I'm so happy to be here! I have so many fun things to share with you! Go get yourself a big glass of something cold to drink, or pour yourself a cup of tea with nurturing honey and milk, like me, because this (by popular demand from our girlfriends on Twitter), is going to be a long one . . . Don't worry, I won't start without you . . . I'll hold everything right here until you get back. GO!

Mmmmmmmmm, that's better. Big deep breath for a little bit of me-time.

Hiii It's been forever since I last wrote. How's your summer going? Whatcha been doing to keep yourself busy? Life around here has been a bit of a Groundhog Day, every day almost exactly like the one before, until just lately. I've been burrowed in for months now, all through the winter, writing a brand new book, but it's done! And it's cute. And it's Gone to Print! And I am free, Free at last! And it feels so good! So-SO good! I wanted to write and say hello! I'm OUT! Let's start the celebration with a little bit of French MUSICA? OUI!.

The weather on the Island has been "exquisite" and I do not use the word lightly. I've even said it out loud, twice, because no other word is good enough. For example, yesterday we walked "our" dirt road (although we don't live on it, we've walked it almost every day since the beginning of time, which makes it ours by eminent domain, we hope) through the woods where the cicadas are already buzzing in high gear (our first clue that the season is getting ready to change), around the shore of the pond, past six or seven lonely fishing shacks that line the shore, with the smell of beach roses and juniper berries spicing the air, to where the pond opens through a narrow rock-lined channel into the sea. It's heaven out there. The best part of our day.

Clear blue skies, calling seagulls, a perfect breeze and effervescent sea mixed together in a gurgling, sloshing, babbling, splashing, rippling, wide-open nature-dance of joy. We just stood there and let it blow all over us. It was the perfect use for the word awesome. It was early, so we had it all to ourselves, no cars in the parking lot, no one on the beach yet. Only one happy guy fishing on the end of the jetty. A seagull flew directly across our path carrying a clam in his mouth, heading for rocks so he could drop it, break the shell and eat the contents. The terns were diving and crashing into the water coming up with teeny sardine-sized fish wiggling in their bills. There were several small sail boats in the distance, white sails full in the wind . . . and a speed boat cut through the water leaving a foamy white wake behind it. Cool breezes carried just the tiniest hint of fall chill. So tiny that Joe couldn't feel it at all, "Doesn't feel like fall to me." But from one scientist to another, it was there. I bet you can feel it. Maybe it came more from longing, but that counts too. Ex-Qui-Site.

August, and the Island is PACKED with vacationers. Luckily the weather is good, which means that during the day, everyone goes to the beach. When it rains they all think the same thing: "Let's go shopping in town" and the entire Island tries to cram itself onto a three-block, one-lane street, filling the restaurants and stores and backing up traffic for miles in all directions. That's when we're glad that we know all the shortcuts and live within walking distance of the market and the post office! The crowds are here because, for one thing, the President is here, and that makes it extra busy because of all the media and protection that comes along with him. But it also makes it festive because everyone has their flags flying.

Also, August is the time of year when everything happens on the Island at once . . . all the biggest summer traditions are squashed into August. Illumination night, the Fireworks, and the Agricultural Fair all happen practically at once. The last hurrah of Summer is a big one. My favorite thing about August are the walks Joe and I take after dinner, hearing night music from the other side of screen doors and smell dinners cooking, and hear cards being shuffled on porches. Everything is in silhouette, yellow light in windows renders the houses black around them, chimneys and trees are outlined against the sapphire sky, everything is black on blue and the crickets purr.

But you know, girlfriends, I won't be unhappy to say goodbye to the summer season. Because, oh, yes, I love September. Adore it. Quiet, delicious-smelling September when the Island empties out and there is always apple crisp in the oven. I can't wait to push open that creaky gate to the long winding path that takes us through falling leaves, cozy fires, grilled cheese sandwiches, and chilly nights ~ to the first snowfall . . . it's a very long, and wonderful path, and this year it's lined with titillating mind-blowing anticipation, because in January, as I'm sure you know, we get the last season of Downton Abbey!

