Tag Archives: books

I Love Dubai! #DubaiLitFest

I accepted an invitation to work at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai without any preconceptions about the country. My itinerary was clear enough – a panel on contemporary women’s fiction, a couple of receptions and outings and three days teaching. With flight times of around seven hours, it was a busy schedule.

But I still had time to fall in love with Dubai.

Dubai marina Sue 2 smallThe landmark style of architecture entranced me. The sunshine was welcome and 25-27c was perfect for me. During my 7-day trip, I don’t think a single person was rude to me, everyone was warm and friendly, I didn’t see a single piece of litter or graffiti. I felt very comfortable and safe.

Dubai’s considered a global crossroads and I can see how it earned that title. It seems that every culture and religion is represented in its populace and, from what I saw, coexisting peacefully. I so wish the rest of the world exhibited the same tolerance as I witnessed in Dubai.

My first evening saw a welcome reception, which included such luminaries as Alan Titchmarsh. Everybody who worked for the Festival was warm and welcoming. They gave me food and wine, so I was happy.

Festival City smallI spent the next morning walking in the sunshine and enjoying the shore of Festival City. There’s a lot of construction in this new area but still plenty to see and enjoy. I didn’t go into the massive mall next door. Honestly. Not then …

Contemp Fic panel, April, Nadya smallIn the afternoon I was part of the Contemporary Fiction panel with April Hardy, who was launching her new book, Kind Hearts and Coriander (very good – I can recommend it) and Nadiya Hussain. Most people know for Nadiya for her triumphant win of the Great British Bake Off but she also writes for children and adults. Her views on writing collaboratively were fascinating.

The hour shot by as our panel, beautifully chaired by journalist Brandy Scott, discussed our work and whether we felt we needed the word ‘women’ in Women’s Contemporary Fiction. The audience were engaged and supplied plenty of questions for the Q&A, laughing in all the right places. A well-organised book signing followed, which was huge fun. Everyone was so willing to chat and, you know, I’m not backward in that department myself.

Saturday was my day off and Diala, a friend I’d made on Facebook, took me out to Jumeira Beach and Dubai Mall.

Jumeira Beach skyscrapers small

Dubai marina Sue 2 small

Jumeira Beach camel small

Dubai Mall small

 

And then came the Start Up Writing course, three days with a group of ten enthusiastic participants. We covered … well, we covered everything, more even than I’d allowed for as the questions poured in during every session.

My teaching was interspersed with sessions from agents, editors and other industry professionals (during which I think I took as many notes as the students). My thanks to editor Charlie Scott of local publisher Motivate, as Charlie came into my room to talk for twenty minutes to my students about opportunities for writers in the Middle East.

Dinner at the Etihad MuseumWe rounded out my part of the Festival with an open-air dinner at the Etihad Museum, listening to honoured guests speaking about what Dubai meant to them. Moving and inspirational.

I’d like to end this post with extending thanks to Yvette Judge and her fantastic team at the Festival, along with the sponsors who make the event possible.

Thank you to my fantastic students.

And some to those who extended the hand of friendship to me during my stay, especially April and Andrew Hardy, Sharmila, Al, Ronita and Monita Mohan, Dial Atat and Ruba Naseraldeen.

Also to Magrudy’s bookshop, which did such a fantastic job all festival long.Sue Magrudy's books small

 

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My ‘new contract’ gift to myself

When I was researching my ‘Ava’ book in Camden Town, London, I happened across an Irregular Choice shop – the first I’d encountered, although I’ve since found them in Carnaby Street, too. The name of the shop perfectly describes their products – zany – but they’re also gorgeous and imaginative. I like shoes and promised myself  I’d buy a pair if the contract for the book proved good enough.

And it did! ‘Ava’ (she’s going to have a better title than that, soon) is scheduled for October 2016 publication with Avon HarperCollins UK, with the second book in the contract due out in June 2017.

So I have bought some Irregular Choice shoes …

And I very much love them.

I went for those with tape measures on to reflect Ava’s creative career in couture millinery.

