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About Emma Newman

Emma Newman writes short stories, novels and novellas in multiple speculative fiction genres. She is a professional audiobook narrator, and a Hugo Award winning podcaster. Her current podcasts are ‘Imagining Tomorrow’ and ‘Tea and Sanctuary’. www.enewman.co.uk

The Script

Comic script - this is exactly what happened to my son in the small hours of this morning. I only saw the messages when I woke up, and he told me what happened once he was awake. It made me laugh, and I immediately thought it might make a fun comic and Beanie agreed!

A young man (if you want to base him loosely on my son, he’s 16 years old, tall, short brown hair, blue eyes) is about to leave his room but spots a huge spider on wall next to the door (it is on the wall that the door would rest against when open and the dressing gown hanging on the back of the door would brush against where the spider is) . 

He is terrified of spiders, so he can’t open the door. It’s the small hours of the morning.

He leaps onto his bed on the other side of the room, a bookcase blocking the line of sight between him and the spider and tries to phone his Mum who is sleeping in her room across the landing, and message her on WhatsApp, but her phone is on ‘Do not disturb’ so there’s no answer. 

Panicking, he phones friends until one finally picks up - ‘Help! There’s a huge spider in my room!’

Friend: What colour is it?

Beanie: Black? Brown? I dunno! It was BIG

Friend: You’re okay, I don’t think they can climb.

Beanie: IT’S ON MY WALL! (throughout the rest of this exchange the friend also now freaking out is just making Bean panic even more!) 

Friend: Oh, that one can climb then! Just dash out the door!

Beanie: It’s by the door, I can’t get out!

Friend: IT’S IN YOUR ROOM?! 

Beanie: Yes, I told you this!

He peeps round the bookcase. The spider is gone!

Beanie: It’s gone!

Friend: THAT MEANS IT COULD BE ANYWHERE!

Beanie’s eyes flick to all the posters it could be hiding behind, and all the clothes and stuff on his floor it could now be lurking under.

Beanie: YOU ARE NOT HELPING!

He hangs up and hides in the duvet. If you think that a final shot on the spider’s hiding place would be a good ending, do add that in, but happy to end it on Beanie hiding.

 

Artists Notes

One of the goals of the project was to try and work with as many writers as possible, and so I told every writer "Don't worry - I'll take any format of script" - there are sort of comic script standards, and attempts have been made in the past to really hammer them in, but for the most part every writer I work with works a little different anyway. That said, this script required a lot of thinking about to get the most out of the story (you can argue amongst yourself whether that's what I did).

Firstly there's a sort of action limit in comics, every action will usually require one panel - character opens door, walks through door, locks door? that's three panels. I felt like, on this script, there was too much going on to fit in the super limited single page I had, plus some of the action I wanted to build it up a bit more, so I knew I'd be putting a bunch of panels towards the getting ready to go out (because build up build up build up build up PUNCHLINE!) I also knew I wanted the dialogue interaction to have that ratatatat rapid delivery, which meant I'd get a single panel for that set of dialogue. This meant brutalising the story a little, cutting out the contacting of his mum and going straight to the friend. I also wanted a little end note on the spider - I thought that would be fun, a happy little chappy. (remove the last spider panel and the page feels like it's not quite finished - it's a figurative and literal full stop)

The manga shading effect/speedlines came after I'd drawn it and realise it would work better with a little bit of manga (tonally too, fits a teen), and the coloured lettering was because I needed someway to quickly distinguish the two sets of dialogue (I decided to eschew clip studio's balloon lettering tools a) because it would take ages to get exactly how I want it and b) because I thought I could add more character to it that way. The background of the room is pretty much a direct tracing of my teenage son's bedroom (which is so quintessentially teenager it looks like a set from a modern John Hughes teen comedy). (And it's all my son's work, he's done that all without parental help)

Anyway. This was finished the day before publication, but I think it turned out ok.

Oh, and because I drew it, and then slathered lettering all over it, here's the page without dialogue...

A reset

Feel like a reset is in order. I’ve been spending so long in the moment, by which I mean neither keeping track of the work I’ve done nor scheduling it in any meaningful way, simply trying to draw as much as I can when I can. This has lead, I think to burnout (if not total burnout at least early symptoms). No past, no future, only constant never ending present.

Sometimes the work will stop, every line feels wrong or you find yourself battling with the idea of drawing itself.

Iv’e taken a couple of steps. Step one, restart with the pomodoros, this is usually enough to stop my brain thinking I’ve spent hours on half a panel when in fact it’s only been five minutes.

