Mark Neumayer

author of the Valda & the Valkyries series

Tag: books (page 1 of 2)

At the Speed of Light (scifi book review)

Let’s start off by stating I received a free copy of this book to review and I’ll be handing out some spoilers down below..

There is some good writing and some interesting ideas in this novella by Simon Morden, but ultimately the overall experience left me feeling unsatisfied for a number of reasons.

The story starts with the main character waking up not knowing who or where they are. This is such an overused opening that most every book on writing tells you to avoid it. Usually an author does this as a vehicle to explain everything. That is not the case here because the main character is popping back and forth between two different realities while struggling to decide which of them is “real.” As you work your way through this and try to solve the problem with him you then discover it doesn’t matter – neither reality is real. No, wait. They kind of were both true but not really. Confusing? Yes, it is. I almost stopped reading at this point.

So we have shifted into the actual reality of the book now. The events of the beginning were actually the dreams of an A.I. Now that the dreams are over we shift into a more cold calculating person for the MC. The whole tone of the book shifts. It feels like two different stories cut apart and Frankensteined together. There is an explanation further along that lays out the reasons for why this all happened but, while it makes some logical sense, it stills doesn’t flow as a story should.

There are a number of typos in the book. Something this short should not have a half dozen mistakes in it.

Finally, the story ends on a cliffhanger. While I would have been interested enough to read on to another chapter, I wasn’t engaged enough that I will hunt down more of the series. (I am assuming this is a novella released as a sort of prequel.}

Ultimately, all of this added up to leaving me with a general feeling of dissatisfaction and no desire to seek out more of the story.

A quote from Geri

Geri quoteOdin has two wolves called Geri and Freki. When I made them characters in my first book I didn’t know how much fun it would be to write their dialogue. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Geri.

Digital Weaves invades The Hive

The Hive in downtown Gastonia is now selling copies of Digital Weaves, my coloring book for adults. I am really happy to be partnering with such a cool store. They sell lots of local products: tons of stationary; art supplies; and all kinds of cool gifts. You can even pick up some bars of my wife’s soap there, too.

New Coloring Book

DigitalWeavesThe little coloring project that I was working on is finally ready to go. Digital Weaves: Vector Graphic Coloring Pages Inspired by Ancient Knot-work is now available at Here is the back cover copy:

Coloring therapy might be a new buzz word but the idea of coloring to reduce stress isn’t – Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist had patients color in pictures 100 years ago. Various forms of decorative knot-work have been used for centuries. From the intricate cording of the Chinese to the illuminated manuscripts of the Celts to the wildly imaginative carvings of the Norse, these patterns of lines have provided an endless source of fascination. Digital Weaves combines these two ideas into one book that soothes the mind. It uses the newest digital technology to create stunningly complicated artwork inspired by the knots of old. Ease away your stress and tension as you indulge your inner artist.

smallVGTHI have a giveaway running now on Goodreads. Two signed print copies of my book Valda Goes Through Hel are up for grabs. You have until the end of the month to sign up for your chance to win. Contest is open to the US, Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

Valda Goes Through Hel

VGTHsmallYes, I put a young girl through Hel and wrote a book about it. 🙂 The Kindle edition is finally up on Amazon (You can buy it here) and a print version will be following shortly. Here’s the cover copy:

The young Dwarven girl Valda is finally and truly a Valkyrie. She has earned her place as a servant of the Norse gods. She is finally free to travel beyond her ancient mountain home. That’s when Odin sends her on a mission that brings her straight back to her ancient mountain home.

There she discovers Draugr, the zombies of the Norse world, are threatening the city. Her search for the person behind this threat takes her all the way to Hel, the land of the dead. She can at least be grateful that Loki isn’t the one behind this deadly plot. Then she learns that the Trickster is the only one who can help her stop the undead threat. How can she find her biggest enemy and convince him to help her?

This adventure has our spunky Dwarven Valkyrie going through figurative Hel as she receives one of the worst punishments a Dwarf can suffer. Then she journeys to the literal Norse land of the Dead and meets it’s queen –  Hela.

This book is part of the Valda & the Valkyrie series, an ongoing story that takes you on a wild ride, galloping through the people and places of Norse mythology, while throwing in plenty of twists and turns that stay true to the spirit of the sagas. The series is suitable for readers of all ages who are looking for a light-hearted, adventurous story.

All-Seeing Odin

I’m working through the edits on my second novel Valda Goes Through Hel. It is a sequel to my first one Valda and the Valkyries and follows the title character on a difficult journey as she travels through the Norse land of the dead at the same time that she through one heck of an emotional wringer.

As I was working through some of the comments I got back from my great friend/first reader/editor Lyn Meany Robertson I came across a comment from her about how All-Seeing Odin did not foresee the outcome of a certain event. While I typed out a response to her comment it brought up an interesting train of thought that I wanted to share.

Odin has many different names. You can find a great list of them on this Wikipedia page. He is The Wanderer, Raven God, God of Wishes, Father of Victory and many, many more names including All-Seeing. But when I think of this last name I think it refers to his actual vision, in particular when he is seated on his throne Hlidskjalf. When he is seated there Gylfaginning tells us that “he looked out over the whole world and saw every man’s acts, and knew all things which he saw.” This strikes me as a reference to physical vision.

When Odin trades his eye in exchange for a drink from Mimir’s Well he gains knowledge of the future and the coming end of the gods at Ragnarok. But he still doesn’t know everything, he doesn’t see the outcomes of all of his actions. That sense of fallibility, that the gods are not all-knowing, runs through almost all of the Norse myths. The gods are not perfect: Thor loses his temper; Loki is a liar and a cheat; Odin steals the mead of poetry. For all of their might and power – they have human qualities. (I could just as well say that we have their qualities.) I think it is this humanity that makes their stories so appealing through the years. We still thrill to their legends because we see touches of ourselves within them. Faced with the often intimidating specter of an unknowable future, we can draw comfort from the fact that the gods in some small way share our journey.