I found other ways to keep myself entertained during the long days here in my House of Creativity, while painting and writing, digging through my diaries and old letters, and culling photos for the new book(s) I've been working on. I watched (really mostly listened to, because my eyes were usually fixed on my three-haired paintbrush putting watercolor onto the paper) a television series called TURN. Did anyone see it? It has wonderfully menacing theme music about "snakes in the garden." I missed it last year when it originally aired on AMC -- but I found the first ten episodes on Netflix, and I watched/listened to them all twice, so now I can sing along with the sinister theme music when it comes on. I'm still trying to find the second season, sooner or later it's bound to show up.

TURN is based on a true story about the Revolutionary War and several Long Island residents, friends since childhood, men and women, who were basically forced to turn against even family to take sides against the British, which they really didn't want to do. But they had to. They become spies. It's so good. Filled with intrigue. You'd love it. I like Poldark too . . . on Masterpiece Theater, the story of an extremely handsome British fellow who returns from the American Revolutionary War to his home and life on the coast of Cornwall in England. It's really fast moving. In one episode Demelza (poor, dirty, street urchin turned gorgeous lady-of-society ~ lucky, smart wife of Ross Poldark, who seems to enjoy wandering aimlessly but picturesquely by the cliffs) tells her husband she's pregnant, and in the very next episode, the baby is born. There's no nine-months in speed-TV these days. But these shows were so good and totally sanity saving when book writing threatened to steal my last remaining brain cells.

ANYWAY, you can see I've been leading a very exciting life. Up very early these last months, watching the moon float across the sky, going into my quiet studio before it was light, kitties getting there first, arranging themselves: Girl on the pillow and Jack tries for my chair. And fails. Although I'm happy to share, and sometimes we squeeze onto it together, with me teetering on the edge and him curled up behind me for as long as he can stand it. (Read Kitty Love in case you don't know about Girl and Jack and would like to.) That dive took me so deep I have barely surfaced since.

My months of writing and painting ran together as I reveled in my writing addiction, waking up in the mornings with words jumping out of my head, tearing downstairs to get them onto paper before they disappeared. You know you're in the zone when you find yourself drying off and you don't remember taking a shower. I've carried paper and pencil everywhere with me, even on the walk, so if I think of something, I can write it down for later. Our house and car have been littered with these little notes. I would hear my best friend Diana's voice in my head, "Why don't you ask him to dance?" ~ burst into laughter at the memory and run for my paper and pen. Every day I fell deep into my obsession, hardly making time for anything else, keeping myself focused as best I could, and dropping into bed at night. Joe was wonderful, he brought me little bowls of hot mashed red potatoes with butter, salt and pepper, oatmeal with apples and walnuts and cinnamon, and roasted, salted green beans for sustenance and said, "You go girl" everyday. I have no idea if it's like this for other writers, or if I'm just a drama queen with much ado about nothing, but now that the book is done, it's like I've come out of a very long dark tunnel into brightest daylight. WOW, there's a WORLD out there!!! What shall I DO? Well, I think I'll run around in circles for a few days because I don't really know how to HANDLE it!!! So, I thought, I'll write you. Make you suffer with my dingbattedness. Not in this alone. Dragging in victims where I can find them. Wallowing in the doneness and taking you with me.

