Please welcome my guest KB Inglee. KB writes historical short stories which have appeared in several print anthologies. Her story “Weavers Trade” placed second in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Many of her story ideas come from her job as historical interpreter at two living history museums near her Delaware home. And sheep are often her inspiration.
When I was 7 my sister was given riding lessons as a Christmas present. How can that be fair when I was the one who devoured every horse book in the library and turned our back yard apple tree into a whole stable of horses? The first story I wrote was about a horse named Star.
Imagine my surprise when I realized my first novel had not one single animal in it. It was set in a time when horses were common forms of transportation. I didn’t have so much as a cat in the kitchen.
If you are going to write historicals, you need to do the things your characters do. I visited a living history museum near my home and discovered a flock of heritage sheep. I learned to give tours, tell the story of the family that lived there. My first published work (Farmer’s Daughter, Miller’s Son) is a kid’s look at the time period. I hand stitched a set of appropriate clothing. All the while I was longing to get my hands on the sheep. I wanted to do any animal type work my characters might have done: drive oxen, plow with horses, and raise chickens. I don’t remember when I was first invited to work with the sheep, probably I got to feed them when the regular shepherds were out of town. In ten years I worked myself up to head shepherd.
I was of an age where I was happy to move from 1200 pound animals with heavy feet with iron shoes to something smaller which didn’t break bones when it stood on my toes. I have been present at the birth of lambs, had had to put down old and sick animals that have been my friends for years. I can tell you how the industrial revolution changed agriculture and how the market value of sheep has changed over the years. I can process wool from the back of the sheep to the back of the person. I even butchered a sheep.
If I have a muse at all, it is these animals. Like my protagonist they appear gentle but they will happily knock you down and walk over you if you are in the way. Like my protagonist they are patient and can stand around for hours waiting. If you have food, then they will push and shove to get to it, just as my protagonist will to find the answer to a problem.
If I am stuck for an idea or the way out of a plot problem, all I have to do is stand among the sheep. I can dig my fingers deep into the wool, listen to them breathe, watch them interact with each other and with me and the visitors. It may be a form of meditation.
There are still no animals in my narratives, but I have a whole flock involved in the writing.
Here are some of KB’s stories, available on Amazon.
“Joseph’s Captivity”, Untreed Reads, 2012
A grumpy Joseph finds himself exiled, not to Egypt, but to an island
off the coast of Maine in the early colonial period.
“Netted”, Fish Nets, Wildside Press, 2013
A pile of string helps uncover a murderer
“The Magic Bullet“, Death Knell V, Infinity Press, 2013
An article in French and an old gun provide the clues to solve a series of armed robberies.
What a lovely way to get the muse musing. Thanks for sharing KB!
What an unusual take on a writer’s muse. I like it.
KB, you *almost* make me want to keep sheep. In your picture, they don’t look extremely small. Are you sure they couldn’t break a toe with their hooves? I’m jealous of your recuperative sheep time. It must be working. Love your stories!
Interesting post. Love the comment about not breaking bones when stepped on, I’ve been working with livestock my whole life, mostly horses, and one of the worse injuries I ever sustained was thanks to one of my mom’s ewes. I wish more writers would borrow a page from your book and spend time learning about livestock. I would have an easier time reading their books if they did!