.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, April 3, 2014


This is a list of my personal top love songs carefully chosen over decades. The songs that celebrate love and how good it can make you feel. No, these aren’t the songs to listen to when you just got dumped, but these are the songs to play when you’ve decided to give it another go, or when you’ve met somebody new. These are hopeful songs from the hopeful romantic.

I never tire of these songs, each time I hear them they make me smile. These songs are the soundtrack to my life. I didn’t know what was behind the writing of these songs so I scoured the Internet to tell you a little bit about each of them. Maybe you will agree with my list, but if not I hope it will inspire you to make up one of your own.

  1. Today by Jefferson Airplane from the first album, Surrealistic Pillow
To me this song will always represent my first love. When I was in high school, my very bad boyfriend made me sit on a couch because he wanted to play a song for me. It was the most powerful song I had ever heard and it still is. Today was featured in the movie, A Walk On The Moon. It is the background music in a love scene between Diane Lane and Vigo Mortenson, a scene is so hot it sizzled.

  1. Layla by Eric Clapton with Derek and The Dominoes,
The inspiration for the song Layla was taken from an old Persian poem called "Layla and Majnun". It is a story of a man driven mad by his love for a woman who was unattainable to him. ('Layla and Majnun' is loosely translated into 'Layla and the Madman').

Eric Clapton was hopelessly in love with Patti Harrison, wife of the Beatles' George Harrison. He had tried several times to convince her to leave her marriage to be with him, to no avail. Layla was Clapton's last ditch effort to persuade Patti and convince her of his love. Even this proved unsuccessful, however. In despair, Clapton went on a heroin binge that lasted a few years.

After Clapton went through rehab for his addiction, Patti and he began a relationship (her marriage to George Harrison had ended) which culminated in their marriage in 1979.

  1. Come On Get Higher by Matt Nathanson
This is how Matt explains his song. "Did you ever eat a bowl of ice cream that was just the best ice cream you've ever eaten? And it's so good it makes your teeth hurt and you can't stop eating it and you just want to pull that ice cream's hair and slap its ass and really bruise it up and make it hurt a little bit. That's what this song's about. I think I just wrote an R. Kelly song."

Who wouldn't want to get higher with him!
  1. Ice Cream by Sarah McLachlan
Speaking of ice cream, who couldn’t love a song whose lyrics are:
Your love is better than ice cream.
Better than anything else that I've tried
This is a song that celebrates how great love makes you feel. This is from her album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, wow what a great title, and what a great metaphor for love.

  1. Love Story by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift told The Morning Call the story of this song: "I wrote it about a guy that I was talking to. He wasn't the popular choice, but I believed in it. I thought, 'This love is different, but it's real.' And I knew I needed to put that line in somewhere. I think that this song is really more about a love that's not convenient and not as comfortable as something else, but it's something you have to fight for. I added the ending [a proposal] ‘cause I want that ending. I want someone to say, 'I love you and that's all I really know.' That's the girly girl in me." It’s hard to believe that she was only sixteen when she wrote this.
If you'll be my Romeo, I'll be your Juliet

  1. If I Ever Lose My Faith in You by Sting
Sting explains, “Well quite deliberately in that the song is, two distinct parts. The first part is about the things I've lost faith in. It's quite easy to be, um, precise about the things you've lost, at least I've lost, faith in. Politics. Media. Uh...Science. Technology. Things that, y'know, everybody feels this at the moment. And yet I, along with most other people, have a great deal of hope and y'know, a feeling of things can, things will and can get better. But so what do we place our faith in? What do we still have faith in? And I can't define that as easily as I can define what I don't believe in anymore. Uh, and yet it still exists. So I haven't defined it. I've just said, "If I ever lose my faith in you." And you, or you (laughs), could be, uh, my producer (laughs again). It could, it could be, uh, faith in, in God. It could be a faith in myself or a faith in, um, romantic love.”

  1. True Companion by Mark Cohn
Ready for a love story that will melt your heart? When Cohn was touring in 1991, he would introduce "True Companion" with some version of this story:

"Here's a tune that I wrote in the back seat of a cab going to meet my girlfriend. I'd been living with her for about seven years and all she asked me the last three was, 'How come we're not yet?'" (female audience members murmur knowingly) "I didn't really have the answer and I wrote this before I knew that I was ready to be a married man. Songs kind of tell you where you're at sometimes. I sang this tune to her in the restaurant and I was excited because I thought it was a great lyric and she was excited because she thought it was a proposal." (laughter) "Men are scum!" (more laughter) "OK, I'm scum. But it worked out in the end. We did get married and we have a baby boy now, six months old." (lots of applause)

This song is very popular at weddings, in fact some friends of ours got married in our front garden and we played this song as they walked to the preacher.

       8. Once in A Lifetime Love by Keith Urban
This is a song about a man starting a special relationship with a woman. Urban says in the lyrics that she doesn't need to be afraid to love him, because she knows how much he loves her. He also says it's tough, but he'll never give up because what they share is a "once in a lifetime love." I’m pretty sure this one is dedicated to Nicole.

