P is for Penis Cafe, Bar Turrisi

Warning: Adult themes

This place had to make it into “On Board with the Billionaire” (in progress). Just like my husband and me, Nico and Tristan went looking for a cup of coffee.

We hadn’t even heard of this place. Surely the tour guide could have forewarned us? Well, she didn’t.

We were wandering around the tiny village of Castelmola in Sicily when I decided that I desperately needed a coffee fix. Behold! I heard a coffee steamer. Here’s a place! I dragged my dearest into the café and used my limited Italian to order due cappuccini per favore.

Oblivious, at first, I slipped a few coins into the tip penis, er, jar. I gulped and turned to join hubby where he sat at a table. The lamp was a phallic symbol. Okay, don’t look there. Oops, not at the interesting statue in the corner either.

This wasn’t an accident. Curious now, rather than shocked, I sat back and deliberately took in the ambience of the place. It linked with the baskets of colourful male members with key-rings attached that we’d seen at the souvenir shops. The coffee arrived, and our waiter had a knowing smile. My Italian language skills were not up to asking questions. I’d ask the tour guide.

As we were leaving, I thanked our host for the coffee. It was great coffee!! He offered local almond wine. Oh my! Yes, please!! As a flavourful beverage, it was amazing; as a restorative, it was perfect.

Our tour guide laughed uproariously when I tried to ask her about the symbolism and she shared her hilarity with the rest of our group. “Did you notice the penises? Yes? It’s a gimmick, a very successful one,” she assured us. An older lady shared with the group that she’d bought quite a number of the key-rings as Christmas gifts. “The red ones are more virile,” the tour guide laughed again.

Back home, I just had to find out more.


Coloured penises for sale –
Not for faint of heart.
Cackling, ladies bought many.

N is for Naples

As we head into the third week of the A to Z blog challenge around some of the research I use for my books, I will mostly use just one example of the letter (there will be exceptions!) – mostly because I couldn’t find multiples for many of the remaining letters of the alphabet without being too repetitive. So today, it’s Naples, Italy.

A couple of years ago, the cruise that my husband and I enjoyed, terminated in Naples so we took the opportunity to spend a couple of extra days there. It was well worth it in terms of research for my cruise ships series. Naples became the home port for my Eleganti Crociere Mediterranee (ECM) cruise company. (Feel free to correct my Italian!) Images of Naples that have made their way into the first novel of the series, ‘On Board with the Billionaire’ (in progress) are the impressive wooden street doors and Christmas Alley (Via San Gregorio Armeno.)

The doors fascinated me, both in Naples and in Rome. The link I’ve used here (Photo by Fiore Barbato, 2007) points to one representative. The doors are large, usually ornate and very imposing. But cut into one of the pairs is a smaller access that doesn’t require the whole façade to be exposed. In ‘On Board’, Luc uses the smaller door for entry into the home of his honorary uncle and underworld figure, when he needs a fake passport in a hurry.

Before Tristan leaves Melbourne to travel to Italy, her boss suggests that she should visit Christmas Alley. As it turns out, events conspire to prevent her from doing that, but the Alley will figure in a future story with Luc’s brother, Sebastian, and his art cruise. It’s a fascinating place that celebrates Christmas and other Christian festivities all year long. The workmanship of the nativity scenes is outstanding, with close attention to even the smallest details.


A Neapolitan stroll
uncovers lifestyles –
a modern take on old ways.

O is for Officers and Oyster Farming

I know – it didn’t take long for me to break my own rule on having but one entry per day, but I couldn’t decide on just one, so porque no los dos?


The researches I’ve undertaken around officers have involved Australian Army and Navy ranks, and cruise ship officer ranks.

Defence force ranks are straightforward. In ‘A Baby Denied’ (under consideration), I wanted Nash (main male character) to be on a level promotional standing with Gillian (antagonist). He became an Army Captain and she a Naval Lieutenant. The defence forces sites were helpful.