Slightly on the downside, lovely as they are, standing up in them for two hours yesterday afternoon at the Love Story Awards and 3 hours yesterday evening at the RNA Winter Party, with a walk along Piccadilly in between, was not an irregular choice, it was a slightly stupid one. 🙂

This isn’t the first time I’ve given myself a reward for a writing accomplishment. When I sold my first short story to a magazine, The People’s Friend, I bought myself a new computer chair to replace my dated and uncomfortable typist’s chair. Sadly, the chair had a tweedy sort of fabric cover and, even through jeans, it gave me a rash on my bum.

I’m not deterred and shall continue to buy myself the occasional gift when I achieve a happy point in my career. I shall continue to wear the shoes! But I gave the chair away.

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Do I write? Or do I ‘do my social media’?

This is a post I wrote for Anita Chapman at the successful and useful Neetsmarketing blog earlier this year.  Neetsmarketing is a top resource for anyone using social media.

Twitter_logo_blue_48Wherever writers gather, physically or virtually, a common subject for discussion is how much time we should be spending on social media. Opinions range from ‘I can’t be bothered. It’s a time drain. I don’t get it.’ to ‘I have Xooo,ooo followers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and I do four blog tours a day.’

Somewhere in the middle you’ll find me.

  • Firstly, I don’t think there’s any ‘should’ about how long I (or you) spend on social media. I like to engage with readers, writers, bloggers and other industry professionals, or just about anybody who may have something interesting/funny to say and will not offend or irritate me. But you might not feel the same, and so why not tailor your social media efforts to your available time, the results you attain, and your personal preference? Don’t let it be a burden.
  • Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 08.53.37I concentrate on Twitter and Facebook because they appeal to me and provide me with the most followers/friends. I do use LinkedIn and Google+ a little, too. I have this blog and I guest on other blogs whenever the opportunity arises.
  • Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 08.53.10Routinely, I turn my attention to Twitter, then Facebook profile and Facebook author page early in the morning. Then I get on with my writing (or planning or research or whatever that day’s task is). I return to Facebook and Twitter periodically during the day. If one of my books is part of a current promotion, or if I’m involved in an interesting conversation, I return quite a lot.
  • I don’t spend all my social media time bleating ‘Buy my books!’ I chat to people. I congratulate others on their achievements. I read interesting articles that others have flagged up. I discuss publishing with other writers. I pinch their social media ideas if I think they’re effective, I form and maintain business-friendly relationships with book bloggers etc, and I ask research questions (an underused facility in my opinion). I prolong friendly relationships with people I’ve met in the real world. In short, I network.
  • I see a value in building up a network of people whose posts I share and who will share mine in return. It widens the audience for posts I’ve written, my books when on special offer, and any good news I have, and all it costs is my time as I reciprocate. NB I try not to be a blood-sucking, self-interested user, ie cultivating only those people/conversations/contacts that are likely to benefit me and me alone. Some people’s social media strategy reminds me of a vampire looking for a neck. It doesn’t make me want to help them.
  • Social media has allowed me to form my lovely street team – the suggestion came from a reader, via Facebook, and we use a Facebook group to interact. (If you’re interested in joining Team Sue Moorcroft, do contact me via Facebook, Twitter, my website, suemoorcroft.com , or just click the button in the left sidebar of this blog. You can read my blog on the subject here.)
  • Very important to me is the privilege of interacting with readers. If a reader contacts me via social media to say that s/he has enjoyed one of my books, it makes my day. I always respond. Always. If I had to choose only one use for social media, it would be this one.
  • Do I think that you should have a social media presence? If you’re a writer, then, yes, I do think that you should. I think writers benefit from being visible, contactable, discoverable. Even if you’re awaiting your first traditional publishing contract I think you should have a presence – because many publishers and agents do Google you if they’re interested in taking you on to see if you have an audience and you can self-promote. And if you’re self-publishing, I’m positive that social media will help you sell your book effectively.
  • BUT, if I’m up against a deadline or fighting a knotty segment of my plot, you probably won’t see me on social media at all. This is an important point. I control my social media activity – I don’t let it control me. Unless one of my books is in a promo, of course … then I will find the time. It’s worth it.

