Author Topic: Mistress Molly and Krell  (Read 297 times)

Matra Hammer

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Mistress Molly and Krell
« on: June 08, 2017, 08:42:03 AM »
Here's my Shameless Plug for my sci-fi comedy short story "Mistress Molly and Krell."

Summary
"A body-snatching alien crash lands on Earth and takes over the mind of a drunk for survival. A young woman, playing nanny to her awful, partying friends, confides in the incognito alien when she reaches her breaking point. Together they find a galactic constant in the art of dealing with douchebags."

It appeared in the June 2017 spread of Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, linked below.

https://cosmicrootsandeldritchshores.com/

I'm sorry, but I can't directly link the story since they're a professional, subscription magazine. If you wanna support a board author gaining ground, and read a fun and quirky comedy in a magazine full of good work, then please consider signing up.

...and, yes, I realize this story is 100% apart from how I write here and how I come across. I can be funny. I can be nice. Not everyone needs to die all the time, and here's proof.

Let me know what you think if you read.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2017, 11:23:37 AM by Airan »
When kings upon the main have clung to pride
And held themselves as masters of the sea
I've held them down beneath the crushing tide
Till they have learned that no one masters me

Tooley Bostay

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Re: Mistress Molly and Krell
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2017, 09:58:27 AM »

How incredible is this piece of news?! Heck, this is what so many of us strive for, here on this board--pursuing success on the professional level. Yes, the contests are great fun, the chats are a joy, and the craft-building is always worthwhile, but dude, you've taken the first concrete step into the professional writing world, earned some success, and published a dang story in your own name!

And what an encouragement that should be to all of us who pursue writing as something more than just a hobby: one of us made it. And if that's true, then surely we can as well.

So a huge congratulations to Matra. You've earned it, mate. I absolutely will subscribe to read your story and show my support, and will reply here with a review once I do (after the apps are done, though. So don't hold your breath quite yet).

I know that authors have zero control or influence over such things, but I do have to say that artwork is horrifying, Matra. The chaotic color, the horrible Photoshop placement, the painted-on shirt she's wearing. My eyes feel violated.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2017, 10:01:11 AM by Tooley Bostay »

Matra Hammer

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Re: Mistress Molly and Krell
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2017, 11:01:27 AM »
Said as much to Tooley in private: But none of us make it without support. Nobody can create in a vacuum and expect the gilded ledger of the new age when they come out. So I thank Tooley for his constant soundboarding, board upkeep, and perspective. We're all lucky he's here.

Communities (like this very fine one) are 100% important whether you're an amateur looking for the means of telling a tale, or an aspirant (like me) hoping you can build a career in time. The only caveat is you get what you put in.

I didn't publish my first professional story on accident. Sure, some luck is involved in finding the right magazine, the right mood of the first reader, the right timing for an issue's thematic swing. What really gave me the edge was the constant challenge of an artistic community. All those word games - the ones you should play too? All the mini contests - the ones just as fun as the real contests? All the hours off board drafting stories, sharing them on the side with associates (board grounded or not,) and stepping outside of myself? That's the real key. That's the only way you can win.

No, I didn't write the next best seller or some groundbreaking story. But it's mine, with the patchwork photoshop cover of doom and everything. And I'll make sure the next one is better than the last by continuing on the path described in the previous paragraphs

Hope I can help all of you as you've helped me. My PM box is always open, and you'll more than likely see me in any challenge the board offers.

Hope I see you there too. Or, better yet, I hope I see your professional plug up here one day too.
When kings upon the main have clung to pride
And held themselves as masters of the sea
I've held them down beneath the crushing tide
Till they have learned that no one masters me

Rascal

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Re: Mistress Molly and Krell
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2017, 09:33:17 AM »
Congrats! From the hearts of aspiring writers everywhere! 8D

I am told that the next best thing to getting a story published is getting a rejection letter. That means that despite the editors busy schedule they took time to read your story out of hundreds and took even more time to write you back about it.

Matra Hammer

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Re: Mistress Molly and Krell
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2017, 09:43:26 AM »
Thank you, Rascal.