I found the most informative sites for cruise ships, on the other hand, were those around shipboard employment opportunities. These provided not only detail about where people might fit in terms of the crew of any given ship, but also some insights into the type of work that each crew member might be required to undertake.  The most senior officer on board, logically, is the Captain, and responsibility for all areas on board is vested in that position. News that’s just a couple of days old has offered a different opportunity for one of the women in my cruise ship stories. Luc’s managerial sister is about to move onto the fast track to captain instead of taking over the board (for a while anyway). She won’t be the first female cruise ship captain the world has known, but she will break the mould for the Ricci’s cruise line, ECM. A news article on the recent promotion of  Captain Kathryn Whittaker  was a timely reminder for me.


A cruise ship captain? No way!
A female, she be.
Awake! the mould is broken.

Oyster Farming

Needing to know a little about oyster farming was one of those times when a character caught me unawares.

In “Loving the Celebrity Chef“, Angelique and Vincent take some time out to visit Dave. Dave had been a highway service station manager but decided to take on oyster farming at Mooney Mooney, just north of Sydney. He learns the craft by attending growers’ meetings and doing his own research. In the story, he explains to Angelique, the system of submerging the oysters so they can start growing and then leaving them on rafts to prevent bio-fouling. I think I learned more about oysters than I needed to know!


Algal bloom, bio-fouling
endanger oysters.
Vigilant farmers prevail.

L is for “Loving the Celebrity Chef” and Lyon

“Loving the Celebrity Chef”

Loving the Celebrity Chef” (Book 1 of the Rosettis) is the second novel-length story I wrote. Vincent is Sydney’s celebrity chef darling. Angelique is a French dessert chef on holidays in Australia who is forced to find work after her belongings are stolen from her room at a backpacker’s hostel. When the thief’s body is later discovered on a Sydney beach, Angelique finds herself in the position as the most likely suspect. As the story progresses, Angelique is torn between her growing love for Vincent and her lifetime goal of becoming a Michelin-starred chef like her mentor. Reserch for this story ranged across varieties of eucalyptus, French pastries, Katoomba National Park and Harley riders disdaining full-face helmets. Yes – it’s as much a mystery to me as it is to you! :)


Relaxing trip Downunder –
Robbery, murder
foil Angelique’s agenda.



Lyon is where Angelique has come from. It’s where her Uncle Edouard has his Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Chat D’Or. I undertook my research about Lyon for Angelique’s backstory. None of that research made it into the book but it spoke to the person that Angelique was. It referenced her noble lineage – that was underplayed. Although they supported the overthrow of the French monarchy, during the French Revolution, the people of Lyon resisted the more draconian influences of the dominant revolutionaries and were massacred for their choice during the Reign of Terror.  Lyon was again a force for resistance during the second world war. That is Angelique’s heritage.


Lyonnaise resistance
default position
for our French bakery chef

H is for “Happy with the Millionaire” and Houses in Vermont

Happy with the Millionaire

Happy with the Millionaire” was the first novel length story I wrote. It had its genesis ten years before I sat down to write it all because someone had complimented me on a funky pair of Christmas earrings that had cost all of $2.  The earrings didn’t end up making it into the final product but they provided the muse. I finally began to write the story as a NaNoWriMo challenge in 2013. It was a useful entrée to the world of fiction writing. As I sent it off to editors (yes, more than one) before I began to pitch it to publishers, I learned a LOT from the feedback. I was forced into learning about Point of View and appropriate ways to switch from one to another. (NO – you can’t have three different POV in the same chapter. Silly me!) And I found out more about ‘show, don’t tell’. (That one is still a challenge.) Over the subsequent four years, my writing began to follow the rules, though the integrity of the story remained. The novel was picked up by Passion in Print Press last January through a SavvyAuthors PitchFest. It’s the story of Hermione and Zach.  Hermione’s initials spell out H-APPY, so her friends call her Hap. She runs an events business in Sydney. Zach owns an IT business that he began with his best friend in high school. The friend died in a car accident on the weekend that they were celebrating their rise to millionaire status. Although it was Zach and Hermione’s story (and the first to be written) and Angelique and Vincent were secondary characters, the latter couple demanded their own story. They got it in “Loving the Celebrity Chef.” These are books 1 & 2 in the Rosettis series. Book 3 is in progress.


Ephemeral happiness –
Take love, add challenge
for happy ever after.

