Long Before the Equinox
That goofy groundhog never gets it right… Spring comes long before the equinox in the Sonoran Desert.  The brilliant, lime green shoots of new mesquite leaves, almost fluorescent against the deep brown-black bark, begin budding in February. Tiny nodules erupt on prickly pear pads, knuckles of “cactus roses” that will grow to pink buds and open as yellow flowers.
Spring explodes here in a way that astounds and astonishes. Colors are incredibly vivid, perhaps because everything else seems burnt and brown—but only for those who don’t know the subtle signs of life in a desert, such as the immigrant Evan Jones from Wales in my novel, Dragon & Hawk. Evan cannot believe a place that has so little moisture can be as beautiful as the gardens of his homeland. He’s amazed that palo verde trees, which have green bark and mere twiggy leaves, suddenly burst into yellow blooms as bright as daffodils. And the aromas—sweet and tart as lemon, fresh as green chlorophyll, spicy as cinnamon sage—all mix as a light perfume in the air. The desert floor blossoms into a multicolored carpet of blue lupine, red owl’s clover, and orange and gold poppies as vibrantly painted as a Van Gogh—but only for a short while. The colors fade as the sun’s heat grows ever more potent, and often by the official first day of spring the temperatures already approach the nineties.
It’s that little taste, that whiff of beauty which affirms that life does renew and revive in the desert, if a little earlier than everywhere else. Those who dwell here treasure and inhale and try to hold fast to the memory as summer cranks up her grill.
Jude Johnson
Author of DRAGON & HAWK
 due April 2011 from Champagne Books: http://www.champagnebooks.com/
Website: jude-johnson.com

Jude Johnson is a writer with a passion for historical research and details. The smell of parchment, old leather, and glue bindings makes her giddy. It is her attention to accuracy that infuses her stories with authenticity, letting the reader step into those dusty streets of Tombstone or onto the pitching deck of a frigate of Nelson’s Navy. Granddaughter of a curandera, a Mexican healer who uses herbs, psychology and a little bit of mysticism, she incorporates a bit of family legend into her Dragon & Hawk series.

Jude loves adventure, action, romance, and fantasy to spirit her readers into a different time and place. She has studied the Welsh language—Cymraeg—enough to order beer, swear, order pancakes, and ask for the facilities. Trips to Britain to capture the cadence of the melodic Welsh accent and attitude allowed her to infuse her Welsh immigrant characters with realism. Jude also speaks fairly bad border Spanish.
Home is situated in the Catalina Foothills of northern Tucson, Arizona, near Pima Canyon and not too far from Sabino Canyon. Jude lives with her long-suffering husband and son, as well as two deranged cats.


  1. Oh I love a good Welshman!

  2. me too
    i hope one day to go to wales, i also love to hear the choirs and to see the tradional dress

  3. I’ve never been to the desert so I too would probably be amazed at the signs of spring. Thanks for the post!


  4. Spring in the desert sounds like it is very beautiful. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of it.

    skpetal at hotmail dot com

  5. I would love to see spring in the desert. Sounds lovely.

  6. Thanks everyine! RIght now the palo verde trees are loaded with bright yellow. Many of the fragile blooms of the cactuses are gone, but the prickly pear roses are getting started.

    I’m off to work buut will be back this evening to check in! Thanks!

  7. The author has a wonderful ability to describe not only the beauty of the desert, but in her books, the stark reality of the area as well.

  8. I think the reason why everything seems so colorful and bold in the spring is the rain we sometimes get. It washes the dust off everything. Or maybe it is just my truck. Hehehe

  9. I read your little bio, and I am fascinated by your grandmother who is a “curandera, a Mexican healer who uses herbs, psychology and a little bit of mysticism.” 🙂

    castings at mindspring dot com

  10. I try to see beauty in nature everyday.


  11. Beautiful cover, Jude. I started the book last night. Can’t wait to finish it.


  12. We’re still waiting for spring here… I love Jude Johnson’s writing!

    Robin D
    Vancouver WA

  13. Really enjoyed your post. I have never been to the desert. I think it would be very interesting and beautiful to see all of that.