"I am told that the next best thing to getting a story published is getting a rejection letter."

It's true. Personalized rejection letters are a blessing. Any author will get their share of silence, or form letters where you can tell they inserted your name only by the different font. It's a real treat knowing an editor or publisher took time in saying "Hey, thanks for trying, this is why it didn't work." Breaks my heart when starting authors get rejections and turn inward or thrash about. It's a lesson! It's free advice! Most people have to pay or beg their friends or join a Redwall-themed writing board for actual story input.
When kings upon the main have clung to pride
And held themselves as masters of the sea
I've held them down beneath the crushing tide
Till they have learned that no one masters me

Frost

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Re: Mistress Molly and Krell
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2017, 11:22:48 AM »
Quote
or join a Redwall-themed writing board for actual story input

::headdesk::

Yes, please? ;)
Hello again.

Matra Hammer

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Re: Mistress Molly and Krell
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2017, 11:48:54 AM »
Hey, man! I sent you feedback on the 7th. Did you miss the message? Or just more a "Yes, of course, where else?"
When kings upon the main have clung to pride
And held themselves as masters of the sea
I've held them down beneath the crushing tide
Till they have learned that no one masters me

Frost

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Re: Mistress Molly and Krell
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2017, 12:03:07 PM »
The latter.  :D

No, I'll definitely speak to Matra's volunteered assistance: his insight and recommendations have been both timely and effective, and I appreciate having someone look over my work and give me an honest response...after all, how many of us have someone other than our mothers to read our work and tell us what they think? He's willing and more than able, and I highly recommend him as a valuable resource. ::coughcoughPUBLISHED!!coughcough::
Hello again.

Matra Hammer

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Re: Mistress Molly and Krell
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2017, 12:12:02 PM »
And I didn't even pay him, folks. But, seriously, thank you for the incredibly kind words. Collaboration's goal isn't praise or promotion, but I can't deny the warming sensation this outreach offers.

And parts of Frost's honeyed words are even true! I'm still available for advice/insight if anyone is struggling with a story, confidence, and/or career direction. My PM box is always open. Not an invitation for you to dump your 400-page epic manuscript on my lap, but I'm happy skimming shorts or excerpts and offering my perspective.
When kings upon the main have clung to pride
And held themselves as masters of the sea
I've held them down beneath the crushing tide
Till they have learned that no one masters me

Frost

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Re: Mistress Molly and Krell
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2017, 12:38:04 PM »
I should've clarified the meaning of "short" before dumping my nearly 7,000-word death post from QBV in your lap. ;)
Hello again.

Tooley Bostay

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Re: Mistress Molly and Krell
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2017, 09:34:04 PM »
Took me too long to get to this. My apologies, Matra.

Subscribed and took your story for a whirl. I'll reiterate how proud I am as a fellow author to see someone make it, but alas, the honeymoon period must end. Merciless critique must come eventually (probably not merciless), so the woozle is donning his claws (they're dull), 'cause yer a published author now, and you can take the good and the bad. Let's do this.

Some wonderful examples of well-executed contrast. Right at the very start, you've got Krell (great name, by the by) with frost-nipped claws, and she's looking at her helper who is lounging as if on a "beach vacation." Yes, later on it's clear he's literally in some very hot place, but just that bit right there is a wonderful moment of contrast. All that's needed is this dude's posture, and we're clear on Krell's situation.
More importantly, you see the same deftness of contrast in the end. Molly tells Krell that she always hoped there was more than bonfires and football, and has her attention set solely on Krell/"whoa aliens," and then later we see Krell telling Corum that earth has more to it than bonfires and football. Not only is it a clever callback, but an excellent thematic twist. That, contrary to the bumper stickers on Molly's car, perhaps meaning isn't as far "out there" as she thinks.