  1. Come to Me by The Goo Goo Dolls
To me this a realistic look at life, love and second chances.
 Lead singer Johnny Rzeznik wrote Come To Me, ‘obviously it is inspired by the fact that I am getting married in July and the sentiment is very simple and something thing that everybody can relate to. I was really influenced by the people I was writing with. I decided that for my 10th album I really needed to learn more and see how much I could be challenged and grow as a writer. I wrote a lot of the record in New York. Every time you walk out the door in Manhattan the amount of stimulus coming at you is just so incredible that I find myself being so inspired. And then I go back into the studio and ideas just start to flow.

  1. All I Need is a Miracle by Mike and the Mechanics
I used to work on a cruise ship and this song was always playing on the jukebox in the crew bar. At that point in my life I had given up on love. But then a miracle did happen, in walked my future husband. Ray was a Scottish croupier from Glasgow and I was a simple Southern belle. So this song will always have a special place in my heart.
The composer Mike Rutherford explains in an interview prior to the song's release as a single, Rutherford commented, "The thing that makes 'Miracle' different, to me, is that it's a happy song - or it's primarily a happy song. It's 'up'. And I don't do that very often. ...It may not be optimistic, but it's a positive attitude to life." Of course, I disagree because I got my miracle.

About the author:
Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"She would be happy to Skype with any book club reading Cruise Quarters. Contact her at ray92262@yahoo.com.or read more blog posts at carabertoia.blogspot.com

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


I live in Palm Springs and like most people I harbor the belief that my hometown is one of the best places in the world. One of the reasons for my love of Palm Springs is because once a year I take a week off work to attend the Palm Springs International Film Festival and view my little city through the eyes of the world. The first thing you notice about Palm Springs is that the sun always shines and by the early afternoon the town almost glows. Palm Springs is filled with mid-century architecture, characterized by walls of glass and outdoor patios surrounding the swimming pools so ubiquitous in Southern California. Although we live in the desert the gardens are filled with colorful blooms watered by an ancient underground aquifer. And if that weren’t enough the entire city is encircled by mountains that look as if they were made from pieces of chocolate bark that have been pressed against the sky.

For me the week begins with the Gala held at the Convention Center. Now I could do the adult thing and go to the actual Gala dinner and listen to all the speeches, but for the last few years my husband, cousin Bob and I have joined the crowd that waits to greet the stars before they enter the Gala. It is a regular red carpet affair and before you say it, I know it is cheesy and touristy but is also a whole lot of fun. Now to see the stars you have to have a strategy, this year I took my chair down there around noon, brought my book and settled in. But I wasn’t the first, not even close. There were people who had arrived the night before, I call those the pros, their hobby is autographs and they come prepared with pictures and paraphernalia for the stars to sign.

The crowd was in a party mood and everyone chit chatted and introduced themselves. Later my husband and cousin arrived, egg rolls in hand to distribute to those around us because by this time we were famished. My cousin is a great photographer and every year he manages to get better and better shots of the stars. Everyone was fed and content by five thirty when the first star arrives, it was Lupita Nyong’o from Twelve Years a Slave and she is gorgeous.

Lupita Nyong’o a flawless beauty
 In fact all the stars look even better in person. Matthew McConaughey superthin from his role in The Dallas Buyers Club, dressed in a shiny suit oozed star quality.
Mathew McConaughey shines!

Meryl Streep looked like a perfectly natural woman, with the emphasis on no plastic surgery.
Meryl Streep acts naturally.

 But my favorite is Sandra Bullock she has always epitomized beauty and class and besides she attended East Carolina as I did, and you always have to root for the home team! By this time the exuberant crowd chanted, “Sandy we love you,” while she signed autographs. 

Sandra Bullock pretty as a picture
But the highlight of the night was when Bono kissed the hand of the woman standing beside me. This U2 fan was so excited she kept repeating long after he was gone, “He kissed my hand.”
Bono pre-kiss
The best thing about the festival is that it is low key and personal. The next day we had brunch at a gorgeous terrace restaurant. Melissa McCarthy from Mike and Molly sat to the north of us and Jonah Hill was to the east and Marisa Tomei was tucked away in the corner.

Later that evening we went to the world premiere of Everything We Loved from New Zealand an intense film about love and loss. After the movie was over the director and writer Max Currie and producer Tom Hern  invited the audience to Melvyn’s (a desert haunt with a star studded pedigree) to discuss the movie. I don’t know about you but no director has ever wanted to know my opinion of their movie. We couldn’t resist the invitation and we had a blast.

Since this is an international film festival featuring more than 200 films from 70 countries, the directors jump at the chance to come to Palm Springs. This year the directors showed up for every screening we attended and they all stayed for questions and answers with the audience. One particularly interesting talk was from Sebastian Lelio the director of Gloria. He told the story of how a young man came to make a movie about a 58 year old divorce. He said that back in Chile his mother had gone to a dance club for ‘silver hairs’ and how that had sparked his interest. I found the movie to be an honest look into middle age; it was such a departure from Hollywood that it actually showed the middle aged body in all its glory. And that is why I am always seeking new movies, no formulas, and a trip to foreign lands. I am happy to say that my home town delivers it all so I will be back in 2015, maybe I’ll see you there.

About the author:
Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"She would be happy to Skype with any book club reading Cruise Quarters. Contact her at ray92262@yahoo.com.or read more blog posts at carabertoia.blogspot.com

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships