Guest Author & Giveaway: Fun Historical facts whilst researching with Beth McMaster

Posted May 3, 2013 by Shari in Guest Post / 0 Comments

Fun Historical facts whilst researching

I love writing romances set in historical times. After all, I grew up on a staple diet of dukes and dashing spies, balls, baronets and courtesans. There’s just something about a historical romance that leads itself to a larger-than-life plot.

But… I’m a little tired of dukes (unless they’re evil, which is another story). There’s something about the self-made man, or a hero fighting against the system that really appeals to me, which is why a lot of my latest novel, Heart of Iron, is set in Whitechapel. Of course, I feel like I’ve read enough regencies to have an honorary voucher for Almack’s, but the grim, steamy world of the ‘Chapel and Seven Dials isn’t covered quite as much, which is why I hit the Google roughly three hundred times a day and shake out my dusty old copies of Dickens.

When I look at research, I’m not just looking at what happened when or who wore what. I want to know how a place smells, how it feels and tastes… Its flavour. Also, considering that I write steampunk, in a pseudo-Victorian era, I’m looking at what could have happened or been created.

Research helps. It’s actually amazing to consider how many of the modern machines we take for granted, actually had their antecedents way back when. Take da Vinci’s sketches of a Helical Air Screw – or a helicopter. That dude was way ahead of his time. Granted, he never actually built or tested it, but the idea was there.

Here’s a couple of random facts I discovered whilst researching for Heart of Iron:

1. If you’re reading this on your computer, did you know that the idea of a computer originated in the 1800’s? The term computer is based on a person who solves mathematical problems and that’s what the first ‘computers’ were designed to do. The most famous is Charles Babbage’s difference engine, though the first prototype would have weighed about 15 tons if it was finished. I’m thinking that might have been a little difficult to work on.

2. In Victorian times, a common form of entertainment was to be found in penny gaff houses. Dancing, singing, plays, and clowning could all be had for the entry price of a penny. Sometimes there was even flash dancing. Though, considering a set of female ankles were considered a thrill, it wasn’t quite what we have today.  One of the other attractions at penny gaffs were ‘freaks’; the Elephant Man allowed himself to be exhibited in one.

3. Scandinavia plays a large part in my London Steampunk world, or Heart of Iron at least. Interesting fact – To ‘go berserk’ was to ‘hamask’, which translated means ‘to change form.’ Berserkers seemed able to perform feats that no normal man could strive for, and was often accompanied by a great fury. I’m guessing you can see where I’m going here and where the paranormal elements in Heart of Iron come from. Sometimes the history might not actually make it into the books, but it certainly inspires a whole lot of creative world-building.

So what does this all mean? Apart from the fact that Heart of Iron features a flash dancer, computer genius with anger issues (kidding)? Here’s the thing: Creating an alternate history is about taking little bits and pieces and fleshing them out. My hero is considered a brute (something about those berserker tendencies) and was once displayed in the penny gaffs in a cage.

I’m often inspired by completely random facts, so whilst reading Heart of Iron, you might not recognise certain periods of history, they’re definitely there, influencing the turn of events.

So fun question: what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever learned? Let me know in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Kiss of Steel, the first in my sexy London Steampunk series.

Heart of Iron by Bec McMasterHEART OF IRON BY BEC MCMASTER – IN STORES MAY 2013

In the mist-shrouded streets of London’s dreaded Whitechapel district, werewolves, vampires and a clockwork army are one step away from battle…

NO ONE TO TRUST

Will Carver, is more than man, he’s a verwulfen and he wants nothing to do with the dangerous beauty who drives him to the very edge of control. But when he finds Lena in possession of a coded letter, he realizes she’s in a world of trouble. To protect her, he’ll have to seduce the truth from her before it’s too late.

“Deftly blends elements of steampunk and vampire romance with brilliantly successful results…darkly atmospheric and delectably sexy.”Booklist, starred review for KISS OF STEEL

 

Bec McMaster Photo

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning author Bec McMaster lives in a small town in Australia and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. The third book in the London Steampunk series, My Lady Quicksilver will be in stores in October 2013. Read more about her at www.becmcmaster.com or follow her on Twitter @BecMcMaster.

