Friday, April 8, 2011

Lyric Permissions: The Process of Reprinting Lyrics

A friend of mine who’s writing a book recently asked me how to get permission to reprint lyrics, as both of my novels include quite a few (from groups such as Placebo, The Cure, Tori Amos, Smashing Pumpkins, and many more. See my previous blog post for more about that.)

I thought others might be curious as well. The fact is, it can be quite laborious and expensive (although not always). The first step is to find out who the lyric publisher is – not the label, but the publisher. Sometimes this is listed on the album sleeve, but usually not. The next place to look are the web sites for the two major performing rights organizations: BMI and ASCAP.

Once you find out who the publisher is, you need to contact them to find out their process. Some of them have online forms to fill out. (I actually created my own contract and sent it out in hopes it would be used. This seems to only work with small companies or when artists have their own company with publishing rights.)

These days a vast majority of lyric publishing rights are administered by one particular juggernaut. Be aware: their minimum fee for each excerpt is $100. I have seen a few for less, and a few for more. If you’re really lucky, you might even get something for free. For example, Tori Amos lyric publishing rights are controlled by her own company, Sword and Stone Publishing – they happily signed the contract I created and never asked for money. Thank you!!

Something to watch out for is the phrase “Most Favored Nations” in the contract. This means if the lyric publisher finds out you paid more than what they charged for any other lyrics in your book, they can come back to you and make you pay that higher amount for each of their lyric excerpts. That could be a nasty surprise!

I was able to get permission for at least 90% of the lyrics I wanted to use – although a few I chose not to use due to the cost. But also be aware some artists (such as Stevie Nicks) just don’t allow others to reprint their material, which I totally respect (although it can be disappointing!). Only one company just never got back to me, no matter how often I followed up. Thus I was unable to use “Into Dust” by Mazzy Star as I had hoped, for the heading to Chapter 18 in Afterglow.

While it would be wonderful to deal directly with the artists, this only happened once during my projects (out of a total of 39 lyric excerpts used). While obtaining permission to use “Pepper” by the Butthole Surfers, I ended up talking with Gibby Hayne’s manager on the phone. He said I should probably ask Gibby about that… then gave me his cell phone number! As you can imagine, Gibby Haynes was a bit confused about who I was and why I was calling, but after a few minutes he said that sounded fine – he just wanted to make sure I had the lyrics right.

After we hung up I was jumping up and down, yelling, “I just talked to Gibby Haynes on the phone! I just talked to Gibby Haynes on the phone!” to my empty house. Too bad I don’t have any more stories like that to relate!

Anyway, as you can tell, this can be a very time consuming and expensive process. But not always – and sometimes it can be exciting! And there can be a positive side to not succeeding: sometimes I was “forced” to write more lyrics myself – or rather Brian O’Kelly (the character) wrote them through me… but that’s another story…

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, September 18, 2010

AIDS Walk – My 10th Anniversary

On Oct. 3rd, 2010, I will walk in AIDS Walk Portland to support the work done by Cascade AIDS Project, as well as other local AIDS Service Organizations. The first time I walked was in 2000, so this will be my tenth year with my fellow Portlanders at AIDS Walk.

Why did I start participating in AIDS Walk? I’ve always felt a special affinity to those with HIV or AIDS, probably because it affects the gay community so much. But it’s not just that – it’s also because of the stigma surrounding the disease. Almost five years ago, I started working at an AIDS Service Organization as my “day job.” And now I have even more reason to walk – because so many of my dearest friends and co-workers have HIV. Now it is personal. It affects people I love.

The thing is, I probably knew people with HIV before, I just wasn’t aware – most people are not open about their HIV status because of that evil “S” word: Stigma. A recent survey showed that a surprisingly large percentage of Americans think they can catch HIV through casual contact – and that’s simply not true. It’s transmitted through sex, through sharing needles (i.e. blood), and through breast milk. That’s it. There’s no reason to be afraid to eat food prepared by someone with HIV, to touch them, or even to kiss them. How horrible for those suffering from this disease to have that added feeling of being outcast from their community, or even their own family!

Please help me to help them by donating to AIDS Walk Portland this year – or become a walker and do your own fundraising. Cascade AIDS Project helps in so many ways – by providing housing and furniture for homeless people with HIV or AIDS; by educating the community about HIV; by handing out condoms in gay bars to help prevent the spread; by offering testing so people know their status and can protect themselves and their loved ones; by creating social opportunities for positive folks, giving them the opportunity to create friendships, find support, and be out about their status – thus helping at the same time to eliminate stigma.

So please, if you are moved by this struggle, help by joining the Walk, or by donating.

Thank you!!

Addendum: Here are a few interesting but scary statistics:

  • Nearly half of Oregon 11th graders report having had sex. Of these youth, 42% didn't use a condom the last time they had sex. (Oregon's Department of Human Services, 2009)

In a 2009 survey by Kaiser Family Foundation:

  • 23% of Americans would be uncomfortable with an HIV+ coworker.
  • 35% of American parents would be uncomfortable with an HIV+ teacher for their children.
  • 42% of Americans would be uncomfortable with an HIV+ roommate.
  • 50% of Americans would be uncomfortable having their food prepared by an HIV+ person.

Amazing how much misinformation is out there! None of these activities would pose any risk whatsoever of spreading the disease.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why I Love Friday the 13th

Thirteen is a much-abused number. But it was not always so. It refers to the 13 lunar cycles – which are related to women’s monthly cycles (and men’s as well, but those are less obvious).

Perhaps feeling threatened by the power of women, when patriarchies took over, they felt the need to denigrate women. Thus the number 13 became “evil.” Another example of this type of destructive thinking is how they treated the old wise women of villages, who knew which herbs to use and how to heal. They became known as witches. And we all know where that led….

