Please help me welcome Berta Platas, who graciously agreed to blog with us today. Berta is a long time member of the Georgia Romance Writers. She writes romantic comedies with a latina flavor for St. Martins Press and young adult fiction with her friend and critique partner, Michelle Roper, under the name Gillian Summers. Their Faire Folk Trilogy, about a young half-elven girl who is sent to live with her father, an itinerant woodworker at renaissance faires, has now been extended into three more books. The first, The Tree Shepherd's
Daughter
, was a National Book Award finalist.


Teaching Myself Tarot


I am in over my head in weird research. My WIP (work in progress) is about a
woman who has to fake being an expert on tarot cards. I thought this would be
easy, since I'm no expert, I'd just pick up a couple of pointers and, like my
heroine, fake the rest. Not so easy. Turns out that the best way to fake being
bad at something is to be really good at it, then pretend not to be. So here I
am, with the Complete Idiot's Guide to Tarot (this really exists, thank goodness), revisiting Jungian archetypes and learning symbolic meaning in cards that I'd previously bought because I liked the artwork.

The book is finished, and my job now is to layer in the realistic sensory
elements that I had to research: the layout of the Los Angeles neighborhood, how
the gardens smell, what Hollywood parties are really like. Fun stuff, except for
this difficult tarot thingie.

My upcoming book is about a girl who wins a major lottery prize (LUCKY CHICA -
it'll be out in January of '09), and I bugged the nice folks at the Georgia
Lottery Commission about how some of the big prize winners claimed their loot.
Lawyers? Press conferences? Limousines? They graciously answered all of my
questions, telling me tales of the angry mother-in-law who tried to convince her
lottery-winner daughter to divorce her husband before she claimed the prize -
with the husband standing right there, and the man who was afraid to claim his
prize, fearing robbers would know he was walking into the lottery's offices with
the winning ticket. Total strangers helped me to research, too. At customer
service counters and gas stations all over town, I'd buy a ticket, and ask my
fellow ticket purchasers what they would do with the prize, if they won it.
Everyone had an answer, and many had put a lot of thought into their plans. A
bonus to that fun research project was that I spent $35 on lottery tickets and
won $150. Woo hoo! I quit while I was ahead.

Given my love of research and the trouble I could get into, you won't find me
writing about gangsters, drug dealers, or the sex industry. Maybe my next book
should be about a personal trainer. I could use the exercise. You might say it's
in the cards.

Learn more about Berta www.bertaplatas.com and www.gilliansummers.com
Let's thank Berta and ask her questions Sunday and Monday.

15 comments

  1. Cinthia Hamer // October 12, 2008 at 10:31 AM  

    ROTFLOL, Berta! I never thought much about being great at something and faking being bad at it. Hmm...gives one a lot of food for thought. :)

    I know less than nothing about tarot...or for that matter, the occult in general, being the sheltered little girl I was. But the idea that one person being able to affect another person's life, just by dealing a few cards...that's pretty powerful stuff.

  2. Jianne Carlo // October 12, 2008 at 12:37 PM  

    My grandmother taught me to read the tarot cards, Berta, but I stopped doing it in college. Too many strange coincidences, and too many people accepting a reading as fate.

    Sounds as if you had a blast with the lottery research. How strange people are when large sums of money are involved!

    Looking forward to reading the book,

  3. Anonymous // October 12, 2008 at 12:54 PM  

    Berta, wonderful post! I once got on a first name basis with a GBI agent while researching for a wip. It was interesting, except he told me upfront the name he told me wasn't his real first name, LOL! I read "The Tree Shephard's Daughter" and loved it. I donated it to our school library. Bought the second one at M&M's and had it dedicated to the school. (Was great to see you there) What a hoot trying to learn the tarot, I once gave it a whirl and learned quickly it was more memorization than I was willing to undertake.

