12.15.2006

HH Com 33

It may be every other woman’s dream to date a movie actor, but it isn’t the dream of programmer Claire Horton. She is stunned to realize that the amusing man she has just bedded isn’t merely a geek-like-her, but is action star Al Cartani. Claire remains ever-cautious as Al falls for her.

Al invites Claire to icy Manhattan for a press junket, then to warmer California for a frenetic Oscar weekend. Claire becomes fast friends with his mentor, Nell Beecher, who directed Al to his first Oscar nomination. Despite scuffling with Al’s actress ex-wife Carolynn Holland, Claire finds she doesn’t hate California. But she resists falling for Al, fearing her career would fail if she leaves Pittsburgh.

Al’s life becomes the frequent headline of a national tabloid. Could their growing relationship be sabotaged by headlines like “Cartani Lover’s Killer Past” and “Adult Video Star Ranger Wed Cartani?” When Al reluctantly admits that some of the stories are true, they have a huge fight. While Claire is somewhat distrustful, she realizes she needs him and follows him to California.

Al’s career goes into a tabloid-fueled tailspin. But the relationship of tabloids to real life is often tenuous. And, in real life, one day can change everything in ways the tabloids can’t touch.

IRL looks at the ups and downs of sex, wine, mutants, matters of size, family, movie-making and tales of one-foot-tall fairies by the ultimate non-Hollywood woman.


The problem here is that you've got utter cliche characters: sexy actor beset by tabloids; geeky girl who really didn't know he was a movie star (yea right. cause geeks and movie stars are often confused with each other). Switch the genders and you have one of my shameful Saturday night chick flick pleasures.

You can write; you're just not writing about anything I want to read. Get over being usual.

21 comments:

HawkOwl said...

If by "every other woman" you mean one woman in every two, then it's not a compelling enough stat to be interesting. If by "every other woman" you mean every woman but your protagonist, you're an ass. Either way, that doesn't make me want to read more of your writing.

Laurie Mann said...

Gaak, talk about being too close to something. I saw and enjoyed Notting Hill, but completely missed the parallels.

Thanks, Oh Miss Snark!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

*sigh*

Here we are again. People in Pittsburgh don't know a movie star from our rears... Maybe if he's a minor star, or in disguise, but believe it or not, folks, we DO go to the movies here. In fact, there's a whole movie industry here, albeit small.

Anonymous said...

Dull, cliche, unrealistic...bleh.

My favorite part is where she worries if she goes to live with the rich movie star, her programming career might suffer. Because I guess she couldn't find another job, or her rich boyfriend wouldn't support her, or her rich boyfriend wouldn't help her start her own company, and no customers would rush to hire Movie Star' Girlfriend...

Anonymous said...

People in Pittsburgh don't know a movie star from our rears

Or, in the case of Sienna Miller, we find them strikingly similar.

Anonymous said...

H'wood hottie wants to date lil ol' librarian moi??

HELL, YES!

If it doesn't work out I'll still have some hot memories for my old age and maybe some killer shoes.

Writer: rework from that angle.

Laurie Mann said...

Y'know, I still like both Sienna Miller AND Pittsburgh - it can happen. She might not be the world's greatest actress, and may have had a mixed history with men already, but man, she blew my socks off on Leno about a year ago. Very, very amusing. Kind of a younger, British Sharon Stone. Much as I like Pittsburgh, I can see an out-of-towner not automatically loving it. In the novel, Al admits he wasn't crazy about Pittsburgh either, until he started looking at it from another point of view.

I was talking to a Mysteries of Pittsburgh extra the other night who told me shooting was extended in the 'burgh after some of the film was X-rayed at the airport. Amazing.

Anon- about the librarian bit...while Claire was stumbling into what she was hoping was just a night of meaningless sex with a hottie, the point of the book is...that's not how it turned out!

Laurie Mann said...

Helen,

I live in Pittsburgh and I'm very familiar with local movie-making. Heck, I lived near the old Burger King where parts of Dogma were filmed.

The character of Claire, however, is a pop-culture illiterate. She's not meant to be a negative reflection on the people of Pittsburgh in any way. She's too much of a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of person at the beginning of the book, so low all she can see is the stone.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Laurie said: Helen,

I live in Pittsburgh and I'm very familiar with local movie-making. Heck, I lived near the old Burger King where parts of Dogma were filmed.

The character of Claire, however, is a pop-culture illiterate. She's not meant to be a negative reflection on the people of Pittsburgh in any way. She's too much of a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of person at the beginning of the book, so low all she can see is the stone.


I'm sorry. Were you answering me?

Well, just in case. I, too, live near where part of Dogma was filmed. SFW? The reason you've upset me is that Pittsburghers have a bad rap; if you live here, you know that. Okay, so your character's pop culture illiterate. But at some point when two people are deciding if they want to hop in the sack together, things like careers come into the picture; it's a good way to establish a person's character. If they say, "I'm an accountant," you get a much different impression of your paramour-to-be than if they say, "I work at Gatto, fixing bikes when I'm not racing down a hill somewhere." Dunno, but those conversations always left me with an expectation of things like technique, amount of attention paid to me versus himself, and bodily cleanliness.

Even on the off-chance that this woman geek doesn't care about this man, only about the upcoming shag, can you tell me that as Al seduced this woman, there were no fans around, staring, bugging for autographs, hoping he'd do an Action Star Stunt for them? Weren't there body guards hovering? There's no clue that he's someone who probably has a multi-million-dollar insurance policy on his body and a staff who'll go off the deep end if their boss contracts something nasty from a quick roll in the hay?