To purchase Heart of Iron:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Books-a-Million
IndieBound
Chapters/Indigo
Discover a New Love
Sourcebooks

 

GIVEAWAY

So fun question: what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever learned? Let me know in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Kiss of Steel, the first in my sexy London Steampunk series.

Giveaway ends May 10, 2013 at 11:59 PM EDT. US/CAN only.

 

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Shari is the Delighted Reader. Married to her Prince Charming and mother to two Princesses and one Prince. When she is not slaving away as Cinderella she loves to get lost in the pages of a good book. Never without a reading device and a few good paperback books, because she never knows when she might get 5 minutes to read!

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  • Ellen

    I was stunned to learn an electric eel is not an eel. I don’t know why that floored me.

  • Stephanie F.

    I was watching a documentary recently about Stephen Hawking in which he states that time travel could be possible. He says that if ships could be made that were fast enough and able to be powered for years that it could happen. Another physicist said it could also be possible if their are multiple dimensions.

    Victorian England here I come. 🙂

  • Hi Ellen! Wow, never knew that myself! That’s why I love these kind of questions *goes off to google electric eels*

  • @ Stephanie, I’m with you on Victorian England! Even if you could only go back for a day, it would be interesting. This is what I love about learning facts – because there’s a whole story in what you just said.

  • Meghan Stith

    I learned about a family last night where the woman married a man and then partway through the marriage, the man decided he wanted to become a woman. He went through the transition and afterwards, the woman decided to stay married to the transgendered man.
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    mestith at gmail dot com

  • SHELLEY S

    I GUESS WHAT WAS CRAZY WAS IN BIO. DISECTING A FROG! calicolady60@hotmail.com

  • bn100

    how they make Lay’s potato chips

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  • Annie

    Umm A sloth can accidentally mistake their own arm as a tree branch and fall to its death. Does that weird fact count? LOL!

    • Ellen

      I love the Facebook page ” I Fucking Love Science” – everyday there are amazing photos and facts. For instance, did you know there was a 6 ft salamander?

      This is the Chinese giant salamander, the largest known salamander and amphibian in the world. Adults can reach up to an astonishing 180cm (6ft) from head to tail, although sadly they rarely reach that size today. It is considered critically endangered due to habitat loss and its status as a “delicacy” and component in traditional folk medicine.
      Photo: This is the Chinese giant salamander, the largest known salamander and amphibian in the world. Adults can reach up to an astonishing 180cm (6ft) from head to tail, although sadly they rarely reach that size today. It is considered critically endangered due to habitat loss and its status as a “delicacy” and component in traditional folk medicine.

      You need to go to I fucking love science to see the incredible picture.

  • Amber

    I’ve learned alot of interesting things about Death and the human body. Cadavers have sat up on the table and wrapped arms around people. Kinda freaky! I wouldnt want to be the med student or doctor that it happened too!
    -Amber
    goodblinknpark(AT)yahoo(DOT)com

    • Diane Sallans

      Lately I’ve been watching a lot of National Geographic Wild channel so have learned about how a puppy can be born green, how a polar bear can be purple, and all sorts of other wacky & wild things about animals.
      sallans d at yahoo dot com

    • Ellen

      Just got another one from I Fucking Love Science:

      The Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma) usually puffs itself up if a predator gets too close. In dire situations the lizard will fill its sinuses with blood until they explode, causing an aimed stream of blood to shoot up to 5 feet from the corner of its eyes. The blood also contains chemicals that are foul-tasting to canines. It looks painful and harsh, but they recover from it almost immediately and get on with their daily lives.

      Ah, yes. History is weird. Nature is even weirder. We live in an amazing, strange world.

  • Viki S.

    I learned that when you die your body really does shoot out a last breath. It’s rather forceful too.

  • Renee G

    I learned that polar bear liver is poisonous to humans.

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