Social media has got me engagements as a speaker and tutor, new readers, promotion, invitations to blog, invitations to be part of a promotion activity, research contacts, radio interviews and literary festival appearances. And work.

But if I wasn’t lucky enough to be a full-time writer I would have to cut my social media time proportionately. If I hated and detested the whole social media circus, found it intrusive and puerile, I would do the minimum. The balance between writing and social media is a lifestyle balance, like work/play/sleep or save/spend. It’s deeply personal and you should tailor it to yourself.

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Shortlisted! Romance Reader Awards

TWP_RGBpackshotAbsolutely thrilled to hear this week that The Wedding Proposal has been shortlisted in the Romance Reader Awards for Best Romantic Read. This is the first year that the entry has been open to all so I’m beyond delighted to be in illustrious company. You can read the complete lists for all categories here but this is the line up for mine:

Best Romantic Read
(Sponsored by Headline Eternal)
Two Weddings and a Baby by Scarlett Bailey (Ebury)
The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman (Ebury)
The Cornish Stranger by Liz Fenwick (Orion)
After The Honeymoon by Janey Fraser (Arrow)
The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell (Headline Review)
One Hundred Proposals by Holly Martin (Carina)
The Wedding Proposal by Sue Moorcroft (Choc Lit)
The Proposal by Tasmina Perry (Headline Review)
One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson (Quercus)

Rowan Coleman is currently flying high as a Richard & Judy pick and Jill Mansell has long been a mega-bestseller so you can see what I mean by ‘illustrious company’.

The award ceremony is at the Festival of Romantic Fiction on the evening of Saturday 13th September 2014 at Leighton Buzzard Theatre. I’m attending the Festival all day on the Saturday, to be part of the book fair in Leighton Buzzard High Street from 10am to 3pm and the Traditional Afternoon Tea with the Authors at The Green House, Market Square, Leighton Buzzard. I’m glad I booked a hotel for Saturday night as drinking fizz at an awards ceremony is a basic human right … and I’m rather a fan of it.

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There are many ways to enjoy a wedding …

When we think of weddings we tend to think of all the traditional things – big venue, bride in gorgeous white dress, long black cars, bridesmaids, pageboys, guests in suits and hats. It’s an incredibly expensive undertaking.

For some, the price is just too much.

Recently, I discovered that the wedding plans of the son of friends had been badly affected by an unexpected redundancy notice. They had to look at the wedding expenses and see what they could cut. An obvious candidate was the wedding car at nearly £500. The dad said that he’d drive the happy couple, instead, but that would mean double journeys and fallback plans for others in the family.

2014-06-28 17.08.34It so happens that there’s a nice middle-aged sort of Jag in my family, so I volunteered to turn myself into a chauffeur for the day.

It was great! As soon as the ribbons were on the car I found that traffic stopped for me, even when I didn’t even have the bride and groom on board. (I’ve stored this information up for future use and may always keep a supply of white ribbons in the glove compartment.)

I ended up going to the wedding reception in the afternoon and then back to the extended family reception at the parents’ house in the evening. (By that time I was off duty and could indulge in a few glasses of Pimms.) I had time to chat with members of their family that I hadn’t seen for years, as well as meeting a few new ones.

TWP_HIGHRES 150dpiThe Wedding Proposal was at the printers, by this time, but this lovely wedding day did make me wonder what kind of wedding Elle and Lucas will have in the end. Will they do the traditional thing at a stunning venue? Run off to Vegas, as Elle once suggested? Or get married on a beach, somewhere exotic …

I wonder if they need a driver?

 

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Ooooh … gorgeous hats!

Samples  of the kind of thing Abigail makes

Samples of the kind of thing Abigail makes

Yesterday, in the pursuit of research, I had the enormous pleasure of visiting Abigail Crampton, a couture milliner, to learn a little about her art and her business, Abigail Crampton Millinery.

I began to understand the difference between picture hats and cartwheels, fascinators and cocktail hats, cloches and trilbies.

And the colours and decorations! Stunning.

Making a hat by hand is an enormous skill as well as a testament to creativity. Abigail makes bespoke creations so if, say, you want a hat for Ascot, you take along your outfit and Abigail designs a hat that completes your ensemble and is a visual joy.

