Author Archives: Lynn Voedisch

About Lynn Voedisch

I'm a fantasy novelist and write for The Story Plant. I have an interest in everything from science to tales of magic. I'm a voracious reader, I own two cats, and I play tennis and trivia.

Dino dinners were dead or alive

Fantastic World

Quick! When you think about a Tyrannosaurus rex, what comes to mind? Gaping jaws, jagged teeth, and the ability to run you down for a speedy snack.

Well, some of them were predatory like that—certainly they were kings of the dinosaur world—but scientists are saying that many in the tyrannosaur class, including juvenile tyrannosaurus rexes and velociraptor, got by by scavenging. Scientists from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, used such unusual tools as “Sims”-like computer games to gauge how often the dinos went after their prey or ate the carcass of a previous kill.

Rather than being like the fierce, voracious dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park,” the new research shows that many of the tyrannosaur class were more like scaly, featured hyenas. Irish and Scottish researchers  have shown that scavenging would have been a rewarding strategy for carnivorous dinosaurs.

dinosaur-1114628__340Lots of today’s predators rely on scavenging to supplement their caught dinners. Lions scavenge nearly 50% of their food in some populations.

The scientists say that direct hunting uses up vast amounts of energy and scavenging is nearly food for free. Dino’s who mostly scavenged were dilophosaurus and Utahraptor.

“In effect, these species occupied a Goldilocks zone,” Dr. Kevin Healy of Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences told
EurekaAlert, a science website. “They were big enough to search large areas in order to find carcasses and defend them, but not so large that simply moving became too energetically costly.”

But the scientists agree that the dinosaurs could not have lived by scavenging alone. “Practically all species (ing this class) would have likely shown predatory behavior,” Healy said.

So, it’s still not safe, if they clone a t-rex, to go near it for a pet.

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You gotta do what moves ya!

The Writer’s World

There’s something about moving (as in moving all your belongings) that doesn’t sit well with the writing process.

First, the muse (If you have one) decides things are way too messy to be around and goes on a holiday. Ideas? Poof! Out the window. Meanwhile those ugly old boxes lurk in your office (and living room and dining room and, well, everywhere) making you feel that you are decidedly out of place. (“What does she do?” “She writes.” Guffaws all around cardboard mountains.)

I have an odd way of getting going on a new book. I write the first draft by hand. I feel closer to the creative process that way. But all those notebooks cause  clutter, so they were consigned to a box that said “Open me first!). Now I’m just going freeform on the computer screen. I should like the freedom but I don’t. I feel naked and exposed. I like my old habits.

There’s also the usual allotment of time the author gives him or herself for writing a day. Some writers insist on 1,000 words a day. Not me! I’m much more free-form. If I find that I can do a 2,000-word chapter in a day and the take some time off for new ideas that works. Other times I do 500-word bites at a time. I’m not a slave to word-count rules. Other writers get to know their characters by writing little vignettes where they go out for coffee together. Not me! Wasted verbiage! If it’s good enough to put on the page, you can work it into your story, ice cream and all. Others get up at dawn to draw on their newly awakened mind for inspiration. The only inspiration I can even begin to find early in the a.m.  is in the New York Times over an overamped cup of tea. Mornings, who needs ‘em? And what’s worse is that the older I get, the less I can stay in blessed dreamland. Is this some kind of joke?

But now that this little moving bit of disarray is creeping into my day, I find myself much more likely to pitch in and pack rather than face a blank page. Manana, Manana. I have started to do some character interviews (on this blog) just to get the creative process going. I pay more attention to my dreams now and imagine my characters in them. And I’ll stay up late writing (or thinking about the next writing turn, which is just as important). But no mornings yet. Heck, that’s why I quit the day job.

This thing isn’t going to be over soon, either. We close early next month—and then my darling spouse goes on a two-week business trip. I’ll have to keep the new house going and check on the old one, all while worrying about getting what I need for the laundry room, bathroom towels, etc. Then the movers will show up and whole hell will break loose.

Are my characters sharing in this experience? Well, let’s just say that by the second chapter I have a character unpacking books at her new high-rise condo. I should have lots for her to do by the time the chapter ends.

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Unicorns found (sort of)


If you think unicorns are just mythical beasts who never really existed, get ready for a shock.

Archeologists in Siberia have unearthed remains of a beast that was strikingly similar to a unicorn, large tusk at the prow and all. However, these beasts weren’t exactly slender and horse-like. They were a bit more like rhinoceroses with much bigger horns.

The Siberian unicorn – Elasmotherium sibiricum – last walked the Earth about 29,000 years ago, according to a report by the American Journal of Applied Sciences.

The unicorn skull was found in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan.

