Please help me welcome author Cara Bertoia with the moments that changed her life, and her latest release, Casino Queen.
10 Moments That Changed My Life
When I saw this blog post suggestion, I found it intriguing. Could I distill my life into ten moments that changed my life? I found it quite the challenge and I love challenges.
- The first disappointment in my life came at nine years old. My family moved from my beloved Charleston, South Carolina to Charlotte, North Carolina only a four-hour drive but a world apart. Charleston was a walkable city filled with antebellum mansions, and beaches galore. And Charlotte a suburban ghost town where you never saw a human walking.
- In my senior year in college my boyfriend decided he didn’t want to get married. Not sure what to do next I decided to spend my last semester at the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico. I loved it there, and when I got home and he proposed I decided I didn’t want to be married. I wanted to travel.
- My first year after college I was teaching school and living in Charlotte. Then one day my father dropped dead of a heart attack while playing tennis. My heart broke because he was the parent I felt the closest to. I joined the sad club that day, but it cut the ties that tethered me to Charlotte.
- On a summer break from teaching, I traveled to Lake Tahoe to work as a blackjack dealer. I never returned to teaching and spent the next three years dealing at Caesars Tahoe.
- Eventually I moved back east to take a job in hi-tech. A friend from Tahoe passed through town on her way to New Zealand to work for Princess Cruises. An adventure down under sounded like more fun that my job, so I applied to the cruise ships and got a job traveling the world.
- After I had been at sea for five years, and getting a bit anxious about my future, my Prince Charming appeared. We both worked on the Star Princess. Three months later Ray jumped ship to leave with me. We married a week later. I discovered that although I had sucked at dating I was great at marriage.
- We took jobs at an Indian Casino in Palm Springs, California. It turned out to be the best job of our lives. The tribal chairman was the most charismatic man I had ever met. Native American casinos had just opened in the Coachella Valley with thousands of people from all over the world moving to work there. It resembled a modern-day gold rush.
- We contracted to build a house in Palm Springs. Three fourths of the way through our contractor abandoned us. We didn’t know anything about permits, or building, but we finished the house without divorcing. We didn’t even get into a fight. That is when we truly became Team Bertoia.
- We sold our property and moved to Florida to be nearer my sisters. We traded a house and a garden for an apartment in a high rise. Unfortunately, a few years later my sister died. But at least I had that time to reconnect with my family.
- I loved the casino industry but an underbelly of corruption ran underneath the surface just perfect for a thriller, and I decided I was the perfect person to write it. I embarked on my next career as a novelist. Now, I spend my days looking out at the ocean as I write about my casino years.
Manager Caroline Popov’s job is to clean up the Night Hawk. In the process her list of enemies grows. With her life on the line, can she pull out a win.
“Why did I transfer you up from Palm Springs to be my Casino Queen?” The charismatic Tribal Chairman John Tovar asked.
“Casino Queen, really? Apparently, you are the only person in America who isn’t watching the show about the seven kingdoms on cable. The queens always get killed in the most horrific ways. They are hanged, beheaded, poisoned, burned alive in an explosion, or have their throat slit,” an exasperated Caroline Popov answered.
“I promise that won’t happen to you.” He gestured for her to take a seat at an empty ‘Mystic Mermaid’ slot machine, then sat across from her. They swiveled their
chairs to face each other. John tried to act serious, but a smile kept pulling at the corner of his eyes. “According to the Mazurie decision, Native American tribes are considered sovereign nations. Therefore as leader of the tribe, I am King of the Shotowa.”
He continued. “Believe me, when I met the Queen of England I was introduced as the leader of the Shotowa nation. Let me be clear, as soon as you drove into this parking lot you entered the nation.” He gestured toward the uniformed officers standing at the door. “We have our own army.”
She decided to play along with the flow of his logic. “You mean security guards.”
“Precisely, trained courtesy of the United States Marine Corps. The tribe issues its own currency, gaming chips made of ceramic clay, stamped with our logo. At the cashiers’ cage, our central bank, those chips can be exchanged for U.S. dollars. Anyone can find food in our three restaurants or the team member dining room for employees. An underground well supplies us with water. We provide hotel rooms for shelter. Any guest who comes to stay with us will find their basic human needs covered by the Shotowa Tribe. Never forget we are a sovereign nation. I am the King, and I anoint you Queen of the Night Hawk.”
Cara Bertoia grew up in a strait-laced Southern family, but she was always fascinated with casinos. In her twenties on a summer hiatus from teaching in North Carolina, she drove to California and became a dealer at Caesars in Lake Tahoe. She discovered that after teaching high school, handling an unruly gambler was a piece of cake. Her mother highly disapproved of her working in a casino, “a place so bad it has ‘sin’ in the middle.”
Eventually, she succumbed to pressure from the family and returned east to take a hi-tech job in Boston. She also began working on her MFA in writing at Emerson. Her goal was to write the first realistic novel about casino life from the perspective of an experienced table games dealer. She is always amazed that normal and sometimes quite intelligent players become absolutely clueless in the casino. They repeat superstitious nonsense and no amount of logic can change their position, maybe her novel will.
While in Boston she was offered the opportunity to join Princess Cruises as a croupier. Jumping at the chance, she spent the next five years circling the globe. Sometimes life exceeds your dreams. She was awed by the wonders of Venice, the fjords of Norway, and the Northern Lights in St. Petersburg.
Cara returned from ships with a very special souvenir, her Scottish husband Ray. They went to work at the Spa Casino in Palm Springs, and now live in Hollywood, Florida, where she writes about her casino years while wistfully gazing out at the ocean.
I love to connect with my readers. Please send me a picture with Casino Queen. I will post those pictures to my social media.
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