So I'd love to introduce you to my new book, the fruit of my labor, still green, just about to ripen into scary reality. It's called THE FAIRY TALE GIRL and it's book one of a two part series. It's an illustrated memoir ("years in the making"), filled with watercolors and old photos, and based on the idiotic diaries I've kept since I was in my twenties. Both of these two new books are actually prequels to my last book, A FINE ROMANCE ~ you can tell because they look very much alike inside . . . with lots of photos and art and quotes and all the things I love, they are like little scrapbooks. They are also time-travel books, and go back (the long, slow way) from the 1950s through the 1980s. It's the story of how and why I left my home in California (where I grew up), found the magical Island of Martha's Vineyard, and started over from scratch, figuring out how to make a new life. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent since there was very little innocence going on, except, of course, for me. And it's too late for me, you already know my name, I have nowhere to hide. I'm also proud to say THE FAIRY TALE GIRL is being made in America (Indiana to be exact), and, yes, what would a book from me be without a ribbon bookmark in it. (It's the little things. . .) I hope you like it as much as I have enjoyed writing and painting it. The anticipation, waiting for it, is just about killing me. It won't be long now. I try not to think about it! I think about Downton instead!


MAS MUSICA! A little bit of Tommy Dorsey. Pure chair-dance material.

We already had our first Giveaway a while back for THE FAIRY TALE GIRL on my Blog. Our in-house "random number generator" (who we lovingly call Vanna after Vanna White, queen of the game-show girls), drew the names of eleven winners, mostly from the USA, but two of our winners were from other countries, because, you know, we are the world . . . and if you're one of those lucky winners and you're reading this, I just want you to know, your address is on the top of the stack for the first mailing of signed copies the MOMENT they arrive. Along with all of you who preordered the book even while I was still writing it ~ you can go ahead and put your expectations into third gear because we are SO close. I think we'll have it in about three weeks if everything goes right at the printers. Cross your fingers. Your faith in me, all your kind emails and comments on the Blog, all of the encouragement I find on FACEBOOK and TWITTER has been a huge inspiration to keep me going ~ you must know that, so thank you! (I love the Internet! Book writing used to be such a lonely thing, but not anymore!)

Any of you who would like to get a signed book in the first mailing can still preorder for the special price and discounted shipping by clicking HERE. We never know for sure how many books to order from the printer, but I think we did a better job this time of getting enough. More crossed fingers, in fact, I'm tied in knots of crossed fingers right now.

We still have signed copies of A FINE ROMANCE, Falling in Love with the English Countryside and Amazon has a lovely display of 450 reviews for you if you would like to see what our wonderful girlfriends have been saying about the book. And please, for your book purchases, don't forget your local Independent Bookstores ~ you can get any of my books there and those small ma-and-pa stores are a kind of lifeblood in a rapidly homogenizing world.

And here is the first unveiling of the cover of the second book, MARTHA'S VINEYARD, ISLE OF DREAMS, which should be available to YOU by April 2016, although not to the general public until Mother's Day, which I thought was the perfect day for an official launch. The second book takes up where the first book leaves off, and explains how I "accidentally" bought a one-bedroom cottage in the woods on Martha's Vineyard (that's me with the house on the day I bought it on the cover), survived a broken heart (through decorating, ha ha), discovered quotes, and woods, and trains, and made a new life. MARTHA'S VINEYARD, ISLE OF DREAMS is all written, the story is all there, but I still have the design part to do, the painting and gathering of the goodies to go with the words. When it's closer to finished, and looks more REAL to me, I'll put it up on the Blog for presale. Maybe around Thanksgiving. Check the Blog ~ I'll be sure to announce it there.

I think Joe and I will go on tour for both books starting next spring ~ that's what we're thinking would make the most sense . . . If I came now, after the first book, I know you'd ask me, and knowing me, I'd probably tell you what happens in the second book -- and I want it to be a surprise. By next May, you'll have the whole story, I can sign both books when I see you. If you want me to come to a bookstore near you, please tell them to contact us at booktour@susanbranch.com . . . and we will try!