    Your book looks very good, love the cover.


  14. I’d like to see spring in the desert!

  15. Love the cover on your book and need to check out the Dragon & Hawk series.


  16. Springtime in the desert sounds wonderful…as does the Dragon and Hawk series.

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  17. Thanks for all your comments. And if you love a good Welshman, Dragon & Hawk actually has three! I had a great time researching and writing this, including some infamous weekends in Tombstone, so I hope you enjoy the story as well.

  18. Oh and the beautiful cover is done by Champagne Books’ own Trisha FitzGerald.


  19. Dragon & Hawk is a brilliant novel in a series of 3, wonderfully stories of a family & the desert. I think they are comparable to the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon or the Wilderness series by Sara Donati

  20. Wish you the best with Dragon Hawk!
    Spring sounds a long way off because in Wisconsin we are getting snow tonight.

  21. That is such a beautiful description, Jude – I would never have believed it myself had you not written about it!

  22. Thank you, Victoria & Rosemary. I think I will post some photos on my personal blog http://wordsthatremain.blogspot.com/
    later today for folks to see…

  23. Ah, the ephemeral joys of nature! Well written, Jude. Best, January

  24. Thanks for the lovely spring visual! It is a beautiful day here in Phoenix.

  25. Hi January, and thank you. I love being outdoors.

    And yes, indeed, Ashley, this is a Chamber of Commerce weekend in Arizona – deep turquoise skies, balmy 90 degrees here in Tucson, and our palo verdes look downright heavy with blossoms in some parts of town.

    Won’t be long though before double digit temps are but a pleasant memory…


  26. Wow the desert sounds really pretty in spring 🙂 Your book looks like a great read. Thanks for sharing with us 🙂
    Ashley A

  27. Thanks Ashley!
    Here is a lovely photo of some of the desert beauty:



  28. Bore da, Jude. ;D I, too, was always fascinated by Wales and her language. Mostly thanks to Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising series. Wonderful to think how we as writers can influence readers, isn’t it?

  29. Your description of spring in the desert is so beautiful. I really wish I could be there to see it.


  31. Siwr iawn, Victoria! 😉 Thanks for commenting.


  32. Thanks, Joni and Hotcha. So many books and too much reality to interfere, right? My “to read” pile is over my head, but I keep adding to it. Reading is a treat that never makes you fat…


  33. Two deranged cats, too funny!

  34. Hi Sarita,

    LOL What’s that about pets resembling their owners?


  35. Bit of a contrast with spring in Oregon ( and Wales ) when there is slightly less rain than there has been for the 6 preceding months 🙂

  36. LOL Ceri – you mean there are times when it doesn’t rain in Wales? Just kidding… it actually only rained once while I was there!


  37. Me, too and I was there a week. It missed six opportunities!

  38. I’ve never visited the Sonoran Desert, so your post surprised me a bit. I never thought things bloom there like you described. I’d LOVE to see it! I’d love to live somewhere in the Southwest, too. I’ve alwasys said I would one day (I live in Michigan). Until then, I’ll just have to read about it. 🙂

    Your Dragon & Hawk series sound wonderful, and I love the cover!


  39. Thanks, Victoria – isn’t Wales beautiful? I never knew there were so many shades of green…

    And yes indeed, Carol, the desert can be pretty incredible this time of year. There is a little taste of it in my book trailer, which I just finished last week! Here it is on You Tube: Dragon & Hawk Trailer

    (I took many of the photos, all of the desert ones and the one of Caerphilly Castle)


  40. That groundhog is such a jerk. Why do we even listen to him?!

  41. Sarah LOL! Thing is, the poor little guy is prodded out of hibernation so how clear are his predictions when he’s groggy and needs to pee? ha ha

Speak Your Mind