It reportedly stood about 6 feet 6 inches tall, measured around 15 feet long, and weighed about 8,000 pounds.
As Science Alert explains, “That’s closer to woolly mammoth-sized than horse-sized.”
Still, it was a unicorn and is being classified as such.
So go on unicorn lovers, you can still believe. The animal discover may be a bit larger and uglier, but it just may have an still-unfound related species that figures so highly in fantasy fiction.

Here’s a video that shows an artists rendering of the beast:

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Another Character Breakout!

My characters are quite aggressive. They often argue with me long after a writing session is over, and, at least on one occasion, took over my blog. Well, here comes another character who feels a need to speak out. I’m only going to interrupt her with a few questions:

I’m Veronica Stevens and, so far anyway, Lynn’s leading female character. I’ve got a lot of things on my mind and I can’t seem to get Lynn to put all my concerns on the page.

For one thing, I’m a recent widow. My beloved husband Matt succumbed to cancer about three months ago. No, I know the date, it was EXACTLY three months ago. After clearing out the bills, dealing with the will, and getting the funeral taken care of, I was just

a rag with no motivation at all. Someone suggested that I move somewhere more exciting to put my copy editing career into high gear. (Matt had always subsidized my job, which didn’t pull in a living wage.) So I went through all my business cards and saw that most of my clients were from the Chicago area. And those who weren’t, well, the Internet makes that not a problem I decided that a short hop from my old home in Milwaukee to a high-rise in Chicago’s Loop would definitely change my life—and I hoped in a positive way.

Well, now I’m in my classy South Loop apartment and was shelving books. I started getting sad become some of the volumes were ones that Matt and I loved to read together. Now he was no longer there to listen to my vision of “The Lord of the Ring’s” Rivendell or hear a sweet re-reading of parts of “The Princess Bride.”  To keep from crying I bent over to pick up an extremely boring physics book to reshelf  and out of it fell an x-ray and medical report. It showed that Matt was dealing with more than cancer. There was another condition that could kill him. When he went into remission, he insisted on taking things slow and easy, and now I see why. Because Matt was on the road to recovery near the end. The chemo had done wonders and all the numbers were going in the right direction. Then, almost in a flash, they were summoning me to his bedside. We had about ten seconds to hold hands and say “I love you,” Then he was gone.

My friends back in Milwaukee think I should show this report and ask them if this other medical condition caused Matt’s demise, And then, I think, what does it matter? He’s still gone.

LYNN: Veronica, what do you want to do to get one with your life? Do you have any hobbies?

You know, someone at a Starbucks asked me about that when we were chatting, and I said I was going to miss Milwaukee because I couldn’t garden here. A girl behind the counter jumped up and said, “No, that’s not true. Chicago has community gardens.” I found out that by going out of my congested neighborhood to an area with park land, I could rent a plot where I could grow anything I would like. This really has me excited and I’m going to go to the Park District offices right away and find out about a plot of my own.

LYNN: You better just call, the Park District office is too intimidating in person. Veronica, what about making friends? What do you plan to do about being alone in the city?

Well, it’s daunting, but I thought I’d try to sign up for some of those field trips the park district offers. And dance lessons! There have to be some people who like to dance and be chatty too.

I’m not looking for men, mind you. I’m much too raw for that.

Although I had a disturbing dream in Milwaukee that I was an Egyptian priestess and a lower-ranked priest came up to talk to me. The attraction was instant and I felt I had met my soul mate. When I woke up, I felt a little guilty this happened so close to Matt’s death. But, damn, I’d like to meet that Egyptian man.

LYNN: Would you know him if you saw him—in this life?

Of course. And he’d be attracted to me. I’m taller than I was in my dream. I’m actually 5-foot-7, and I’m a pretty young-looking 35. I think I’d have no trouble attracting him.

LYNN: So, you are thinking about meeting men!

I’d be a liar if I didn’t say yes. Let’s just say I’m not looking too hard.

LYNN: What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?


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Solar, solar, everywhere

Fantastic World

So you think it’s pretty cool that you installed solar panels on your roof to collect free energy from the sun? London has a way of making that achievement look pretty small.

On the water, east of London, the British just have finished building a 23,000-solar panel floating array on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir at Walton-on-Thames.

“This will be the biggest floating solar farm in the world for a time—others are under construction,” said Angus Berry, energy manager for Thames Water, told the Guardian newspaper. “We are leading the way, but we hope that others will follow, in the UK and abroad.”

The $8.5 million pound project will allow the solar structure to treat the area’s entire drinking water plants for decades. It will provide clean drinking water for 10 million people in London and south-east London. The idea of putting solar panels on water is that that it is largely unused, whereas such an area of land would be quite expensive. The project does not harm sea life, and fish are easily able to swim into areas where the solar panels don’t block sunlight.

The British Government has slashed subsidies for solar and wind power, but Berry said this will not effect the QEII project, but might have an effect for future products.