Houses in Vermont

About a year ago, Bree Verity put out a call for authors to contribute a novella to an anthology based around the fictional town of Whittaker Springs in Vermont in the two weeks leading up to Christmas. I was in a bit of a writing funk at the time and figured a novella was just what I needed. It was. It came together out of nowhere and wrote itself pretty quickly. I loved the story. Critics would say I have too many supporting characters for a work of that length. I do, but I don’t think that the reader loses sight of the love story. Feel free to let me know what you think about “Merry Christmas, Liebchen.

Anyway, at the heart of the story is Jolene’s family home which has a female-line entail. That sent me off to study what the house would look like. I perused ‘for sale’ ads in Montepelier VT and surrounding areas that were about 130 years old. I chose one and used it as the model for layout and appearance.  Along the way, I found out more about Vermont – but I’ll get to that later in the challenge.

As an aside, I’ll let you know that Jolene’s physical appearance was based on a young woman I observed in a coffee shop one morning:

“Her long chestnut hair framed an oval face with sad-doe brown eyes that gave her face a calm, serene appearance. But when she had smiled …, her face had been transformed. Her image shifted from serenity to cheeky mischief …”


Hist’ry and entail combine
– jealousy, envy
thrive to acquisitive heights.

G is for Geelong Bollards and German Endearments

Geelong Bollards:

Geelong is located on the shores of Corio Bay about 75 km southwest of Melbourne and has a population of nearly 200,000 people. In “A Baby Denied” (which had the alternative working title of “The Captain’s Secret Baby”) Danielle escapes to Geelong after an altercation with Nash. A stroll along the pier and a walk amongst the bollards restores her equanimity. The bollards are large reclaimed timber pier pylons that have been painted by Jan Mitchell to chronicle some of the characters from Geelong’s past. Danielle’s favourite is the lifesaver with a black eye. I included the bollards in the story because I enjoyed walking among them. The artist has cleverly imbued each with its own personality. Research was required though to learn more of the artist and of how the bollards came to be.


The crown of Corio Bay –
Bollards and beaches.
Geelong sparkles in Summer


German endearments


German is not one of my languages. I speak English. Over the years, I’ve picked up little bits of Maori, French, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Spanish – enough to keep us ‘fed and watered’ when we travel, as my husband would say. So, when a hunky German car computer designer walked into Jolene’s story, I had to get to work, and fast, on picking up some endearments that Karl would use. He even dictated the name of the story, “Merry Christmas, Liebchen!” (The story’s working title was ‘Mavis the Merc’.) Fortunately, Karl speaks at least five languages fluently, so we mostly just used English. “Merry Christmas, Liebchen” is a 25,000 word novella that is part of the “All Wrapped Up” Christmas Anthology. Given my lack of familiarity with the language, I limited its usage. Here’s a brief example:

‘He raised his head to look into her face. “Mein Gott, Liebling,” he muttered. “Du bist mein Schatz. Mein.” He lowered his mouth again. She truly was an unexpected treasure.’


Jolene won Karl’s heart on cue
Mein Schatz, Mein Liebling,
And a merry Christmas, too.

F is for French Pastries and Friendships

French Pastries

Loving the Celebrity Chef Final Front Cover 3 28 2017
Angelique is a French dessert chef in “Loving the Celebrity Chef” but even she is impressed with the range of French sweets and pastries available in Sydney. I love these yummy French delights, but I haven’t always bothered to discover their particular names. The research I did for this was around this concept and that there were, in fact, high quality patisseries near the location visited by Angelique and Vincent. Some of the presentations they found in their friend Guy’s cafe included kouign amann, profiteroles, éclairs, macarons, mille fueille, Paris-Brest, Jesuite, palmier, pane au raisins and sweet vol au vents. So much to choose from!



