The Living Desert

March 19, 2015

When I was promoting my last book, Playing Hard To Forget, I talked a bit about my weird experiences in the desert. Something To Die For was born out of some of those experiences.

I, being of red hair and see-through skin, really don’t belong in hot, sunny climates, but I keep finding myself in them. My skin keeps saying, “Move to Seattle. Save on sunscreen. Buy a pine tree farm,” but fate keeps flicking me off and throwing me to the hottest places on the whole of Earth.

It takes a special type of person to survive in extreme climates. My stupid body is stupidly efficient in temperatures above 90 and even more so when there’s the oppressive humidity of a tropical rainforest climate added to it, like where I live now.  I have the horrible feeling that even if I managed to outrun my destiny and move to a place unlike the desert or the tropics, where everything tries to kill you all at once, I would probably be dead of hypothermia within six minutes of any temperature under 50.

So, maybe there’s a reason I keep finding myself living amongst the palm trees, yucca, and agave I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with. I mean, it’s not all bad, I guess. Extreme climates tend to harbour extremely weird subcultures of people and I guess I have to count myself among their numbers. Beach bums, desert rats, island bums, we can’t do things the way the rest of the world does things and that’s okay.

And our stories are amazing.


Something To Die For takes place in the Mojave Desert. Things exist there that don’t exist anywhere else, like Joshua Trees and Palm Springs’ obsession with midcentury modern architecture.

But beyond that, the desert is alive. It’s its own character with a personality and motivations. As a child I used to frequently dream about being there at night. The desert protected me. The plants hid me from danger and the coyotes (and, unrealistically for modern times, the gray wolf, which is no longer roaming the deserts and hasn’t since well before I was born) stood guard.

Today I will be talking about some of the experiences and stories that led to Something To Die For, as well as other inspirations from music and pictures and I will be doing a giveaway as well.




I like painting the desert. I also like torturing myself with those 50 cent bottles of acrylic paint from the craft store instead of oils or whatever I’m supposed to use that probably costs a lot more.

I hope you’ll join me for the story behind the story.


Something To Die For

(a brief update on the Southern Living Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER recipe experiment mentioned in my first post: it’s 3/4 butter and 1/4 shortening. Is that the secret to making it the best? Stay tuned)

6 Responses to “The Living Desert”

  1. Angela says:

    Although the desert sounds intriguing i don’t think i could live there. I’m not a big fan of the sun/heat :)

    Always nice to have some background on how an author came up with the idea of his or her book.

  2. Piperdoone says:

    I say I want to live where winter is a possibility, but then I set the AC a little too low by accident and think, “mmmmmmmmm…naw.”

  3. JJ says:

    I’m impressed with your painting of the Joshua Tree area. I really love the colors that you used.

  4. Piperdoone says:

    Thanks!!! I’m just trying to keep up with my daughter. She took to drawing like a shark to a Florida tourist, so I’ve been trying to learn some stuff with her so I can claim she got all that from me if the, um, art award people (?) ever give her one and there’s a big speech and all that, you know?

  5. H.B. says:

    I’s always interesting to hear how ones environment can affect ones body temp. Thanks for sharing your experience and the painting.

  6. Piperdoone says:

    I really didn’t think much of that until I had lived in a tropical rainforest climate for…well…waaaay too long and I went to DC and visited the National Zoo and there’s that pavilion where they warn you that they keep the humidity and heat up in there to simulate the tropical rainforest and some people might have trouble breathing in there. I walked in and I realized that I actually could breathe better because apparently living in 156% humidity for too long makes you part fish. People were complaining about the humidity and my family and I were thinking about setting up shop for the night in there.

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