I fell in love with a cocktail hat (probably because the height of the decoration made me look taller) and discovered that I have a totally average head size. I also learned a lot about blocking, steaming, stab stitch, sinemay and the uses of an egg iron.

The research is for a novella I’m planning – The Twelve Dates of Christmas. I came away content that I’ve chosen the correct career for Ava Bliss, my heroine. She’ll prosper amongst the sinemay, straw, felt, feathers and veiling.

I’ll let the rest of my photos speak for themselves. My thanks to Abigail for giving up her time and sharing some of her expertise.

A fascinator I fell for - you can't go wrong with purple. Abigail Crampton Millinery

A fascinator I fell for – you can’t go wrong with purple. Abigail Crampton Millinery

The thread rack. Every thread has to be such a close colour match as to become invisible.

The thread rack. Every thread has to be such a close colour match as to become invisible.

Blocks. Essential to the creation process.

Blocks. Essential to the creation process.

Wow!  Abigail Crampton Millinery

Wow!
Abigail Crampton Millinery

A block for a snazzy cocktail hat, covered in clingfilm so no dyes can be transferred from creation to creation via the wood.

A block for a snazzy cocktail hat, covered in clingfilm so no dyes can be transferred from creation to creation via the wood.

A pillbox hat in creation

A pillbox hat in creation

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What do I say on the radio?

HeadphonesI love ‘doing radio’.

When I first began to get published I felt that ‘doing radio’ was something other people did. It was a genuine shock when I received a request to be interviewed by BBC local radio. Until then, I had taken part in one radio interview, conducted over the phone, and I think the reason that it went so well was that I didn’t realise I was being interviewed. I thought the journalist was just chatting with me and would get on to the scary stuff later. So I learned early that if I treat radio interviews as a nice chat, they’ll generally go pretty well.

The technique has served me well and now I’m a regular guest on chat programmes on both BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and BBC Radio Northampton.

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire has an afternoon slot on The Sue Dougan Show called In the Chat Room, where Sue invites people in to talk about a couple of topical subjects. It can be anything from finding the money to send a child to university to what you think about while doing the ironing. There’s usually another ‘Chat Roomer’ in the studio and so I have someone to banter with.

Helen Blaby, of BBC Radio Northampton, does a twenty minute discussion of the Sunday morning papers, each week. When I’m invited to be the guest, I arrive about 9am and a lovely production assistant sits me down with all the papers and a cup of tea. I choose five news stories I have something to say about and then I’m shown in to Helen’s studio about 10.10am, tell her what the stories are, and we go on to chat about some of them live on air. To give you an example, yesterday we talked about happiness classes in the British army and social media, which was mentioned in several sections of every paper – business, commentary, social and news.

What’s in these programmes for me? They’re not actually interviews about me or my books.

Apart from the fun of chatting live on air, both presenters ask me about what’s happening to me at the moment, when the next book comes out, what workshops I’m running etc. So I reach their audience, which is about 300,000 in both cases; it’s just a touch less direct than being the subject of an interview.

I’m also often the spokesperson for the Romantic Novelists’ Association (I’m vice chair), which is usually fast and soon forgotten, but it means that I occasionally have my name mentioned on radio stations throughout the country.

Here are my top tips for ‘doing radio’:

  • Chat to the presenter as if the audience doesn’t exist
  • But remember not to swear or say anything you don’t want to be instantly broadcast
  • Keep close to the microphone (except if you laugh. Then pull back.)
  • If there are things you want to mention, jot them down on a piece of card. Try and avoid noisy paperwork.
  • Take/ask for water. You may not have coughed for ten years but the moment you go live on air, you’ll want to.
  • Turn off your phone or put it on silent or airplane mode. Or don’t take it into the studio.
  • Don’t worry that ten minutes after you thought you were going to be on air, you’re still sitting out in reception. The production team have to ensure a smooth flow and have probably built in a few minutes into the schedule so you’ll be there when they want you. Put yourself in their hands and relax. It’s their problem, not yours.
  • But build in time for travel. Better to be early and have to wait than to be late and miss your slot. I once sat outside BBC Radio Cambridgeshire in a traffic jam listening to Sue Dougan say I’d be on air in about five minutes … Not comfortable.
  • Enjoy. It’s fun.
  • NB I did have one slightly hostile interviewer at a radio station in Yorkshire. He obviously didn’t like fiction and particularly not romantic fiction. The trick, if you get a question you don’t like, is to make like a politician and instead of talking about something you don’t want to talk about, talk about something you do want to talk about. Don’t let yourself be drawn into confrontation. Don’t try and score points. See it as an opportunity to tell the listeners about your new book. The presenter isn’t the only one with control.