    The Scarlet Pumpernickel

  4. Liz Jasper // October 12, 2008 at 3:59 PM  

    Berta, I like the idea of basing one's next WIP on something that is fun to research. Come to think of it, I'm amazed there aren't more books taking place in chocolate factories.
    Maybe I should rectify that. Personally. Now.
    --Liz

  5. Berta // October 12, 2008 at 5:00 PM  

    Thanks for you comments, everyone! It is scary to think that some people put so much trust in the turn of the card, Cinthia, which is why I made my character a psychologist who's thinking of opening a private practice and ends up helping a friend with her fortunetelling business.

    Jianne, tarot cards aren't as scary to me as ouija boards, but I have had some odd stuff come up while "practicing." Nothing too weird, but this is not a game I'll play beyond this book. I'd llike to hear more about the coincidences. I love a scary story.

    LOL about the first name basis with the GBI agent who's first name wasn't his real one. Memorization's not my strong suit, either.

    And Liz, re the chocolate factory, I'll help you research! :)

  6. Toni V.S. // October 12, 2008 at 5:02 PM  

    Tarot can be scary at times! All those coincidences... I had my fortune read once...when I was 26. The fortune tell told me I'd already met the man I'd marry. I laughed at that; I was dating no one and hadn't for over a year. Turns out she as right. I spoke to him on the phone when he called in to make a complaint about the programming at the TV station where I worked! Oh, my...!

    Berta, your book sounds like it'll be a lot of fun to read!

  7. Mary Marvella // October 12, 2008 at 6:37 PM  

    Hey, Berta, sounds like the Pink Fuzzies liked you post! I enjoyed it, too.

  8. Mary Ricksen // October 12, 2008 at 8:48 PM  

    I always wanted to have Tarot cards read for me. I never knew anyone who could really do it. It was the Ouiji board for me, scary stuff too.

  9. Anonymous // October 12, 2008 at 9:07 PM  

    I read Russian Gypsy cards, but I have to cheat and use the book! They can be quite frighteningly accurate! Ouija boards are very frightening for me also. Once visited a couple who lived in Cherokee North Carolina and they held a ceremony for my friend and me. I've forgotten what they called it, but it was both interesting and frightening. We also sat on the porch of their mountain cabin and watched the fairy lights dance in the mountains, enchanting experience.

    The Scarlet Pumpernickel

  10. Mary Marvella // October 12, 2008 at 9:54 PM  

    There are so many things e can't explain.

  11. Anonymous // October 13, 2008 at 8:58 AM  

    What a coincidence--I'm reading The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck at the moment. The main characters' actions hinge on a tarot card reading that starts out as a meanspirited joke on the husband.

    But they say there are no coincidences, right? I'll look for your books, Berta.

  12. Beth Trissel // October 13, 2008 at 9:35 AM  

    Wow. How interesting your books sound, and I particularly enjoyed hearing about your research.

  13. Tami Brothers // October 13, 2008 at 1:26 PM  

    Hey Berta,

    I love the insight into your research. The lottery thing sounds hilarious, but I admit to being one of those people who have the money all planned out. Now, I just need to win the darn thing....

    The tarot think does make me pause. I had an experience with a Ouija board in middle school. I keep telling myself it was my (not so good) friends playing a joke on me and that's the story I'm sticking with. Really... Honest.

    Can't wait for Lucky Chica... And still waiting on pins and needles for the third Faire Folk Trilogy book.

    Tami
    (still waiting.....)

  14. Berta // October 13, 2008 at 2:39 PM  

    I've never read Steinbeck's The Winter of our Discontent. Have to admit that I've only read his classroom-required titles, such as Cannery Row and The Grapes of Wrath. Oh, and Of Mice and Men.

    I'll do a bad tarot reading for anyone who wants one (make sure to let me know first, I don't carry these around with me). For Lucky Chica I'll be handing out scratch-off tickets at book signings. Maybe I'll make someone else a millionaire. Wouldn't that be ironic?

    Thanks for your comments, guys! This is fun.

  15. Pamela Varnado // October 17, 2008 at 11:28 PM  

    Hi Berta,

    Um, conducting research?
    Isn't that supposed to consist of long hours bent over dusty books, or phone calls which all end with someone saying to contact the public affairs office for information?

    Well, thanks to all the fun you had, I have a whole new outlook on the process. In fact, I might even write an historical.