Secondly, I’ve restarted noting what work I’ve done in a diary. I always fall off that, but I need to try not to.

And thirdly, I’ve decided to try and reset back to do doing TWO things per day. Two pages of pencils or two pages of inks. If I can do that without pause it’ll still represent 30 pages (or so) per month. Way ahead of what I need to do.

That’s largely a nominal goal, if I do more, brill. If I do less, that’s fine. But once I hit my goal I’m allowing myself to relax and not worry about any more work for the day. That’s where I’ve really been punishing myself, do more, do more, do more and you never did enough.

In other news, I’ve been regularly walking with my pal Jim Lavery most days for the past few months and then a couple of weeks ago we started couch to 5k together. He’s a lot fitter than me, but I’m now fitter than I was a few weeks ago. Oddly, now we run Mon/Wed/Fri I find myself not going for walks on the days between and that’s not so good. Will try and correct for that.

I dunno if I can guarantee I’ll blog more, I feel like I’ve spent the last twenty years alternating between promising I’ll blog more and apologising for blogging less.

I’ve been off twitter for a while, and there’s a big part of me feeling sort of done with all social media, and actually a lot of online stuff. Thinking more and more about retirement, it’s a good decade plus off, but I never remember it preoccupying my thoughts any where near as much. True to most comic artists, my retirement will likely look less like someone not working and more like someone who will inevitably die at the drawing board. But then, maybe I can keep getting better and better at drawing and – like Hokasai said “When I am 80 you will see real progress”.

The PaperClip Problem

The paperclip problem, except none of the paperclips can actually be used to hold paper together, and only sort of look like a paperclip from a distance and people are telling you how brilliant the paperclips will be eventually even though they never seem to get any better.
Source: PJ Holden. I’m quoting myself, which is TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE form. But I’m largely doing it to see if I can get “Press This” working again, a feature I used for years on word press that seemed to have slowly disappeared. It allows me to blog on whatever website I’m looking at, straight in to my blog. Anyway if this works, maybe I’ll tempt me into more reliable blogging.

Dublin City Comic Con

Was at Dublin City Comic Con this weekend, well, the Saturday (the Sunday was mother’s day and ended up staying home for that)

Was good to be at a con again, I suspect it’ll take me to go to a few to find my feet at the things again, covid having done a number on everything really. Met some new friends (hello Alan and Ellie) and to my suprise and delight, actual fans. (Not as suprising to me as it was to my son who was also there)

Anyway, did some portfolio reviews and gave some advice, so, to the best of my recall, here is some of that self same advice:

If you want a career in comics, make sure you have three months worth of living expenses in the bank at ALL times. Any less than that and you’re in trouble. Here’s why – if you’re looking for work, it could take month. If you get the work, could take a month to do it. Once you finish and invoice for it, could take a month to pay – simple. Three months. Though, to be perfectly honest, if you can, you owe it to yourself to bank six months at all times, this industry is HARD.

If you’re a writer with a submissions package, figure out what your end game is, I think some people see the submission’s package as some sort of “if I built it they will come” but it really helps to know what your goal is. A graphic novel with a publisher? Pitching short stories? Self publishing?

And honestly, in many many cases all you really need is a single page synopisis of the complete story (including any exciting twists and turns and plot twists it may contain – you want the reader to know it’s got twists, but you want the publisher to know what those twists are) and maybe six pages of written story comics. If you’re pitching to a publisher, some will also want six pages of the story drawn, but it will depend and you may find yourself with an accepted pitch where they love the story but want a different artist (surprise! this has happened to me more than once)

Some lettering no/nos – if you’re lettering yourself good lettering will rescue a comic and bad lettering will destroy it, if you’ve a budget pay a letterer and if you don’t then try and learn how to do it right – plenty of good resources (I’d avoid names like CLINT and words like FLICK – and the unfortunate sound effect UNTSS UNTSS UNTSS which went behind a moon and read like an entirely different word! make it UNZZZ UNZZZ UNZZZ)

If you’re starting out and you’ve a partner who has no real interest in comics but wants to support you, draw a comic and show them and ask them to describe what’s happening in the unlettered comic (and don’t give them any hints) where they get it right, you did a good job! well done! where they get lost it’s confusing and you need to fix that!

Black placement on a page – try and use blacks to help tell the story and direct the reader’s eye – sure, it’s important to get light sources right, but also you can make up light sources! comics are super flexible that way!

