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“10 Moments That Changed My Life” by Cara Bertoia ~ New Release: Casino Queen #WRPbks #Blog

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Excerpt:

“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.”

 

Buy link(s):

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Bio: 

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.

mailto:carabertoia@yahoo.com

TikTok:  tiktok.com/@carabertoia

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Filed under 10 Moments that Changed My Life, Author Blog Post, New Release

“10 Moments That Changed My Life” by Susan Furlong ~ New Release: By Promise Made

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Please help me welcome author Susan Furlong with the moments that changed her life, and her latest release, By Promise Made.  

10 Moments That Changed My Life

  1. At age five, I got my first pair of glasses. One of my earliest memories is sitting in my Kindergarten class and crying because I couldn’t see what the teacher was explaining for us to do. Those glasses made all the difference, and I took them off only to sleep from then on.
  2. As a child I was always considered the “ugly duckling” of my siblings. People would come up to my mother and say “M and L are so pretty. Susie doesn’t look anything like them.” To which my mother would sadly reply, “No, she doesn’t.” The one who kept me from being obsessed as an adult with what others think of my looks was my father who would curl his finger, rub my cheek, and say “Susie, you are so pretty.” I eventually grew to look like my great-grandmother who was always referred to as “Lottie, the pretty one.”
  3. The birth of a child always changes a life forever. My son who is now fully grown, married, and a father of his own will always be my baby. He is an independent, self-sufficient man of whom I am very proud, but as the book by Robert Munch says, “I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” Whether he likes it or not!
  4. Because my husband worked as a social worker, and I was a teacher in the public schools, when it came to children, we always wanted to “make one and buy one.” So we adopted a three-year-old from the foster care system. He was handsome and intelligent, but also damaged by severe physical abuse and fetal alcohol syndrome, which was virtually unheard of at the time. We soon learned the consequences of both were devastating. Using every resource available, we did our best to “heal” him, and we quickly learned who our true friends were and who were not.
  5. The very first article I ever had published was a short story called “The Dumbest Kid in School” for a children’s magazine. After years of writing just for myself, I finally got up the courage to send things out. Numerous rejections, but when the acceptance letter and $200 came in the mail, I jumped for joy at the mailbox. My neighbors thought I was crazy!
  6. I got Lasik surgery done on my eyes. My vision was extremely bad – 20/800 – and I couldn’t wear contacts anymore because of dry eye syndrome. When I came out of surgery, I could immediately see things I had never seen before. The nurse gave me instructions, but I wasn’t listening because I was so excited to see the candy bars and coffee maker on the counter. When we checked out at the nurse’s station, I could see the individual files on the shelves behind the desk. I started to cry because I was so happy, but the nurse asked what was wrong. I know exactly how the healed blind man in the Bible felt!
  7. My first experience in community theater was in the chorus of Guys and Dolls. It took all my courage to tryout, but once I got on stage, I loved it. I quickly realized that I wanted to play ALL the parts and that pushed me into all forms of onstage performance. I write, direct, sing, and act, mostly for church presentations. I co-wrote my first play, The Twelve Seats at the Table, about the Last Supper. It was published by Eldridge Publishing and has been presented over 100 times across the country. I now work with a traveling music and drama ministry called LightReaders in which I sing, act, and write most of the programs we do. I also work with children who bring so much excitement to any song or play.
  8. I love being a teacher. I got up every morning saying, “What do I GET to do today?” I looked forward to every day and to every child – well, not every child, but most! Being a teacher filled my life. Then I retired, and suddenly I had to figure out how I was going to fill my time now. One afternoon I prayed that whatever it was I did, I wanted to give back, and I wanted to be busy. And, wow, has that come true! My schedule is filled with my writing, my drama and music work, my granddaughter, my work with our local historical society and spending time with my friends at lunch or a movie. A lot of this has come to a halt because of the pandemic, but I am still busy and doing all the things I love!
  9. After a heartbreaking experience at a church I had attended for over 20 years, I was looking for another church, but being completely traumatized, I was having trouble finding the right place for me. Then LightReaders, my music and drama ministry group, was invited to present during a service at a Methodist church. As I walked into the Sanctuary, I was greeted by the Greeters for that Sunday – Three older women all dressed in pink blazers with the name tags Huey, Dewey, and Louie. These women (Laine, Vida, and Betty) had been best friends since childhood and were now in their 80s. As I shook each one’s hand, I laughed and commented on their name tags. These three “ducks” were so friendly, welcoming, and with such a great sense of humor that I knew I had found the place for me.
  10. My granddaughter was born in 2001, and as any grandparent will tell you, becoming a grandparent is the best thing God ever invented. If I had known what fun having grandchildren would be, I would have had them first!

 

Blurb:

She wants to take off his head. He wants to win her heart.

Hugh Cullane, accused of murder and sentenced to hang, is forced to deliver a message of betrothal to four-year-old Queen Mary of Scotland. He faces death yet again when, in rejecting the proposal, the queen’s guardian orders his severed head sent back to England in a jar.

Trained to protect her queen at all costs, Katherine Payne can show no mercy to the handsome messenger, despite the way his stolen kiss unsettles her single-minded sense of duty. Trapped between the English and Scottish armies, she must escape with Mary. Hugh joins her as they are chased by men determined to murder the young queen in their own quest for power.

Excerpt:

(After escaping the disastrous Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, Kit, Hugh and young Mary flee north.)

In the distance, bobbing heads of the horses of an English patrol headed in their direction.

