.An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


This year for Christmas I got a just released Coldplay album, yes an old fashioned vinyl album with a paper sleeve! It seemed so substantial compared to a CD. It all began last year when my husband told me that he wanted to buy a record player because he thought music sounded better when the needle hits the record. As a child his father - an opera buff, had owned a beautiful stereo and a huge record collection that was strictly off limits. Growing up Ray listened to most of his music on the BBC's Radio One and the television show Top of the Pops, so he never got to listen to the whole album, only the hits.

My husband is man of many interests, once he asked me to walk 500 miles across Spain, not only did we go we made a movie of our journey. He helped me write a book about our experiences working on a cruise ship. So the fact that we only owned a few albums, old Beatles albums that were framed and hung in our office, didn't faze me a bit. I said sure and wondered where this new hobby would take us.

Well it turns out this new hobby has taken us to thrift stores, the Salvation Army, and yard sales all over California. We attack a thrift store as a team, pull out all of the albums we might fancy, check them for scratches and buy the good ones. In a little over a year we have amassed a fantastic collection of over 400 classic albums for a little over $200. You can buy the same albums on E-Bay but nothing matches the thrill of the chase! Last week when traveling back from a casino reunion at Lake Tahoe we stopped in Bishop California and I found two great Frank Sinatra albums in premium condition. I felt like I had struck gold.

Our collection spans the decades from the fifties to around 1985 when CD's took over. We have records from performers as diverse as the Beatles, Jethro Tull, Blondie and Barry White. It has also introduced us to performers from our parent's generation. When you listen to the smooth sounds of Johnny Mathis or Frank Sinatra you realize why these crooners were so popular. There are also great Broadway soundtracks, like Camelot and The Sound of Music. But it's not just music; learn some history by listening to The First Family a comedic look at the life of John and Jackie Kennedy when they lived in the White House.

This year's Mad Men even had a scene where Peter Campbell proudly shows off his new console stereo housed in a massive wooden cabinet.  Pete marvels at the size of the hi-fi cabinet: “It’s a beautiful piece of furniture. It’s seven feet long.”

Ray proudly displays his collection in the cabinets he built!

Actually records have been cropping up everywhere. In last year's movie Crazy Stupid Love, Ryan Gosling puts the needle on the record as a seductive move. In the show Girls they show Charlie's apartment - a marvel of carpentry. He had custom designed a one room apartment with built-ins to maximize every bit of space, but Ray only noticed the albums on the shelves. Ray had already designed custom shelves to hold his albums. He wanted his albums to face out and be accessible like they were at 'Rockaway Records' in Los Angeles. The store is a great player in the second hand record store scene.

Once you begin looking you realize that albums are everywhere, all the castoffs from all the homes across America, a part of our heritage. They are sitting in thrift stores begging you to take them home and remember what a thrill it was to open that album you had saved all week to buy. Even an article titled 'Turntables' in the July issue of 'Wired' magazine proclaims, "If you care about the sound of recorded music, there's nothing better than vinyl. Even casual listeners can hear how much richer vinyl sounds than MP3s or CDs." As I write this the room is filled with the silken tones of Johnny Mathis.So step back in time and visit that second hand record store and you too just might be seduced.

Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Kindle Fire Dept says - If this one doesn't put a smile on your face, I don't know what will. Cruise Quarters is a romantic comedy about a woman whose unlucky-in-love past is about to meet its match on board a luxury cruise ship departing for exotic ports around the globe. Managing to be informative about cruises and richly detailed with the locales while offering a compelling romance and plenty of laughs, this novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!

Click to find Cruise Quarters at Barnes and Noble

Ray and Cara have also produced the number one guide on walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
The Desert Woman calls it inspiring. 
Click the link to find the DVD Camino de Santiago a Walkers Guide at Amazon

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