Kouign Amann, profiteroles
éclairs, macarons –
bakery indulgences



Friendships are important in my stories. They get characters into trouble, out of trouble and offer support when times are tough. In “Loving the Celebrity Chef”, Vincent’s lifelong friendship with Hermione  (from “Happy with the Millionaire”) and their cheeky relationship is the catalyst for the subsequent drama that surrounds Angelique, including a death threat. In “A Baby Denied”, Nash’s acceptance of what his new friend tells him is the basis on which he rejects any responsibility for Danielle’s baby. But it’s the friendships at home that keep Danielle and her son safe from the world beyond. Writing about friendships and keeping the relationships authentic can sometimes be a bit tricky. I’m continuing to work on it.


Sometimes it’s hard to discern
which is Friend or foe
who to love and how to learn.

E is for Events and Eastern Brown Snakes

Millionaire finalEvents business: 

In “Happy with the Millionaire”, Hermione is an events manager. She and her team organise corporate events, birthday parties for children and the monthly Rotary meeting. It is through the Halloween Party that she co-ordinates for Yarlox IT, that she meets multi-millionaire business owner, Zach. The romance doesn’t run smoothly! There was a bit of research to do for this one especially around the sorts of qualifications and training that an events organiser might require and the legalities around becoming a marriage celebrant in Australia. You can find Hermione and Zac’s story on Amazon and through Passion in Print Press.


Halloween, Christmas, Romance
More than meets the eye
At Hap’s special party place.


Eastern Brown Snakes

Eastern Brown Snakes are reportedly the second most venomous terrestrial reptile in the world. In “A Baby Denied”, Dee has one that regularly turns up in the back yard. She calls him Billy and has learned how to wrangle him into a hessian sack, drive him out to the dam five kilometres away and release him. Billy takes centre stage when antagonist, Gillian, treads on him in her haste to escape from Nash and Dee. My nephew, Jay, was my main brains trust for this one.


Slithering and secretive –
beautiful brown snakes.
Leave them be and they’ll pass by.

D is for Dogs at work

Apart from being a loyal companion, dogs on working properties are most likely there to perform work functions – to care for, to herd or to control sheep or cattle. One reference I sourced, indicated that a good working dog can be worth as much as $40,000 per annum to a farm enterprise.

The Australian National Kennel Council lists 32 breeds of working dogs in Australia.

The research I did for ‘A Baby Denied’ was focussed on the calls that handlers used to direct the dogs at work. I used these in the story for herding the sheep and for keeping the dog out of the way when the protagonists were dealing with a potentially deadly reptile.

In that same story, Meggs, Danielle’s expensive red kelpie sheep dog, is hit by a car when she tries to herd a young child off the road and out of harm’s way.  The image I had of Meggs is similar to the first pic in the Australian Geographic post.  (Australian readers will recognise the allusion to Jimmy Bancks’ cartoon larrikin, Ginger Meggs.) We’ll mention Meggs again when we get to V is for Veterinarian.


Kelpie, collie, blues and all –
working like a dog.
Long days with sheep and cattle.

B is for Ballarat and Bridge Climb (Sydney Harbour Bridge)

Ballarat featured in my challenge a couple of years ago. It’s back because of its place in ‘A Baby Denied’. Nash (male protagonist) takes his grandmother, Anna, to the hospital in Ballarat for a check-up after her heart attack. While Anna is busy with the doctors, Nash takes the opportunity to reacquaint himself with the beauty of the city and the amazing Art Gallery (www.visitballarat.com.au). When Danielle (female protagonist) arrives later to visit Anna, she joins Nash in a walk to beautiful Lake Wendouree (Wen-dor-ree) before having dinner at one of the nearby pub restaurants.  Danielle finds that her car has lost its fan-belt,  and Dee is forced to share Nash’s room and his bed for the night.

Ballarat, city of gold,
heritage buildings –
hist’ry and progress combine.


The Bridge Climb over Sydney Harbour Bridge features in Rosettis Book 3, (in progress). The climb (https://www.bridgeclimb.com) is a personal goal achievement focus for beauty business owner, Ngaire, for her upcoming birthday – to stand more than 130 metres above sea level and look down oveIMG_2425r the harbour. Mark, (police senior constable) knows this and although he terminated their relationship weeks ago, he surprises her at the top of the climb with a proposal of marriage. Will she, should she, accept him after all he has put her through?

Bridge looks on fire in dawn’s light.
Arduous climb ‘til
standing on top of the world.