“Down the cliff is the only way. Ye take Mary,” she said, tugging the straps of Mary’s carrying sack off her shoulders. “The wall of the cliff has a small cave in it about halfway down. We can hide inside. I’ll go down first and lead the way. Ye follow with the babe. I’ll guide ye. Here.” She hefted Mary and the carrying sack onto Hugh’s back. “The straps will rub on yer shoulder and start the bleeding again, but there is no other way.”

“Doesna matter. Are ye set, little one?” he asked Mary.

She kissed him on the cheek. “Aye, the man will take good care of me, Kit”

… “I think I see the cave.” She pointed. “I’ll start that way and call for ye to follow.” Swinging her legs over the side, she quickly started the climb down.

Hugh watched her from the top, trying to memorize where she put her feet and hands. “Mary, ye watch Kit verra carefully so ye can help me put my feet in the right places. Ye can even grab hold of the stones with yer hands to help me. Can ye do it?”

“Aye. Kit and I climbed this cliff more than once. Captain Rand put a rope around her waist, but we didna need it. Kit and I climbed up and down all by ourselves.”

“Are ye ready?”

“I am!”

Hugh adjusted quickly to Mary’s extra weight, and he found it relatively easy to follow Kit’s route down over the jagged rocks.

About halfway down the face, Kit called to him. “I see it. The cave. About thirty feet to yer left. I’ll get there and lead ye to it.”

“Aye,” he said.

That’s when loose rocks started sliding down the cliff, not the pebble or two that fell off when his hand hold wasn’t secure, but bushels of debris falling fast and hard. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Kit fighting to find a foothold. She had a grip on a rock with both hands, but her legs swung uselessly. She grunted and strained, but she didn’t cry out.

“I am coming to ye!” called Hugh.

“Nay!” she called back. “Get to the cave where Mary will be safe. I’ll find a way.”

Her right hand slipped off the stones, followed by her left, and she fell fast and hard. Time slowed down  as she flew through the air, bouncing repeatedly against the face of the cliff. Two, three times she slammed into the wall. Her tunic caught on a stone and ripped nearly off. On the fifth time, another jagged edge caught her boot and tore it from her foot and twisted her body until she fell headfirst toward the ground. She landed on her back at the edge of the road below with a sickening thud.

Mary screamed.

 

Buy Links: UNIVERSAL LINK https://books2read.com/u/mlW1rq 

 Amazon  https://www.amazon.com/Promise-Made-Susan-Leigh-Furlong-ebook/dp/B08DYZM2D6/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=Susan+Leigh+Furlong&qid=1598989549&s=digital-text&sr=1-6

Barnes and Noble    https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/by-promise-made-susan-leigh-furlong/1137427006?ean=9781509232284

Ibooks  https://books.apple.com/us/book/by-promise-made/id1526065222

Kobo (This link with be available for By Promise Made after 9/23.) https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/steadfast-will-i-be

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52209069-steadfast-will-i-be?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=EBE51N2MZt&rank=1

Author Bio:

Susan Leigh Furlong was born in the middle of a blinding spring snowstorm at the University of Michigan, which forced her mother to walk across campus in the snow to the hospital while in labor. She moved six times to various big cities across the country before the age of fourteen, but at college she met and married her love and moved to his small hometown in southern Ohio where she taught first grade and fourth grade and raised her children who did not have to change schools even once.

After performing in her first community theater play, she quickly realized that she wanted to play ALL the parts, which is exactly what a writer gets to do. She co-wrote, The Twelve Seats at the Table. Now along with writing sketches for adults and children, she also performs and sings with a music and drama ministry, LightReaders.

Her love of history led her to write two plays about her now hometown, performed in readers theater style by local citizens with nearly 100 antique photos displayed on a screen. She then wrote two historical non-fiction books about her town’s people and history published by Arcadia Publishing.

Susan first discovered romance novels when she won a copy of Velvet Song by Jude Deveraux at the local bookstore. She reads all varieties of books, but historical romance is forever her first choice.

Steadfast Will I Be and By Promise Made are her first works published by The Wild Rose Press. A third one is in the editing stage.

 

Website https://www.susanlfurlong.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SusanLeighFurlong/

Twitter https://twitter.com/FurlongLeigh

Email: SusanLeighFurlongwriter@gmail.com

Five Star Reviews

 N.N.LightsBookHeaven.com

“By Promise Made is a historical romance I couldn’t put down. I have read a lot of books dealing with Queen Mary of Scots, but this story puts a new spin on the young queen. From the first page, I was transported to medieval Scotland. The descriptive narration is so well done, I sniffed the air and heard the sounds of everything going on in By Promise Made. The plot moves at a great pace with plenty of twists and turns. Told in multiple POV’s, the reader gets a secret glimpse into what motivates characters which I adored. The characters themselves are so expressive, I instantly connected with them. My favorite character has to be Katherine. Her heart wars with her sense of duty which brought such a depth to her. Start to finish, By Promise Made, is a brilliant historical romance and one I highly recommend!”

Marilee Lake: “By Promise Made is a wonderfully written story. Hugh and Kit both have to face personal flaws to have a future together. Set in Scotland it offers an authentic glimpse into troubled times during the reign of the infant Queen Mary.”

Stephen Wright: “Susan Leigh Furlong has added a second installment in her series of romance and adventure novels. This story moves along briskly and interweaves historical persons and fictional characters into a powerful love story. You can embrace these characters and really feel their passion along with them. A great story!”

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Filed under 10 Moments that Changed My Life, Author Blog Post, New Release