I'll say that there were some small elements to the beginning that really confused me on my first read. Thought she was in the ship at first, especially once it's described how there's ice and beer in the pod, and then we see her shivering with her "frost-nipped claws." On a second read, yes, all the details are there, but it's one of those cases where just another line to center the reader's "eyes" would have made certain the right visual was achieved. IE: "I've crash landed after a console malfunction. I managed to escape into the forest undergrowth, but the natives..." Just another line to cement in the reader's head "okay, she's somewhere else." And likewise, it's not until after her conversation with Corum that we're told that there is snow on the ground. On a second read, this makes the frost-nipped claws clear, but it's scene-setting information that should come as fast as possible, so that we can best understand a character's reactions to their environment.

All throughout, there's a very rough-edged tone to the depiction of earth. "Rough," I mean, as in lacking unreasonable glamour. The football players are your typical jocks, Molly is a wanderlusting skeptic, they go to a dingy gas station and get accosted by bikers. It's not weighed down by a bitter tone, however, and ultimately works well to key us into Krell's feelings about the situation. She sees earth as a rather dirty, cold, hostile place, and we get to experience this feeling as well, since the setpiece and surrounding elements aren't exactly pleasant. It'd be a different story if this was about some alien who thought a pack of puppies were disgusting and horrid. Like I said at the top--we're human. It's important we relate and empathize with a story's characters, even if they are aliens.

Gonna ding a few points for a consistent habit I noticed, where a lot of phrases that began sentences weren't properly set off by a comma. Take this one, for example:
Quote
"Throughout the background piles of Legion operatives basked against the crimson thermal currents along the relay's interior."
It took me three reads to understand this sentence, since I just read straight through it without any pause. Then I realized that a comma should go after "background," as without it, the sentence just makes no sense. While not as egregious, this happens throughout the story. See:
Quote
Now alone in the alien forest[,] every shadow held the shape...

In time[,] the smallest male of the group stumbled away...

Back in the warmth of the fire[,] the other humans looked at Sean...

After a time[,] the vehicle halted at a roadside carnival of...
I'm not sure if this was intentional as a stylistic thing, as in some cases, the commas are not strictly necessary and may even damage the flow of the sentence, but I'd be on the watch for this in the future, as it made for some very confusing and jarring sentences.

Dialogue was very enjoyable, however. The banter between Krell and Corum in particular was excellent, not just for the sharp back-and-forth, but what it does for the reader. It happens very early in the story, which is wise, as it makes it clear to the audience that Krell isn't some weird, distant, unrelatable alien. She and Corum trade barbs like humans do, Krell gets frustrated like humans do, etc. Why does this matter? Because humans are reading the story, and we kinda like to read about people and places that we can relate to in some way.

And, on a similar note, I really enjoyed just how creative the whole story was. It's a fun setup, and seeing common things described through Krell's perspective (football players being "warriors," bonfire being a "sacrifical pyre," the car's engine being related to the fire pillars of her home, etc.) was of particular note, especially since it keys us further into the mind of Krell. Spotlighting "Their bottle lust knew no bounds" in particular. Glorious line that made me laugh hard.

I do wish that Krell's perspective and knowledge of earth was a little more clear, however. She thinks people gathered around a bonfire is a sacrificial pyre and the music is of people dying, but she notes the "gel-soaked spikes" of one's hair or how her pod is being used as a drink cooler. And when it comes to her notions of humans, one moment she fears that they'd be able to sense their psionic bond and considers the humans "monsters," and then (as mentioned) she doesn't fear the "perception of those who treated superior technology as a beverage locker." Then right after, she worries about the humans being a species that can control others without direct contact. Is she terrified and way out of her element, or just an alien who doesn't quite get the specifics of things?
So I wasn't entirely clear on how much "common sense" Krell had, especially when it came to her dialogue. I mentioned how much I liked the initial banter between her and Corum (and also their dialogue at the end), but I'm not sure how to make sense of the rest of her dialogue. She talks with such casual bite to Corum - who is extremely colloquial in his dialogue - and yet turns so rigid and stiff in her conversations through Sean. If she can understand the natural beat and flow of sarcasm with Corum, why isn't she able to gather the general tone of human conversation? Perhaps it's a typical approach that the aliens are taught to exercise when contacting other species - as this is Krell's first mission - but an indication of why the stark change would have been useful.

