.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.

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