Right now I'm writing a fantasy/mystery/romance set in the Southwest U.S., a place I've lived for more than 20 years. (Stormwalker by Allyson James, Berkley, probably May 2010). The heroine is a young Navajo woman who makes her living as a photographer but also helps people in supernatural jams (locating missing persons, solving cold case murders).
I set the book in north central and northeastern Arizona, inventing a little town called Magellan, in small fictional Hopi County.
I travel frequently in this area and today was going over some of my "atmosphere" photos. I've set the fictional town of Magellan south of Winslow out in rolling desert hills. The elevation here is about 6000 feet, which means not so much cactus as scrubby juniper and cottonwoods (near water), and plenty of grasses. The rocks are mostly sandstone, and sudden washes and little canyons cut through seemingly flat land.
I was lucky enough last time I was there to drive out while storms built in the west and south. My heroine is a "Stormwalker" (which I invented), a person whose magic is tied to storms. She's very powerful when it's storming, not so much on a clear sunny day.
Looking west from the same spot to the San Francisco peaks (highest point 12,000 feet), the traditional western boundary of Navajo lands and one of the four sacred mountains. The city of Flagstaff is in the foothills of this mountain range.
I'm working hard to get this book finished and thought I'd give you a taste of the landscape while I write.