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Publication day!

ITL?_new packshotToday is publication day for ‘Is This Love?’

I was going to say that a publication day is like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one – but, actually, it’s more fun.

The lovely publicists at Choc Lit have lined me up a lot of online interviews and blogposts to go live today, fantastic friends on Facebook and Twitter are sending me nice messages, and I’m on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire this afternoon, after recording a segment for Bookmark at Community 105. And I’m going out with friends this evening to celebrate. (I’ve even been able to arrange for somebody else to drive.)

Publication Day is Publication Day, even though the ebook came out a month ago and the online bookstores shipped the paperback copies last weekend. Mere details! Publication Day is the marker, the day I pause in my usual work to enjoy the moment. It’s also a good excuse for a bit of hoopla.

Happily for me, Publication Day more-or-less coincides with the Festival of Romance, which begins tomorrow, in Bedford, so I have an interview on the Nick Coffer show on BBC 3 Counties Radio at 12.30 and a booksigning at Waterstones 1.30pm till 3.00pm tomorrow (Friday 8th November). Then I can relax and watch other authors do their stuff at the ART AND ROMANCE EVENING, The Higgins Museum & Art Gallery.

Saturday is a chance to be in two places at one time as 10am to 3pm sees the ROMANCE FAIR at the Harpur Suite, Corn Exchange, but I’m appearing and reading 10.30am to 12noon at the COFFEE AND CAKE MORNING at The Lane … and 12.45pm to 3.45pm myself and Christina Courtenay are leading the IRRESISTIBLE HEROES WORKSHOP at the Central Library. Other Choc Lit authors Jane Lovering and Laura James are being so kind as to sell my books at the Romance Fair. Of course, they’re busy with their own events so Jane’s partner has kindly volunteered to take over. I’m not sure if he knows this yet.

Don’t anybody expect any real work from me until Monday! Because today is Publication Day and I’m managing to make it stretch over the weekend.

Even Amazon is celebrating with me – ‘Is This Love?’ is available at a special price for Kindle users because it’s part of the 100 Kindle Books promo.

A few of the first blogposts, interviews etc:

Bookgirl of Mur-y-Castell

Female First

ARRA (Australian Romance Readers Association)

Mark West’s Strange Tales

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The pleasure of being an author (great reviews for ‘Is This Love?’)

ITL?_new packshot

 

Really thrilled, this morning, to find notification of great reviews from:

 Serendipity Reviews and Being Anne

Being an author is  a pleasure. There’s a huge amount of hard work goes into each book (not just my hard work but everyone concerned with the production and promotion, too) and although I always love the characters, it’s incredibly warming when other people love them, too. It makes worthwhile all the days when the plot won’t work and the characters won’t behave and the whole point of what I want to say is eluding me. In fact, once good reviews start coming in, all that’s forgotten (especially as, by then, I’m writing new book to agonise and doubt about!)

Being a reader is an equal pleasure.  When others are watching the TV I’m reading. On trains I’m reading, in bed, over lunch, on planes, in waiting rooms, even cooking dinner (book/ereader in one hand, spoon in the other …), I’m reading. To lose myself in a wonderful story (usually a love affair, in my reading diet), want to meet the characters and visit the places is an absolute joy. It bathes me in a golden glow of satisfaction and it takes my mind away from whatever bad stuff there is in my life.

So if somebody indicates that one of my books has given them that kind of pleasure I’m overjoyed. I feel privileged. It doesn’t matter that it’s Monday, it doesn’t matter that the weather outside is cold and grey – today is a great day!