Who To Trust

norsegodsbookI’ve been reading Norse Gods, Goddesses, Giants, Dwarves, Elves & More – A Complete Guide by H.A. Guerber. It is a hefty book published way back in 1909 that really tries to live up to the subtitle’s claim of being “complete.” (I give it bonus points for being edited by A. Thor.) In addition to the many stories it also gathers together over 60 illustrations. I have the Kindle version which claims to have been “revamped” in 2011.

While I do recommend this book for any fans of Norse mythology, I have to deliver that recommendation with a very big caveat – I am not sure that I can trust all of the stories in this book. This isn’t a scholarly book – it has no index and there are numerous mentions of “various sources” without any naming of those sources.

Don’t get me wrong, the book is an enjoyable read. It presents its information in a clear straightforward style that is entertaining. I have read some other reviews where people complained that it had too many poetry excerpts. I can understand that is just a byproduct of the time when the book was written. My quibble with the poetry has more to do with the author using both quotes from the Eddas and later sources such as Longfellow and Wagner. The similar presentation subtly implies that all the poetry has equal merit in depicting Norse myths. But while I have a certain level of respect for Longfellow and Wagner and the work they have done in helping to popularize the Norse myths, I don’t look to them as experts in the field.

Yet this brings up another issue – how accurate was Snorri? Nancy Marie Brown has a fascinating series of blog posts titled Seven Norse Myths We  Wouldn’t Have Without Snorri. In those posts she lays out her arguments for why she thinks Snorri didn’t just transcribe Norse legends, but made some of them up on his own. She makes some good arguments and the series is worth a read.

The whole issue of what the ancient Norse really believed is such a thorny one. We don’t have the written records for them like we do for the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. So we may never know definitive answers. And that is what can be so frustrating about this field and ultimately about Guerber’s book. I kept reading little bits and pieces of information and thinking “that’s so cool, I haven’t read that before.” But without some explanation about where exactly that nugget of information can from I am hesitant to use it. I’ve been burned by sources before – in my first book, Valda & the Valkyries,  I have Loki claiming to be a fire god because that is what so many sources used to say. I’m a bit gun-shy now. It could be a result of living in the interconnected world of the internet where all the information I could want is at my fingertips. Unfortunately it happens to be mixed in with all of the misinformation that I don’t want and there aren’t always clear signs telling me which is which.

Ultimately I can recommend Norse Gods, Goddesses, etc … as an entertaining read and a good overview, but I would hesitate to endorse it as 100% accurate.

Kennings are Cool

Viking Dragon Ship from a Northumbrian manuscript

Kennings are a kind of word-play that originated back in Old English, Old Norse and Germanic poetry. Kennings create a new compound word or phrase that replaces another one. The best kennings are creative and make you think about something in a new way. Probably the most famous kenning from the olden days was using the phrase whale-road to talk about the sea. (Since a whale travels through the sea in the same sense that a man travels along a road.) Blood became slaughter-dew or battle-sweat, the sun becomes a sky-candle and a king is giver-of-gold. These were poetical phrases and we’ve lost some of the alliteration as the words are translated, but you can still see the beauty of the imagery in many of the old phrases. You can find a list of more Norse kennings here.

When I first read about these I thought they were the neatest thing. I’ve been writing a long time and I love witty word-play and that is what kennings are all about. I was a little bummed that we don’t have modern day kennings. This wouldn’t be the first time that my first impression was wrong because while I was looking for more kennings I came across this page from one Dr. Wheeler of Carson-Newman College and I saw that there are more kennings around us than we may first realize. Have you ever told a rug-rat to shut their pie-hole? Then you’ve used a kenning. Some other modern ones are beer-goggles, gas-guzzler, boob-tube, tramp-stamp, eye-candy, cancer-stick, fat-cat and wall-flower

Try making up some of your own and add them into the comments, but please, keep them clean, we don’t allow potty-mouths on the blog.

Posted by Mark Neumayer

I Put a 15-year-old Girl Through Hel

I did, it’s true. Although I’m not talking about cyber-bullying (Is there an app for that?) or even real-life bullying. No, this was more along the lines of making life miserable for the heroine of my second novel.

If you’ve been reading my other blog entries you know that I’m into writing books based on Norse mythology. I started out with Valda & the Valkyries. Now  I just finished the first draft of the second book in the series Valda Goes Through Hel. In this one I literally and figuratively put my spunky Dwarf heroine through Hel. She becomes aware of some troubling side-effects to being a Valkyrie, suffers the worst fate possible for a Dwarf, and has to lead a collection of scoundrels on a mission through Hel itself. For inspiration I followed pulp-writer Lester Dent’s advice:

Part one, hit your hero with a heap of trouble. Part two, double it. Part three, put him in so much trouble there’s no way he could ever possibly get out of it.

The manuscript is going out to my fantastic group of alpha readers now. I can’t say enough good things about how much I value their help. If you are a writer you know this already. Good alpha readers are a treasured commodity. Once I get their feedback and finish with the final edits I’ll be packaging it all together and getting it published as soon as possible.

Today’s image comes to us through I plugged the text into their nifty tool and got back this fun word cloud. The larger the word, the more often it appears during the text. You can see Valda is front and center and Hrulfgar is back as well, but who or what are Draugr? You ‘ll have to check back next week to find out.

Posted by Mark Neumayer

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