Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting Lucky on a Gambling Cruise

Hey all,

Well, I've gotten a lot of mail about Luck Be a Lady and I'm so pleased it's been well received.  It is one of my favorite books (I know I always say that) not just because of the unusual premise and fun loving secondary characters, but because it was the first book I ever really did on-the-site research for.
Now I know I only write books that take place in an area I've traveled to. (Even my Sci Fi and Fantasy books have a specific place that was used as a base.)  But Luck Be a Lady's destination was the first book I traveled to JUST because I wanted to write a story.

I've had a few readers ask me this week where the research actually took place.  Vegas?  Reno?  Atlantic City?  Maybe New Orleans?

That gave me an idea for this blog.  Maybe more of you would like to know how I got my story for Luck Be a Lady.  Where I did the research.  Luckily--forgive the pun--we didn't have to travel far.

The idea for the story came from a commercial.  It was one of those romantic, airy types where a gorgeous man in a tux is kissing a beautiful woman as the sun sets over the deck of a  ship. *sigh*  As they murmur their love to each other, the camera pans out and you see it's not a cruise boat but one of the special nightly casino cruises.  Excitement fills the air as dealers spread out winning cards and slot machines sing out the glad tidings someone just won a huge pot.  The lovers kiss one last time before disappearing into the casino to see if their luck with the tables can match their luck with each other.

Well, that's all it took.  I dreamed about that commercial and out of the dream emerged Lara, Justin and all the wonderful characters from Luck Be a Lady.

But I'm not a gambler.  My Nana (maternal grandmother) was, and she dragged me along to the casinos when I was old enough, but I hate playing the tables.  I don't like waste and losing money is just too bloody wasteful for me.  LOL  Plus I've got that whole electricity thing going (remember I stop watches and cash registers and turn off lights), so I'm pretty sure the PTBs would frown on me spending much time near their machines.

Even with all that, Nana's love for the game was one of the reasons I wrote this story, and the book is dedicated in part to her.  Yet, the memories of Nana stuffing coins in a slot machine didn't help me when it came to making sure I described the rich ambiance and exuberance of a gambling cruise.  So I decided to go to the source.

Since we were living in Florida at the time, it was easy to sweet-talk Jonathon into a beautiful summer night cruise on a casino boat.  Especially since the one we chose was free.  Sterling Cruise lines did cruises most evenings.  The trips were four to five hours long and started and ended in Port Canaveral, Florida.  The cruise route took you out to international waters since that is where actual gambling can legally occur.

So we bought tickets, (Yeah, they were free, but you had to have them.) put on our best duds and headed out for a fun-filled cruise.  I was really excited, looking forward to learning all the nuances for my story.  My sweet baboo was excited, because there was free food.

Did I mention neither of us gamble?

Anyway, once on board we explored the ship, had some drinks, and munched out on the buffet.  Not the best spread we'd ever seen, but it was filling.  (Made sure I changed that part in Luck Be a Lady.  Lara's guests will be impressed with their buffet choices.)  Then we listened to the band play and spent a little time out on deck recreating the commercial.  *wink wink*

Then it was time to go to work.  Jonathon went back to listen to more music, and notebook in hand, I went to the casino to do my research.

Did I mention that casinos frown on people taking notes?

Yep.  I wasn't there for more than ten minutes before I was surrounded by big strong security men.  Not the worst position I'd ever been in, but with my luck the smelly one named Bubba would be the one to strip search me and demand the truth.

Luckily, in stepped in my hero.  Yes.  That's right.  There actually is a Justin Savage, and he turned out to be every bit the wonderful man I portrayed him to be.

His real name was Warren and he was one of the floor bosses.  (He looked a little like Robert DeNero)  A foreign national who had worked on this type of vessel his whole adult life.  Once he heard my stammering story and peeked at my notes, he shooed security away.  He let me keep my notebook and escorted me back behind the VELVET ROPES (the inner sanctuary) and became my mentor.  If I had a question, he answered it.  If I didn't understand something, he explained.  And he did all this while keeping an eagle eye on all the tables under his purview.

I had a wonderful time, gained a great deal of knowledge and a lot of respect for the position of floor boss.  Those men and women have to be constantly on guard, making sure pit bosses, dealers and customers alike are acting fairly.  They are the ones who alert security when a problem develops and they get to be the ones to hand out the big winnings if a guest hits the jackpot.

Warren was a great guy.  When his break came, he toured me around the rest of the ship answering questions and telling me about his life on the high seas.  He explained all about the legalities of cruise gambling and shared story after story about his time on board ship.When Jonathon came to find me at cruises' end, my sides ached from laughing so much at the different people Warren had met.  You'll see some of them in Luck Be A Lady.  They are some of the secondary characters.  I dedicated the book to Warren and even sent him a copy  when it was published.  Sexy romance or not, he deserved to know he was my hero, if only for that one moment in time.

Sterling Cruises may not have cruises out of Port Canaveral any longer, but the night I spent researching on one of their ships is truly a highlight of my career.  I met the perfect hero for my book, enjoyed learning how  the ship was run, plus I was able to spend a romantic evening with my husband. 

Not too shabby for a trip that was a tax write-off.   *VBG*  

Now, until Wednesday, I'll leave you with a couple of reminders.

~~~Today marks the beginning of my newest FREE READ over on my FREE READ BLOG.  We'll be having a party this week, so make sure you check out the story.  It's actually another one that takes place in a casino.  But this one is on dry land.


The romantic and sexy story of a woman who turns the casino entertainment division upside down, and the boss man who desperately works to make sure she doesn't do the same to him.

~~~Remember to enter my Halloween contest celebrating Luck Be A Lady.  Go to and click on Fun Stuff then Contests to learn all the details.

~~~Don't forget to pick up your copy of Luck Be a Lady HERE.  And when you do, remember to send me a copy of the receipt.  You'll be entered in the above contest, twice!!!

~~~And finally, if you want to know a little more about the characters in Luck Be a Lady, read last Wednesday's Blog.  You'll meet Justin and Lara and you'll see why I think Warren is such a special guy!

Hugs to all and have a great week!

CJ England  

Follow Your Dreams


Phylis said...

I just love reading about your adventures CJ! I really want to read the book but need to wait a bit for cash. Good luck!

CJ England said...

Thanks, Phylis

This one was so much fun. I wish I could go back, but I'll just have to make due here in the casinos. LOL

Oh wait...I don't gamble.