Want to get a look at the QEII solar project? Good luck. It’s only visible by air from Heathrow Airport (or from a few apartment buildings in the nearby area).


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Unearthing Cambodia’s Treasure

Fantastic World

Using lidor, a sophisticated remote sensing technology that is similar to radar, an international team of archeologist headed by the University of Sydney’s Dr. Damian Evans, uncovered a hidden city around the Cambodian temple of Angkor Wat. In what is now a dense jungle, the lidor (which they used by flying over the area in helicopters) uncovered roads, temples and even a hydraulic water system that once sustained a city that was the greatest medieval complex in the world.

At its peak in the 12th century, the city of Angkor covered 1,000 square kilometers. London only reached that size 700 years later.
Angkor was the capital of the Khmer empire, which encompassed all of present-day Cambodia and much of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. The city of Angkor had about a million residents.

_77664683_angkorwat624.jpg      The largest structure of Angkor is Angkor Wat, which is still uncovered and attracts millions of visitors a year. Angkor Wat covers an area four times larger than the Vatican.

The hydraulic water system, which emerged as the most staggering achievement of this ancient culture, harness monsoon waters in  complex network of canals and reservoirs. The harvested water provided food security for the residents of the city, and made the city’s noble class fabulously wealthy. They used this wealth to build some of the most amazing temples on earth. One temple contained so much gold that its value to day would have been $3.3 billion.

Disaster struck for the Khmer empire when they paid more attention to building temples than to maintaining the hydraulic network. And just like in some modern cities, when the infrastructure crumbled, the populace suffered. Eventually, large climate shifts across southeast Asia brought the city down. Tree ring samples recorded sudden fluctuations between dry and wet conditions. Lidar maps show a huge flood that must have overcome the city’s water network.

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Novelists’ characters take over

It may seem like a strange thing, but many fiction writers become so involved with their characters that the dramatic personae take on a life of their own. In a recent (admittedly small-scale) Facebook survey of writers, a large percentage of novelists admitted that they talk to their characters, dream about them, have arguments (silently) with them and so on. Sara Paretsky, the mystery novelist, once told me that she got the idea for her character V. I. Warshawski, when she started hearing a voice in her head (and I can testify that she’s not crazy).

Now, as I start a new novel, one of my own characters is not only talking to me, he wants to take over this blog for a day. So take it away, Travis:

You know I’ve always wanted to be a blogger, so here’s my big chance! I’m really a photographer and do everything from the occasional portrait to large-scale artwork, mostly ofnature and majestic rock formations in the American West. I do my best work on the art shots and recently was picked up as a freelancer for one of the most amazing photo magazines in the U.S. They are sending me to the Great Wall of China for my first assignment and I can hardly wait. I feel a special connection with China.

You see, I had a dream about being there. It was more than a dream, actually. I felt I was really there. I was in a courtyard, surrounded by scores of martial artists. We all had horses with us. When the clarion sounded and the Emperor came out to the plaza, we jumped up as one and did a synchronized display of martial arts movement, riding dressage on the horses, all while carrying the Emperor’s signature flag. It was spellbinding.

I can’t stumblr_nrunr1vW2K1u7wocpo1_500eem to get rid of that dream. Now I’ll get a chance to find out if I really do fit into the culture over there.

I certainly won’t fit in visually. I’m a tall guy, about six-foot-one, with reddish brown hair down to my shoulders, and a scruffy beard. I could maybe created a small ponytail at the back, but my hair’s just not long enough. You remember Aragorn in Lord of the Rings? My hair is pretty much like that (only not dirty all the time!). I am pretty exuberant and sometimes embarrass my friends in crowds, so the polite Chinese might find me a little much.

However, that’s just the visible me. The inner me is much more complex. Although I have what looks like a good career for a guy who’s in his early thirties, I actually worry every day where the money is coming from. Since the advent of digital cameras, and then the proliferation of cell phones that can take good pictures,

everyone thinks he or she is a photographer these days. I live in Boulder, Colorado, and often sell my photos to the local paper or even the Denver Post. But more and more these publications are buying the work by amateurs. Cell phones may just spell the end of my career if it gets any easier to take a beautiful shot without knowing about f-stops, lighting, and all the things I learned in photography school.

Worse, I wish I had someone to share my life with. I haven’t had a girlfriend since the day my sister Sara died of lung cancer. That was a few years ago. I just haven’t had the will to get out and introduce myself to women. I have become something of an anti-smoking crusader, however. I owe that much to my favorite sister.

So, I hide behind my camera viewfinder and look at the world through a camera lens. Not really participating in the world, but really wishing I could.

And be nice to Lynn. She’s telling my story and it will be in a book one day. Maybe I really will be famous.


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Old-time fairy tales older than you think

Fantastic World

Do you think that “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Rumpelstiltskin” are relatively recent fairy tales—going back maybe a couple hundred years?