Establishing shots are important, in a scene where two characters interact you’ll need to show the reader at least ONE panel where we see them both together, without that it’s hard to know if we’re cutting between scenes or if there’s any connections between them at all.

Writers: for the love of god, start small! Write one page complete stories, get an artist. “I’d like this to be an eight page miniseries” – ME TOO! But realistically, big names can’t get eight issues of a miniseries out there, it’s a hard market. You’ll have more luck with a graphic novel, and even better luck with short stories. You cut your teeth on short stories, those are the things that build your craft muscles up quick (to mix some metaphors)

Finally, if you’re after advice and that advice takes a long long time, because you’re not really clear about what you’re trying to do and then after 45 minutes say “well, I’m really trying to make a six issue miniseries about an NFT character” do not be surprised if whoever you’re talking to folds their arms, gives you a stern look and tells you they’re not that interested.

oops.

Slightly big oopsy doo there, I connected the blog to my patreon and did not anticipate 150 blog posts coming across. Yikes. Apologies if you were thinking I’d gone post crazy. Don’t think it’ll happen again (but then I didn’t think it would happen in the first place)


My studio is located facing the outwards at the front of the house, behind me my bedroom and my son’s room. So I heared what I thought was my son come up the stairs when the following took place:

me: “hello Thomas”

Wife: “It’s not thomas, it’s me”

Me: “Oh. I’m heading out at 3 for a walk with Jim”

Wife: “3? that’s earlier than you thought”

me (thinking) “that’s a weird way to respond to that”

me “Yeah. just the usual”

wife “Do you need any money?”

me(thinking) “Why on earth would she offer me money?”

Turns out she was having a conversation with Thomas (also going out at 3) and I couldn’t hear him, but I could hear her.


Speaking of Thomas, owing to the appearance of the Sidemen on netflix (which I keep mispronouncing to sound like spider-men) we’ve resubbed to netflix. So we’re cancelling paramount+.

One in one out for streaming for me from now on. Though even when you do cancel you end up with around a couple of weeks of streaming on credit (easily the best thing apple ever did for subscriptions, and I’m quite sure no company would’ve ever let you do that – have you every tried to cancel an adobe subscription early? madness)

Our tv watching is so diffuse now we’re all watching different things, nobody watches anything together, and honestly, it makes me a little sad. Sitting watching quantum leap with my brothers was one of my fav things growing up as a teen. Or star trek, even. Shared watching was great.

Another fine example of technology doesn’t always make things better.

(Have decided to try and burn through the last series of Star Trek Discovery, which I liked the first series of, and it got more and more weirdly convoluted each series. Star Trek: Brave New Worlds is a banger though)


One of the things that became obviously harder over the pandemic was the need to cook two meals every single day for a family of four. I suppose we could get away with sandwiches at lunch but even then you’re still cooking at least seven meals a week, 31 meals a month and 365 meals a year (and double those numbers of a sandwich isn’t going to cut it). Obviously, It can’t always be spag bol. Though it frequently is.

And I actually enjoy cooking, but it’s time consuming. One great thing about being in the new house (over a year now) is getting the new kitchen complete with dishwasher. It’s only small, and we frequently need to run it twice a day, and god knows what that’s doing to our electric prices, but suddenly a big chunk of the dishwashing burden is removed, and you have more time to cook.

So, to that end I’ve been trying to do one from-scratch side dish every so often with a regular meal, and seeing what new things I can do. At the moment I’ve had a right old go at Hassleback potatoes (almost no hassle at all and so pretty!) and potato dauphinoise, a little more work, and need some basic ingredients, but actually pretty simple and very nice, especially with steak (or chicken … or any big chunky main thing)

Anyway I grabbed both recipes from the bbc here: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/dauphinoise-potatoes (I find about 250 cream and 250 milk with three large potatoes does three/four people comfortably) and https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/hasselback-potatoes (it calls for garlic and rosemary, I just did mine with a bit of butter and again a big ol’ baked potato) and actually if you’re doing a nice dinner, I do recommend doing both kinds of potatoes cus it’s pretty easy and dead impressive…


And despite spending two days traditional paper and ink, I’ve gone back to digital. This constant oscillation between these two states annoys me more than you’ll ever know. I lack the space to give over to both fully, and even traditional is tight for space, but it’s so much more satisfying to draw a GOOD line with ink, and yet I’ve got to face facts, I think my digital inking is better than my pen and ink…