Couple other comments:

How many charges does a taser have? Honestly don't know, but surely it can jolt more than just one person before it's out of juice.

Why doesn't Molly suspect something/react when a beer container suddenly starts spewing flames large enough to singe beards off?

How did the mess in the pod happen in the first place? From what I gather, Corum is a glorified info clerk for scouts. What was he doing in the pod? And how did no one notice a spill? Was it on purpose to force the pod to crash?

Overall, this is a fun, bite-sized story with some clever splashes of color to spice up the concept. Some oddities dotting it, but an excellent showing from you, Matra. I think most importantly to all this was that by the end of it, I wanted to read what happens next. I liked the characters, especially once the stiff "veil" was removed and we got to see them behave in their natural state. That's probably the best quality of the whole piece. It leaves the reader wanting more, imagining what might happen next. That's exactly what a short story is capable of doing, and here it does it wonderfully.

Thank you for sharing a link with us here on the forum, mate. I'm so excited for your continued success that will follow this, and am very much excited to read what you'll come up with next!
« Last Edit: July 12, 2017, 09:36:49 PM by Tooley Bostay »

Matra Hammer

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Re: Mistress Molly and Krell
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2017, 05:33:35 AM »
Tooley identified the hardest part of writing any sort of professional short story.

"It leaves the reader wanting more, imagining what might happen next. That's exactly what a short story is capable of doing..."

If I've any advice for any would-be professionals out there? Listen to Tooley. This is what makes or breaks most stories. You can learn the best ways of starting one and grabbing attention. You can learn market trends and pitch a story on theme with today's climate. The quoted advice? This takes time and repetition. Read a lot, draft a lot, and in time you'll feel when you've made a difference. Editors will work with you on most things, but if the draft you send doesn't capture the imagination? Bye bye.

Onto the content.

Tooley is 100% correct about my comma mess. This is a bad habit from an unidentified source. Proper comma use is the immediate and full fix. Constructing a stronger sentence overall is the hard fix. But this leads into a larger conversation about tone, author's voice, etc. No. In this case this isn't a trick of mine or a style deal. I'm wrong and it's right of Tooley to point this out.

I'm also surprised none of the editors picked up on the inconsistencies Tooley identified. The exhaust thing is such a "well, of course that makes no sense" standout that it's a little bit embarrassing. The other points like how Krell reacts, her patterns of speech, and so on? Those could've been avoided with a little character mapping on my part. We all choose different drafting methods, but in the editing stage we should all take a walk with each character we create. Go line by line and ask "why did they say that? why is it said that way? does it add or subtract from their overall goal/statement?"

A little about the rough-edge tone of Earth? That was growing up for me. The Raiders are a real high school football team. The bonfires are real. The gas station is real. A few of the fights of my youth felt and moved the way they do in the story - right down to the imposition of the cops and fleeing from them. I'm rambling about this to say it's okay to rip chunks of yourself out and slap them on the page. It's more than okay, it's preferred. You can invent grounding details for a situation you've never experienced and succeed, but I'm of the opinion that honesty and experience bring more to the table than any research ever could.

Glad you enjoyed the dialog. I am notoriously bad with dialog, but I worked around my usual nonsense by writing a script and performing it with a willing buddy. You can catch what feels and sounds wrong immediately when heard in another person's voice. It doesn't account for character consistency (as noted with Krell's wavering confidence) but you can land some good jokes and character vibes this way.

I really do hope all of you take Tooley's reflections, and my followup, to heart. Short story work is a grueling and imperfect science which can all be defeated by the whim of one person. Don't let this stop you. This is exactly why we're here. We can help if you ask and we ask that you help in return.

Thanks again to Tooley for all his work and insight. Be certain that when his time comes (or yours!) that I will buy/subscribe/promote his stories too.
When kings upon the main have clung to pride
And held themselves as masters of the sea
I've held them down beneath the crushing tide
Till they have learned that no one masters me