Some anthropologists and linguists think otherwise. They say that the origins of these and other tales go back some thousands of years, with one—“The Smith and the Devil—going back to the Bronze Age.

“These stories are far older than the first literary evidence for them,” Durham University anthropologist Jamie Tehran told Science News. He explained that when linguists study a language’s evolution, they are tracing grammatical and phonetical structure though time.

Tehrani and Sara Graca da Silva of the New University of Lisbon in Portugal studied 275 magic-based stories. Taking statistical analyses of the relationship between folktales and language left them with 76 stories that they thought could help estimate folktale age.

Four stories had a high probability of being associated with Proto-Indo-European language, the precursor language of Germanic and Romance languages.

Beside being quite sure of the ancient date of “The Smith and the Devil,” the team also found early versions of “Rumpelstiltskin” (then called “The Name of the Supernatural Helper”) and “Beauty and the Beast.” The language-story pairings say the stories originated 3,000 or 4,000 years ago.

“We don’t invent culture anew every generation,” Tehran said. “We inherit a lot of our culture.”


“Rumpelstiltskin” (left) and “Beauty and the Beast.”

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A lost underground arises

Fantastic world

The prehistoric cave paintings of Lescaux, France, have been a wonder that millions have gone to see. The paintings of animals and other objects were painted with meticulous care by people living in the region 18,000 years ago. The cave paintings became a Unesco World Heritage treasure since 1979.

However, by 1963, scientists had discovered that the throngs of tourists breathing and bringing in moist air were ruining the fragile microclimate of the cave and endangering the art. The French closed off the caves, but always wanted to find some way to make the artwork accessible to the public again. Finally, they decided a few years ago to reproduce the paintings and show them in a special museum in the same area, in the Dordogne region of France.

It took three years for artists make faithful copies of the artwork, engraving, sculpting, chiseling by hand and using small paintbrushes, even some tools used in dentistry. The art experts are now transporting 46 separate segments that make up the full copy of the Lescaux paintings and putting them in a semi-buried hillside in Montiganac, near the cave where the Lescaux paintings were found.

There are almost 2,000 cave paintings of rhinos, horses, deer, bison and panthers. The artists said they were humbled by the experience of re-creating the artwork.

“They are extraordinary technicians,” Francis Ringback, artistic director of the project told The Guardian newspaper. “Reproducing animal likenesses from memory and with their highly vivid movements.”

The end product will look as much like the real thing as possible. It will have the same darkness, smells, humidity and temperature. Visitors even will be greeted by a sounds of a dog barking, which was what the caves discoverers first heard in 1940.

The $63,168 million dollar project used cutting-edge technology to mirror the original as closely as possible. Three-dimensional scans were projected on walls, which let artists “trace” the originals using natural pigments. This is the second life-size replica of ancient cave paintings to be completed in a year in France. Before this project, President Francois Hollande inaugurated a facsimile of Grotte Chalet, containing prehistoric art dating back 36,000 years.

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On the search for E.T.s

Fantastic World

Many of the people think “the truth is out there” about extra-terrestrials and alien spacecraft (and I consider myself on the fence on this issue). They are deciding to do something about the long history of government denials and possible cover-ups. They plan to build an E.T.-catcher of sorts—a satellite that will capture information and images that suggest alien spaceship behavior. The CubeSat for Disclosure, which is still awaiting crowdfunding for its $50,000 budget, will beam information to local citizens and bypass government bodies.

Dave Cote, the prime mover behind the CubeSat project, is a Canadian who is sick of listening to government denials of E.T.s that have been reported by various believable sources.

“We have former astronauts, military personnel, police officers, and the former defense minister of Canada come forward stating that extraterrestrial UFOs are real, and that we are being visited,” Cote said in a press release. “How can this be ignored or brushed off as nonsense?”
video of CubeSat (warning, this is long)
He says the CubeSat will be put into low orbit and use infrared, electromagnetic and radiation sensors, as well as two cameras set to photograph at 360 degrees.

“Maybe we’ll get data readings and pictures of solar-flared-caused auroras; maybe we’ll capture images of some very interesting meteors; and maybe, we’ll actually capture a verifiable craft,” Cote said. “All we can do is try, and by doing this our way, we can open-source the data to you, the individuals.”

The nano-satellite will have an orbital lifespan of about three months before it burns up on reentry, so Cote better get a lot of data in a short amount of time.

The government of any country will not be able to hide the data, he told the Huffington Post.

“This is all ours,” he told the news service.

It’s certainly worth a try because the U.S. government has been notorious in refusing to release information on cited UFOs, leading to such cult groups as believers in the recently revived “The X-Files.” The authorites can’t say everyone who’s seen an odd craft in the sky is crazy. Whether they’ve seen evidence of extraterrestrial life is another, arguable subject.

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