If you’d like to know more about the hero of ‘Is This Love?’, Jed Cassius, read an interview with him here.

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What do you get from a writing course? Part 2

Celia and Laura arrive at Perugia Airport.

Celia and Laura arrive at Perugia Airport.

I promised to blog about my week leading a course for Arte Umbria, in Italy. So here it is.

I was on the same flight as four of the participants and we either travelled together or met at Perugia airport, where we were met by one of our hosts and driven through Umbria to the fabulous Tenuta di Poggialame, a 200-acre estate of woodland and olive groves. Greeted by the rest of the household, an amazing view and several glasses of ice-cold prosecco, I felt instantly at home!

The terrace, and its view, at Poggiolame.

The terrace, and its view, at Poggiolame.

A residential course at Arte Umbria is like being at a select, luxurious hotel, where all the guests have been specially chosen for their appealing qualities (they’re writers).

The house from below the terrace

The house from below the terrace

The house is a Sixteenth Century hunting lodge, built of stone and wood, that was renovated only a few years ago. There’s a mixture of rooms/small apartments to choose from but, though I loved my room, I used it only for sleeping or changing. I spent most of my time, whether leading the course or snatching a few minutes at my WIP, on the terrace or somewhere in the fantastic grounds. Whether I was in a sun-loving moment or needing a little shade, there was an appropriate spot.

We spent a lot of time working:

– workshops on the story arc, analysing your novel, interviewing your characters etc, before focusing in on various writing techniques

– writing exercises and group feedback

– works in progress and group feedback

A welcome break in the day

A welcome break in the day

– one-to-ones

Between times, we swam, or just chilled out.

And we had some great trips. In nearby Orvieto,  we admired the cathedral (duomo), ate gelato and wandered around the shops in the pretty streets. We also saw a wedding where the groom trod on the train of the bride’s dress, prompting a hissed argument between broad smiles for the photographer. Most of the hissing came from the bride, while the groom just waved his hands and said, ‘Scusi! Scusi!’

Interior of the church at La Scarzuola

Interior of the church at La Scarzuola

We also went to La Scarzuola where Francis of Assissi hung out in the Thirteenth Century and built a pretty church. Gorgeously restored, it’s decorated with paintings on plaster of martyrs having knives thrust through their necks. And I learned the difference between painted plasterwork (painted on dry plaster) and frescoes (painted on wet plaster so the colour is absorbed, which is why

Some of the theatres at La Scarzuola

Some of the theatres at La Scarzuola

frescoes can last for centuries).

In the Twentieth Century La Scazuola was bought by an eccentric architect, Tomaso Buzzi, who had an interesting take on garden

ornaments and built a collection of mini theatres in his back garden. These take the form of a pile of buildings replicating various monuments and wonders of the world. Captivating. And a little mad.

Marquesi. Sorry the pic is a little blurred. Can't think how that happend.

Marquesi. Sorry the pic is a little blurred. Can’t think how that happend.

Lunch on the terrace

Lunch on the terrace

Our final trip, one evening, was to Castello di Montegiove, where Lorenzo, the Marquesi, talked us through their wine-making process. For hand-picked, first pressings wine, ten or fifteen euros a bottle was a snip, but current security measures wouldn’t allow me to take it home so, sadly, a few sips and I had to leave it there.

To complete the post, I’m just going to post a few pix that appeal to me. Oh, yes, and say that I’m delighted to be returning to Arte Umbria next year, 2-9 July, and we’ve already had our first booking.

And I’m not going to say anything about the singing on the final evening – except that my suspicions have been confirmed. I dance better than I sing.

The terrace leads around to an apartment

The terrace leads around to an apartment

Olive grove

Olive grove

Fab scenery

Fab scenery

I found somewhere to hang my swimwear to dry

I found somewhere to hang my swimwear to dry

Laura, working hard

Laura, working hard

Photo 05-07-2013 15 27 03

Mother Earth. One of the, erm, displays at La Scarzuola.

Photo 06-07-2013 09 41 32

The Duomo

The Duomo

The salon, Poggiolame

The salon, Poggiolame

Dinner on the terrace

Dinner on the terrace

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