Unless he lives in town, but I can promise you that even Mario Lemieux continues to attract this sort of attention during his daily walks in Sewickley. And if he lives in town, Claire has an even smaller chance of not credibly knowing who he is. Heck, it was hard not to pick Josef Melichar out at the zoo the other week.

As to being worried about her career being derailed if she leaves Da Burgh... sure, I can see that actually being important. Does she work in robotics? At SEI? Is she the head of a start-up that's a FORE Systems spin-off, and would piss off her angel investors if she moved the company?

But if she's just a coder or something that's a dime a dozen, location doesn't matter.

Laurie Mann said...

Helen,

I've had the first eight chapters up at http://www.novelexperiment.com for a while.
You're welcome to take a look if you want to
know why I find your comments kind of puzzling.

I think Pittsburgh comes off pretty well in the book. I'm very
fond of the area.

I used to live in Mount Lebanon, but I'm now further out in the country.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I'm finding your continued refusal to get my name right rather puzzling, frankly.

Anonymous said...

fearing her career would fail if she leaves Pittsburgh

She's a programmer. Can you say "Silicon Valley?"

Laurie Mann said...

Sorry, Susan.

Anonymous, since you can't tell everything in the hook, she'd helped to start a software company years before. While she brought in other management (she prefers to code than manage), she still feels very protective of the company. It's been a huge part of her life for a long time. Eventually, she's able to make an accommodation to do some long distance work.

Also, Silicon Valley is about six hours north of the LA area, so not every programmer in California works there.

wonderer said...

Anonymous, since you can't tell everything in the hook, she'd helped to start a software company years before. While she brought in other management (she prefers to code than manage), she still feels very protective of the company. It's been a huge part of her life for a long time. Eventually, she's able to make an accommodation to do some long distance work.

Change "fearing her career would fail" to "doesn't want to abandon the company she built" or something similar. That way the reader knows that the stakes for her are higher than just a job, and it helps alleviate the objections of some posters that her new boyfriend could help her start over.

Laurie Mann said...

Wonderer, fair point. The first few times I tried to explain her job situation in a 250 word hook, I spent about 100 words going into her job situation. So I just minimized it, but I probably shouldn't have. On the other hand, minimizing her career has been a problem with the hook, since several folks have raised issues with her motivation.

It's not cut and dried - she's not the CEO, but she's more than a high-level programmer since she's part of the team that got the company going. She's willing to take a less prominent role with the company, but it takes her months to get to that point.

wonderer said...

Laurie, I see your problem. I don't think you need to lay out every detail of her job situation, just make clear that her job is, to her, more than just a job. Obviously she identifies with it because she has so much time and energy invested in it. What else does it mean to her - success after a long struggle, the definition of who she is, a triumph as a woman in a man's field? I'm sure you've answered that question in the novel. It may or may not be something you want to go into in a hook or query letter - just something to consider that might help her character sound more unique.

Laurie Mann said...

I tried to write Claire and Al as unique individuals, but it looks like I managed to select their most mundane characteristics for the hook. That seems to be a common thread through Miss Snark's comments - what makes these characters different? What can make a reader care about them?

This is kind of tough in the hook as Miss Snark made it clear the hook had to be short and should avoid backstory.

If a hook could focus on backstory, I could have started off with something more like:


After a catastrophic year, computer entreprenuer Claire has a business meeting with geek and actor Al that glides into a one-night stand. Claire's partner in life and work Rob has been killed in a car accident and Al's actress wife cuckolded him on national television. While Claire is cautious about getting seriously involved, Al pursues her.

Anonymous said...

Focus on Claire, and describe Al from her point of view. The cuckolding only matters if it contributes to her decisions/actions.

Laurie Mann said...

I didn't really consider point of view in writing the hook, but I probably should have. The book itself is mostly told from Claire's point of view, with a few newspaper articles to serve as contrast. The hook is simply omniscient. Hmmm....

thraesja said...

I read your eight chapters, Laurie. I liked Al and Claire, but I found that the cast of supporting characters were thinly described, with no real hints of their motivations or lives. Please, please, please, just mention Nell's Irish lilt, rather than putting it in text. It was simply painful to read, and I thought you were going for Cajun before you actually mentioned Ireland.

I'm still trying to find an actual plot. I think it has potential, but you need to have less discussion about motivation and angst, and more of something actually happening. The media's attack on Claire only really starts in chapter eight. I did like the news feeds as a connector, but you might want to read more of the real thing. There are plenty of nasty ones around to help you out.

Also, it seems that Claire resists loving Al more because she isn't yet over her dead husband than because she's concerned with her tech company. You might put that in the hook instead, since you can't seem to boil down her career situation.

With a reworked hook and a severe pruning, this might make a workable book. Good luck.

Laurie Mann said...

Thraesja,

Thanks for your comments.

My mother also hated the dialect, and I had toned it down a little (yes, it was worse before). I probably ought to tone it down further.

I have mixed feelings on the "motivations of the side characters." I guess because Claire doesn't always know everyone's motivations, so I can't really go there - I can only describe their behaviors.

As for the plot...that's yet another issue for the book. In some ways, it's a long character study. Stuff does happen. But it isn't a heavily-plotted book. If you like the characters, I think you'd be intrigued by their journeys. But, if I fail to make them compelling, you won't.

But I appreciate hearing your comments and hope you'd consider dropping me a line (lauriem AT dpsinfo.com). Most comments I've gotten back on the excerpt have been "like it" a few have been "this sucks" but people have rarely given me concrete feedback as you did.