There’s an old saying that “the devil’s in the details” that’s true in many circumstances in life, but I think it’s especially true in all forms of art.

Of course, it’s obvious to us in visual art—paintings, drawings, photography—and tactile art such as a beautiful quilt or piece of pottery, or a woven basket.Hexagon Quilt–selling for over $6000! But look at the work and the detail that went into this “work of art”!

But what about books? Are you a reader who loves lots of descriptive details? Or do those bog you down and leave you frustrated and impatient?

I have to admit, as I’ve gotten older, there are many kinds of stories that I feel could do with less detail in some areas. A lot of my “changes” come from looking at the way details and descriptions are presented more closely when I read. I’ve evolved into this kind of reader.

As a younger reader, I needed those details to help me create images in my mind. The descriptions were beautiful to me because I knew less of the world, and everything I read was a learning experience! Have you ever thought about it like that?

When I was a YA reader, whether reading sci-fi books (during the flying saucer craze) or historical fiction, I needed those descriptions and details to feed my hunger for learning about—well, everything!I loved this series by John Christopher–read it when I was about 12 or 13, and it stayed with me all through the years so that when my own kids were young, I went searching and found it for them! The descriptions of the aliens that were determined to take over earth, the bravery of the young people that fought against them, and wondering what in the world was going to happen kept me reading far into the night!

“Back in the day” I think authors engaged readers with a different type of writing style, too. Ours had not yet become a world of technology such as it is now. Life “took longer”—and happened at a much more unhurried pace. It was important for writers to create pictures in the readers’ minds—because there was no way to already have a pre-conceived idea of the things the author was trying to describe.

Here’s what I mean: In today’s world, we are inundated with images of all kinds, from instant pictures on our phones that we take ourselves, to movies, to ads on television, to video on Youtube. And so much more—this is just the tip of the iceberg.

One of my very favorite paintings by the very fabulous Jack Sorenson. This one is called “Horse With Christmas Spirit”–love the “details” in this one!

Can you see how this de-values art? When a beautiful picture can be photoshopped together in minutes and seen by millions, or even mass produced in ways that hadn’t been thought of fifty years ago, the artist who painstakingly delivers every brush stroke “the old-fashioned way” can be under-appreciated in a hurry!

Some writers suffer this same twist of fate in a different way. Because our lives are so rushed, and our society has been geared toward “quick reads” we’ve lost the pleasure of savoring those descriptions of the setting, the characters, even the emotions of the “players” in the books we read. It seems that finishing a book is more important than, as we once did, lingering over certain passages and re-reading them for the sheer joy of the way the words came together, the image they created for our hungry minds—and souls.

My confession—and you may all think this is weird—I do not ever skim. Even when I don’t feel the need for the minutiae that may be included, I read every word. What if I miss something? Deep down, I believe the author must have thought it important or he/she wouldn’t have included it!

What’s your pet peeve? Too much description? Not enough? More description needed of the characters? Or do you want some things left to your own imagination?

One does a whole painting for one peach and people think just the opposite – that particular peach is but a detail.

–Pablo Picasso

I learned no detail was too small. It was all about the details.

–Brad Grey

Sometimes when you start losing detail, whether it’s in music or in life, something as small as failing to be polite, you start to lose substance.

–Benny Goodman

Do you remember a book you’ve read that you thought was too detailed? IS there such a thing? I think many of the authors from the earlier days wrote in that style—it was just how it was done—and there was no mass media to show instant pictures, so there was even so much more to learn through reading.

As one who wrote very descriptive passages, James Fenimore Cooper comes to mind, but Diana Gabaldon’s books are full of wonderful descriptions of the landscape, the characters, and so on, and that skill she displays for description makes her stories and characters come to life!

For modern-day books that show a complete mastery of adding wonderful detail and pulling you into the story, there is no better author than Kathleen Eagle. I’ve never read a story by her that I didn’t love and one of the main reasons is the adept talent she has for adding the smallest details as the story moves along and drawing the reader right into each and every scene, as if you are truly there with her characters, experiencing their pain, loss, worry, and love.

Do you have a favorite author who gives just the right amount of description? More about this next time on CHARACTER descriptions–I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this subject!


Kathleen Eagle … Looking for a good cowboy?

Looking for a good cowboy?  Try Harlequin Books.

The word cowboy appears in about half the Special Edition titles every month, and my books are right in there with them.  As the lovely Fillies of Wildflower Junction will attest, cowboys sell books.

I’ve been writing about cowboys since many of you were knee-high to a Shetland Pony, but you’ll only find the word cowboy in three of my pre-Google Special Editions.  My first one was SOMEDAY SOON, and you had to know the song lyrics to get the cowboy message.  It was our song, my cowboy’s and mine, back when he came courtin’.  Well, sorta courtin’.  Okay, I was the one who invaded his territory—the Eastern dude gone West.  But that’s another story.

Back to The Word.  These days, key words mean everything, which is why some of our series book titles might seem a little—dare I say it?—silly.  Key word overload sometimes.  But with cowboy, one word says it all.

And I know you’ve talked about your ideal cowboy many times around this watering hole, so I won’t ask.  (But you’re welcome to tell me.)  I will say that my personal ideal is an Indian cowboy.  And while they’re becoming all too rare out on the prairie, I can bring them to you between the colorful covers.  I’ll bring you a cowboy whose roots reach way down deep in prairie sod, who rides as an extension of his horse, lives his life as a natural part of a land that still refuses to be paved over or plowed under.

While I treat each of my characters as an individual, I keep my husband’s oft repeated claims in mind.  Like, “I’m a jack of all trades, master of none.”  Which means if it is broke, he can fix it.  It might not be pretty, but he can get it working again.  “I’m secure in my manhood.”  Meaning he’ll read a romance on a plane.  And he’ll fly if he has to, but he’d rather ride a horse.

I’m continuing my Special Edition Wild Horse Sanctuary series with ONE BRAVE COWBOY, on sale September 20.  I’d like to celebrate with you by sending two randomly chosen commenters an autographed copy of one of the earlier books in the series—your choice.

ONE BRAVE COWBOY introduces another competitor for Mustang Sally’s Wild Horse Training Contest, a thread that runs through four of the six books connected with my fictitious Double D Wild Horse Sanctuary in South Dakota.  The title cowboy’s name is Cougar.  Just Cougar.  He served in the Army with Mary Tutan (ONCE A FATHER), and he’s a wounded warrior, but his worst scars are not visible.  Newly released from a VA hospital, this Indian cowboy desperately needs to come to terms with his losses at home and on the battlefield.  He came home from his first tour in the Middle East to find his girlfriend—the woman he’d planned to marry—with another man.  During a later tour he was injured in an incident in which a child was killed, and he blames himself.  His hope for saving his sanity—the horses his brother was keeping for him—were sold during his absence.  His entry into Mustang Sally’s Wild Horse Training Competition is the means he’s using to find his way among the living after pulling himself back from the brink of suicide.  Then he meets Celia Banyon and her young son, who was injured in an accident and whose worst scars are also not visible.

Did I mention that many Indian cowboys are also veterans?  Mine is.  He’s comfortable wearing boots, but, like Cougar, he prefers pointed toes and riding heels.  It’s an interesting blend of experience—Indian, cowboy, warrior—that I think you’ll agree makes for one hell of a Western hero.

Thank you for inviting me back to Wildflower Junction!  Now let’s circle up and pass the talking stick around.

I will be giving away two of my earlier novels in the series to two lucky readers

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