Desert Appreciation: Spring Blooms

As we near both the bleakness of summer and our move-outta-town date (oh yeah, did I mention we’re moving to Michigan??), I’m going to do a series of photo posts about the desert, Arizona, and our time here. It has truly been worldview-shifting and an amazing experience that I never could have anticipated. To be honest, when we were making the choice between grad schools way back six years ago, I really wanted to move to Oregon. But I am so, so glad we came here instead.

Let me count the ways.


One: The Glory That is a Desert Spring



I grew up in Florida and never really experienced spring. Because it never quite froze during the winter, plants kept their leaves and weren’t rushed to bud and bloom as soon as it warmed up. After all, they had 11 months to do all that.


Spring Blooms in the Desert

Then we moved to Seattle and I watched the leaves fluoresce orange, yellow, red, before giving way to cold and dark and brittleness, and then suddenly blossoming again with bright-bright green buds come spring. My favorite part were the daffodils and crocuses that popped out of the snow, brilliant bits of color in an otherwise stark landscape.



But Seattle has nothing on the desert.

For about two months out of the year, the drab brown is awash in yellow and orange and pink and white. Mostly yellow: the palo verdes go to town, blanketing streets and backyards in yellow blossoms and pollen. An allergy-sufferer’s nightmare, true, but worth it.


Spring Flowers

The plants don’t have much time to get in as much growing/blossoming as possible before the temp spikes over a hundred and what little moisture we got over the winter is all gone. So they go all out and it’s epic.


Spring Flowers


Ocotillo Blossom





I’m definitely going to miss this time of ecstatic bloom.


Some Explanations and an Announcement

Where have I been? These past few months have been even quieter than usual around here, and considering how quiet it can get on this blog, that’s near silence. I have a few good reasons – honestly, some very good reasons – but I also have a load of guilt. A writer writes – and, I haven’t been writing.

What happens when a writer doesn’t write? Guilt, yes. A loss of identity, sure. Constantly wondering if you’re ever going to write again. And if you never do, who are you?

But all that existential angst is for another time.

This post is about why I’ve been quiet. I’ve sat on this news for three months now and it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been foggy-headed and nauseated and every time I’ve tried to sit down and write, my stories haven’t even been within shouting distance. But now that fog is thinning and I’ve reached a “safe” enough place in this nine-month-long process that I can both share that I’ve been having trouble being a writer and the reason why:


Yup: after two incredibly long years and countless emotional-rollercoaster months and coming within spitting distance of giving up, I’m pregnant.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my stories are within grabbing distance and I have a new novel about gators and swamps and post-apocalyptic outbreaks to write.


2016 Reading Goals

My main goal for this year is not only to read more, but to read more of the kind of books I enjoy. That is: fun, adventurous fantasy. On top of that, I’d also like to broaden my horizon and read from a diverse array of authors.

To assemble my own list, I rifled through the 2015 year-end best of lists for fantasy and diverse authors, tacked on a few I’d been interested in from earlier years, and came up with the following 21 definitely-gonna-read books (in no particular order):

  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (YA)
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (YA)
  • Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M Lee
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
  • The Accidental Terrorist by William Shunn
  • The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
  • Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Sons of Thesian by ME Vaughan
  • Too Like the Lightning Ada Palmer
  • The Shadowed Sun by NK Jemisin
  • Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (YA)
  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  • Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu
  • The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Prophecy by Ellen Oh
  • The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
  • Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz
  • On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyviss (YA – 2016)

My total book goal for the year is 50, so this gives me some wiggle room. I have a tendency to just pick books up randomly and on a whim as I come across them online or in the world. This way, I have the ability to still do that, but also a core reading list that will help me a) stay up to date with recent fantasy, b) diversify my reading, and c) be a ton of fun to read through.

Do you have a reading goal for 2016?

Life, Writing

2015 Review and 2016 Goals


It’s reflection and introspection season, and since we had a very quiet Christmas and Solstice, I’ve been doing a lot of that. Looking back over the year, deciding what went right and what went not so right, what habits to keep and what to discard, what I need to start fresh and what I need to renew.

If I compare this year’s productivity to 2014, it was a bust. I wrote 95k worth of fresh, wholly new words, whereas in 2014 I wrote over 115k. But the amount of editing and rewriting and revising I did this year is difficult to conceptualize and force into raw numbers for direction comparison. Half of 2015 was spent working on finishing up The Impossible Contract in various ways. And the second half was spent writing the first draft of a novella, then a YA fantasy ruckus.