The goal is for Joe and I to be free next fall, 2016, and take you all, virtually, via the Blog, across the water with us again, to England, and up to Scotland. Oh yes, the reward for all the hard work! I really want to have a book signing-picnic in England at a wonderful place Joe and I love called Stourhead. It's acres and acres of gorgeous garden, with lambs and bluebells, and also it's the place where Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) tells Elizabeth Bennett (Keira Knightley) he "luh-luh-loves her," in the rain in that wonderful scene in Pride and Prejudice (2005, the best one). I will be sure to let you know about the details as they emerge. I add this to my knot of crossed fingers, hoping it all works out that we can go. Everyone is invited but don't worry if you can't make it, I'm sure there will be PLENTY of pictures to share on the Blog. For those who'd like to go, it's BYOPB. Bring your own picnic basket ~ and blanket to sit on. That's late summer or early fall, 2016. I'm thinking it will be rather small and intimate despite the grand surroundings. Lord willing and the creek don't rise, would love to see you there. It's all about the dream.

Ind of course, what would a celebration of a new book be without "Thank you" bookmarks for my Girlfriends?

Just click HERE to print out the "Fairy Tale Girl" or HERE for the one below, I call "The Simple Life," you can laminate them if you like, make them into stocking stuffers, give them away at book clubs or quilt guilds, to your mom or sisters, or just keep them for yourself. While painting the words on them, I tried to infuse them with as much fairy tale magic as I could because I know there's more than one fairy tale girl around here. From me to you with love.

We also have new fall wallpaper for your computer, and fairy tale stationery you can print out for your letters. Back in the days of the original snail-mail WILLARDS, which I'm happy to hear some of you still have, the thing I loved most was that I could include little gifts, a page of stickers or a bookmark with the WILLARD. I love it that I still can do that! Kind of a bit of magic going on here too, don't you think?

And what would a new book be without a FAIRY TALE BANNER to celebrate? They've gotten to be a little tradition with us now, they are one way we celebrate a new book, birthdays, tea parties or a change of season. Janie, our friend on Twitter makes them by hand, each individually, in the most beautiful quality, even the envelopes are handmade. You can see it again in the very first picture in this WILLARD, there it is, reminding us to dream.
And we have FAIRY TALE TEA (direct from the woodland elves), a calming chamomile tea infused with cornflowers and lemon verbena to sip while you read the children's books I write for big people.

And what would September be without new CALENDARS? We have the usual roundup, the Wall Calendar, the Mini Calendar, the Purse Calendar (same size as a checkbook), the Magnet Calendar for the fridge, and the large format Blotter Calendar. And FYI, because I'm often asked, Yes, the Mini Calendar and the Wall Calendar do have different art in them. This will be the last year the little Magnet Calendar for the fridge will be available ~ next year the manufacturer is asking me for a Family Planner instead, and a couple of other new things.

Well, Girlfriends, I hope I haven't overstayed my welcome . . . If so, you can blame the girls on Twitter! This WILLARD is so long, I'll probably get someone fired! And I haven't even gotten to the good part yet . . . I have a very fun Giveaway for you! All you have to do is pop over to the blog (really easy via Internet) leave a comment at the bottom of the post that's on the Blog right now (where you see the tiny writing that says "Comments" in gray letters). Just go HERE to get to the Blog. Leaving even a one or two-word comment automatically enters you for the drawing.

And here's what the winner will receive: my 2016 Wall-Calendar, a personalized and signed copy of THE FAIRY TALE GIRL, one of Janie's darling banners, and for good measure, because AUTUMN is almost here, a signed copy of my AUTUMN from the HEART of the HOME that should put someone right in the mood with all kinds of fun ideas and delicious recipes for the upcoming season.

Right now, finishing up this tome, I mean Willard, the windows are open in my studio, it's 6 a.m., the cicadas are singing, there's a cool breeze, and Jack is sitting in the front window watching people walking up our street from town carrying paper cups of coffee. I'm sure they look at him and think, wow, what a beautiful kitty in that window, must be fairies on this Island setting up scenes like this just for me. And they feel lucky, and that's how I feel too. And now dear girls, back to my lovely ordinary life, the home sweet home needs a good cleaning, I will love every second of it . . .flowers first in the little vases . . . turn up the musica! The last of the summer 2015 memories are out there waiting to be made! Enjoy,