Mark Neumayer

author of the Valda & the Valkyries series

Tag: creative life (page 1 of 3)

Looking for Critique Partners and Beta Readers

By Leonid Pasternak [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ideally, these people would like fantasy work geared towards upper MG/lower YA, because that’s what I write. I have one book up on Amazon and the next is done awaiting final polish at 89k words.

I am thick-skinned about my work and prefer to hear honest reactions to it. On the flip side if you want me to look at something of yours, I will nicely tell you what I think is wrong with it. I like reading all sorts of stuff myself: fantasy; science fiction; mysteries; action/adventure/espionage and more.

If you’re interested in working with me get in touch and we can start small with a chapter exchange and take it from there. Thanks!

Designing Inspiration

I write but I was also a graphic designer for many years so I like to play around with visual images to help inspire me when I am working on a book. There are a number of authors who collect images to help them with locations and characters. I have a Pinterest account where I post images I have found that inspire me while writing and I even continue to add to those Pinterest boards after the book has come out.

It’s also nice to have a physical, tangible prompt to help you along. You might think of it as a talisman or lucky charm. For myself I like to create mockups of my book. These fake covers are then printed out and taped on top of real books. I then have something I can set out on my desk. When I see a “book” like this it reminds me of the goal I’m working towards (or the project I should be working on if I’m wasting time doing something else on the computer.) Yes, it is a bit of a mind game – but it works.

For my first Valda book, Valda & the Valkyries, I created the image to the left. valda wordsThis is nothing like the final book cover but it doesn’t need to be. I don’t stress over getting these mockups perfect. I have a book to write and I don’t have time for that. I just find a good, evocative image, tweak it in Photoshop, slap on some text and call it a day. (One of the giveaways that I rushed these is that they both say “by Mark Neumayer.” Pro designs don’t use the word “by.”)

The image I used for this mockup is a miniature from Reaper minis. If you write fantasy or scifi you can find tons of inspiring images of minis on company web pages and fan sites all over the net.

For the current WIP, Valda Goes Through Hel, I found an awesome image on DeviantArt. Since Hela, the Norse goddess of Death plays a huge part in the story I used the image to create a book cover featuring her. Again, this is kind of down and dirty. My goal with these mockups is not to get a perfect image. I want something that is going to inspire me. It definitely works for me. Give it a try and see if it works for you, too.


Valda Goes Through Hel cover in progress

VGTH_in_progressThis is what my screen looks like in Adobe Illustrator right now as I work on the cover for Valda Goes Through Hel. You can see the linework I have done so far in the center of the screen and her finished hammer is in the upper right. They are both surrounded by reference and inspirational images.
After all the line work is done I do flat colors and then bring everything into Photoshop to add lighting and other fun effects. The cover creation process is a source of joy and frustration to me but I am hoping I can get this one looking half as good as the image that is in my head.

Space Patrol B5

trioI’m sharing an older piece of art this week but I think it has held up pretty well. These three guys are part of the crew for a group I made up called Space Patrol B5. It is a knockoff of the many Japanamation teams from over the years. I have some rough script ideas for them and even designed a logo for the group but never took them much further than these initial concept sketches for the three male characters of the group.

The style of these guys really struck me. Cutesy, no noses, bright colors – it hits most of my buttons for what I like to draw. These guys, and the rest of the team, deserve a little more time and work once I have some time, that is. 😎

Posted by Mark Neumayer

Loki Brownson

Loki/Charlie Brown mash-upI have mentioned before that I don’t know where the ideas come from. Sometimes they slowly bubble their way up out of my subconscious. Other times they spring forth fully adult, like Athena bursting from the forehead of Zeus. (I know that’s Greek, not Norse, but I couldn’t think of a Norse example that fit as well.) The idea for this mashup sprang forth fully formed and I know from long experience that when I get an idea like this, I have to draw it to get it out of my head. Good grief, indeed.

Posted by Mark Neumayer

Happy Thorsgiving

Thursday is Thor’s day and it is about time I offered up a kawaii version of the god of thunder. I’m sure my wife will be sad to see this sketch owes more to the Norse traditions than to the Marvel Comics edition. (She has a crush on Chris Hemsworth.) I’ve also gone with the traditional short-handled hammer. Loki kept messing with the Dwarves when they were creating some magical items for him. While the other items came out fine, the Trickster managed to distract the Dwarf working the bellows so that Mjolnir came out with a shorter than normal handle.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it. Happy Thorsgiving to the rest of you.

Posted by Mark Neumayer

Valkyrie Art

Hey, it’s Thursday so it’s time to post some Norse-themed art. Once again, this is in a different style from some of the stuff I have posted before. I can’t help it. Like Whitman said “I contain multitudes.” Except in my case it appears to be multitudes of artists who can’t decide on one way to draw things.

This stylized valkyrie was part of the background on the original cover for my book Valda & the Valkyries. I decided to polish her up and give her the spotlight treatment today.


When the Norse went raiding they did so in some of the most phenomenal ships to ever sail the seas. The ships were clinker-built, meaning they were made from overlapping boards. This was a tough, resilient design that could take the pounding of ocean waves. They were all built with shallow draft hulls. This means they rode relatively high in the water. This design allowed them a number of advantages: great speed; the ability to navigate in as little as three feet of water; the ability to be beached and easily re-floated back into the ocean. There are different categories of longship, though. If you want to read a detailed account of them all I would suggest the site Shipfans which has a thorough article here.

The class of longship I want to mention today is the Drekar, or dragon boat. These are the ones people picture when you say Viking ship because of the carvings of menacing beasts that they carried either at the front of the boat or at front and back.  This is the ship Hollywood and artists love so much because it makes such a striking visual. Ironically, the best descriptions we have of them come from the sagas like the 13th century Göngu-Hrólfs Saga, and not archaeological finds. The sagas claim the carvings were there to protect the crew by frightening off the monsters of the deep. It is also likely the Vikings understood the power of a such an image to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies. The most famous and best-preserved Viking ship of today is the Oseberg ship. It does feature some truly incredible carving, but sadly the prows of the ship are formed into a spiraling serpent and not a dragon.

My Norse-themed art for this week is what the prow of a drekar might have looked like. I created the base design with the knotwork in Adobe Illustrator and used Photoshop to add effects.

Posted by Mark Neumayer

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

Huginn and Muninn

artwork copyright Mark Neumayer 2012

In Norse mythology one of Odin’s many names is raven-god. He owes that to these two guys, Huginn and Muninn. Their names mean Thought and Memory and every day they fly around the world seeing what they can see before returning to bring their news to Odin at the end of the day. Ravens are popular in Norse art. You can find a number of images that show the ravens perched on the back or arms of Odin’s throne.

A passage from Grimnismal in the Poetic Edda has Odin stating:

I fear for Hugin, that he come not back,

yet more anxious am I for Munin.

That passage got me to wondering what would happen if Munin/Memory did not come back? What would happen if someone stole our memory? I ran with that idea a bit in my first book.

This week’s artwork was inspired by a gorgeous raven brooch that can be found on this page. I riffed a little on the design, adding some more knotwork.

That’s it for now. More superhero kawaii goodness coming up this Saturday.

Posted by Mark Neumayer

Older posts

© 2017 Mark Neumayer

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