I didn’t write every day. I became disillusioned and overwhelmed multiple times. I seriously thought about throwing in the towel at least once. It was a rough year for me, health-wise: both mentally and physically. I am taking steps to get back on keel, but there were certainly more downs than ups and those downs took their toll.

And yet. And yet this year was amazing. I had a solid two months where I could write as much as I wanted every day, and I did. I buckled down and kept writing, even as I wrote and rewrote my self-imposed deadlines. And at the end of the day, I had a book that I was prouder of than any other, that I knew had a chance of actually making it out in the world, that was as fun and serious as I had set out to make it… and an agent.

So yeah. 2015 was pretty awesome.

As for 2016, I only have two goals: write more and read more.

What about you?


December Lull

twinkle lights Christmas tree

After writing daily since June, it’s about time to take a breather. In those six months, I wrote the first draft of a short story, finished a round of really intense edits, and wrote another first draft of a novel. Having wrapped up said first draft, there’s a little wiggle room before the next big project and I intend to grab on to that with both hands and not let go until the holidays are over and the new year has begun.

That doesn’t mean I won’t write at all – I just won’t have a daily word count goal. Writing will come in bits and pieces as I turn my brain from this last project to the next one – a darker fantasy revenge story. I have some research to do and an old, tired draft to pick apart and figure out exactly how to fix. The beauty of writing is that it’s just like any other skill you hone over the years: you continue to get better. Which means looking back at this draft from – *gasp* – early 2014 is making me cringe, but also helping me realize that I have improved and am continuing to improve. And: I know exactly how to fix it.

So. December goals. Research. Re-read. Restructure. Then begin rewriting. But also:

I’m going to read. It is quiet and cold and perfect blanket snuggling weather and I have a pile of books to read. Goodness, there is just nothing more perfect in the world than wrapping yourself in a warm blanket while sipping hot cocoa and reading. Well, aside from cold morning runs. 🙂

What are your plans for December?

Draft Zero, Life, OIBM, Writing



I had every intention to get in on the one-a-day thankful meme, but then it was mid-November and, well. But I firmly believe it’s never too late to be thankful, so I’ve compiled my list for Thanksgiving itself. 26 things because this year, Thanksgiving fell on the 26th.

26 Things I’m Thankful For:
(or: A Thanksgiving Thankstravaganza)

26) Tucson and it’s gloriously wonderful chaotic weather.
25) Our fuzzy furry crazy cats.
24) Gainful employment.
23) BPAL and other good scents.
22) Happy twinkle lights.
21) Standing desks.
20) My overall good health.
19) Deadlifts and squats and everything they’ve taught me about true strength.
18) The local Thanksgiving 5k.
17) The inspiration that comes during a good run.
16) Zombies, Run!
15) All the amazing musicians who keep making music and life.
14) All the amazing authors who keep writing.
13) Living during a time when we have access to such a variety and depth of great arts and music and books.
12) My agent.
11) Coffee.
10) The opportunities that I’ve worked for and stumbled across.
9) Writing and the purpose it has given my life.
8) The Internet.
7) This blogging community.
6) Being able to cross the world in a matter of hours.
5) Growing older and all the experiences and wisdom that comes along.
4) Financial stability.
3) Family – chosen and blood-related.
2) My friends.
1) My wife.


Here is my current progress on OIBM, a YA fantasy ruckus about magical girls, the apocalypse, and exactly whose fault it is:

Also known as: DONE.

Yes, I moved my wordcount target down. Yes, it needs about 20k more to be a viable novel. But this is draft zero, aka a very long and convoluted outline, and should come in way under my eventual goal.

Now I’m going to let it sit and ferment and work on something else. I have an older novel to tweak and rewrite in the meantime. I definitely need some time away from this one, because it is missing something crucial and being so close to it has blinded me to what that could be. Distance will give me the perspective I need to fix this beast – I hope.

This weekend, though, I’m going to read and cook and hang out with friends and family and get outside and read and maybe start brainstorming and read.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at chez Doore!



seattle (1 of 28)

Well, we’re back! We got home Tuesday afternoon with plenty of time to get groceries and do some cooking and laundry and chores and – of course we just pet cats and went to bed early instead.

Seattle was good. It was amazing and autumnal and everything we remembered and then it was time to go home, and that was good, too. It felt a lot like closure, honestly. We left after only two years there and neither of us was ready to go at the time. We’ve missed it for the last five years and built it up more than a little in our memories. So going back was like coming home, in a way – it was so familiar, (almost) everything the way we had left it, but we were different.

