "I don't have everything unpacked yet, but... would you care to have some tea? It's the least I can do to repay your kindness."

"Well... maybe a quick cup. I can't stay long, because I have to start supper soon."

"What do you plan to fix?" As soon as the words left his mouth, he wondered if he was being too nosy.


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