We exulted in the food and the sights and the leaves and yes, even the rain, but by Monday we were ready to go home – back to Arizona and sunlight and open skies and starry nights. Seattle was perfect for us when we lived there and it was a wonderful place to visit, but I don’t know when we’ll be back. It was good to finally be able to say goodbye.

Whew, that got heavy. Here, have some photos after the cut.

Continue reading “Seattle!”


Lighting Up the Office

I have an office that, I’m sure like many offices, has slowly been filled up with clutter over the years. It has become acceptable to shove things in there when we are busy or tired or simply don’t know where to put the thing. This made me reticent to actually use my office as an office. Sure, my tower computer and standing desk are in there and I still use those to edit my photos, but to spend actual time in my office, doing actual work was unheard-of.

Yet, the rest of the apartment has proved inadequate. Distractions (aka cats) abound. I use those spaces for other things, like goofing around and interneting, and the shadow of those activities linger when I try to sit and be serious. As multitudes of other authors and basic productivity gurus advise, it really is best to have a separate, dedicated space to work in.

Back to the office. For over a decade I would rearrange furniture on/around my birthday (don’t ask [see: virgo]). It seemed appropriate to use this latent ritual to fix what I didn’t like about my office. I’d been putting off actually doing anything because we’re moving anyway in two months, maybe four, maybe six, but then I realized that this was capital ‘s’ Stupid. I owed it to myself to create a space at home, and I owed it to my bank account – coffee shops frown on those who just come in and take up space without purchasing a consumable.

So I cranked up the a/c, rolled up my metaphorical sleeves, and yanked out every piece of furniture without a monitor on it. I brought my old sitting desk back in from another room, moved the bikes, removed any and all clutter, and then – last but perhaps the most important – strung up happy lights.

Now I have my own space and after a few days of using it, I understand. It’s honestly a difference of night and day.

Perhaps now I can start making a dent in our overstuffed tea cabinet instead of contributing to the coffers of the nearest coffee shop.




This Week’s Hike: Arizona Trail, Molino Basin Part 2


The Molino Basin Campground is closed during the summer, which I should have taken as a sign. This must be an amazing trail in the winter. In the summer… it was hot and sticky and gross for the first mile. There are a few scattered trees offering a (very) brief respite, but otherwise the trail is completely exposed.

On my first hike, I went south on the Arizona Trail, starting at the campground. I thought it was just called Molino Basin Trail, but have since learned that, yes, it was a part of MBT, but the trail is actually the Arizona Trail, which starts in Mexico and ends in Utah – 800 miles long. It’s kind of insane.

This week I hiked to the next trailhead before turning around because next week, I want to start where I left off. I’m interested in seeing how much of the trail I can do – piecemeal, of course. As long as I bring enough water and slather on enough sunscreen, I’ll be fine. 🙂


Hike Stats
Water consumed: just shy of 3 litres
Hours hiked: 2.75
Wildlife Spotted: bees, butterflies (black, orange, and yellow), smoky grouse, & white-tailed deer
Elevation at Start: 4370 ft
Smells: Arid, occasionally putrid when the trail dipped into the basin, very briefly pine
Sounds: The wind through long grass, the drone of cars on the road, which I never really left far behind on this hike, screams of birds, and the rattle of a certain kind of bug that had me looking for snakes more than once.

Continue reading “This Week’s Hike: Arizona Trail, Molino Basin Part 2”


This Week’s Hike: Green Mountain Trail


I decided to head a bit further up the mountain to find a cooler and shadier hike this week. The basin was all well and good, but it was also a little – okay a lot – exposed. Only a few miles up the road there are plenty of pines to cool things down.

I’ve started up the Green Mountain Trail before, but we only made it a mile or so in because we weren’t prepared for the constant uphill. This time, I knew what to expect and therefore savored each precious flat run that much more.

Technically, you’re supposed to start at the top of the trail and work your way down, but I adhere to the rule of Uphill First, because there’s nothing like breezing through several miles straight downhill then realizing now you have to go straight back up.

It was a quiet, clear morning, with excellent views of the city and Thimble Peak once I got high enough.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Hike Stats
Water consumed: just shy of 3 liters
Hours hiked: 2.5
Wildlife Spotted: a few Mexican Jays, several squirrels, and so. many. lizards
Elevation at Start: 5830 ft
Smells: Mostly pine, some sand and sunscreen
Sounds: The drone of the road for a little while, then bees and flies and the incessant soft rustle of pine needles.

Continue reading “This Week’s Hike: Green Mountain Trail”