On our special day of Friday the 13th, join me in celebrating the power of 13 for women – and who doesn’t love Fridays??

More info about the 13 lunar cycles:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Marriage Equality Matters

When I started writing Naked in the Rain and Afterglow, same-sex marriage was not a topic in the news (nor was the Catholic Church and child molestation, by the way…).

During editing, I had to change some of what I wrote in Afterglow, because since I’d written the first draft, same-sex marriage had become a big issue, with different states passing different laws. Seems a bit silly though, that states are dealing with this issue. Isn’t it a matter of human rights? Isn’t that part of our constitution? Marriage equality should be a national mandate; it is a civil right.

Basic Rights Oregon asked me to create a video about why Marriage Matters to me. It’s very personal, but I decided to share it here. If you are so inclined, you can sign a pledge for equal marriage rights on the same page.

Thanks for listening.

- Eowyn

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Cure Video “The Lovecats”

In Naked in the Rain, the main character (Brian), is a big Cure / Robert Smith fan. During a conversation with River, they discuss their first “crushes.” Brian’s was Robert Smith – which started when he saw “The Lovecats” video.

That’s not quite true for me, as I saw that video when I already loved Robert Smith. But if I had seen that video first – it would have done me in for sure.

For your enjoyment, here’s a link to the
video – not the best quality, but still fun to watch. Wow, Robert Smith looks so different! 1983 is a long time ago…

Labels: , ,

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Writing of “Naked in the Rain” and “Afterglow”

The story had been growing in my head over the past year, until it felt so huge I had to get it out. I remember the precise moment I decided to write it down. It was just after New Years 2000, and I was in the car with my sister in god-awful Southern California traffic. I’d looked forward to the 1999-2000 New Year for most of my life. And what an awful New Year it turned out to be! Just totally crappy. (Well, almost totally. There were a few redeeming moments.)

I was sitting in the sunny car hating my life and feeling sorry for myself that my ‘special’ New Years 2000 had sucked. So I thought up a way to make New Years suck for Brian, the main character in the story in my head.

And I felt better.

I had discovered that putting Brian through various ‘tortures’ made me feel better about my own life. That sounds crazy and a bit sick, but it’s true. (Poor Brian.)

This story had grown so long and complex, and I was so in love with this new scene of Brian’s ruined New Years. It suddenly struck me as I sat in silence next to my sister. I should write this!!

And I did. As soon as I got back home to Portland, I wrote and wrote. For hours after work, all day on the weekends. Eventually I couldn’t keep up that schedule, and did most of the actual writing on weekend mornings. That was the time I looked forward to most.

But I worked on the story in different ways, too – sitting on the couch with the outline, figuring out where to put which scene, getting new ideas. Making notes. Ideas would especially hit me in the shower and when I was driving alone. Or at night when I was almost asleep. My mind mulled over it constantly, consciously or subconsciously.

Something about the act of writing it down allows the story to flesh out, for subplots to develop, for minor characters to take on their own life and become more important to the story (Ted!). I guess getting it out of my head allowed room for more to grow.

When I got to page 1,000 on the computer and was only maybe halfway through the story, I realized I had a problem. Even with editing. Thus, it became two books instead of one.

About 2 ½ years after I started, the first draft of both books was complete. Because it’s really one story, I felt compelled to complete the whole thing before going back to Naked in the Rain to edit and try to get it published. Working on 2,000+ pages takes a long time, not to mention the publishing process…

So here we are over a decade later, and the project is finally out. Afterglow is published. The story is complete and now out of my hands, delivered to the world, where Brian and River can grow and live in the minds of everyone who reads it.

P.S. Brian’s crappy New Year takes place in Part 5 of Afterglow. You’ll know it when you see it!

P.P.S. Toward the end of 1999 I’d suddenly gotten the urge to paint my nails black and smoke cigarettes. This ended as soon as I started writing.

Brian wanted OUT!!

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Novel “Afterglow” Released!

I’m excited to announce that the official publication date of April 1st has arrived! Afterglow is the sequel to Naked in the Rain, about two teenage runaway boys who fall in love with each other as they’re lured into a twisted world of drugs and sex.

Afterglow picks up where Naked in the Rain left off – with River and Brian in their own apartment after escaping the high-class brothels of Los Angeles. Their new life seems easy at first, with Brian continuing his rock band and classical piano. But drugs and childhood demons seem set to destroy the boys. Will they get sucked back into the world of prostitution? Their love is tested when Brian – who is bisexual – is unable or unwilling to be monogamous. Crisis leads to a journey across the country to face the past, to Arizona to find peace, and finally to Portland, Oregon to find a home. (Which allowed me to write about my beloved home of Portland.)

I didn’t use as many artists’ lyrics in Afterglow as I did in Naked in the Rain – but there are still quite a few from The Cure, Tori Amos, and others. Oddly enough, I only realized recently that there are no lyrics from Placebo in the second book (but lots in the first book). (Read more about lyrics used in the books and the Placebo/Brian Molko connection in previous blog postings below…). However, by not using as many artists’ lyrics in Afterglow, it forced me to write more lyrics from Brian O’Kelly (the main character), which was definitely a positive experience.

Of course, I’m always nervous about how a book will be received by readers. The first feedback I received from someone who finished an advance copy of Afterglow was simply lovely – so I’ve decided (with her permission) to include excerpts of her letter below:

"I don’t even know where to start to describe how much your two wonderful books mean to me. Living in the world you created with ‘Naked in the Rain’ and ‘Afterglow’ and seeing it through Brian’s eyes has been such an amazing experience. I can’t remember any other book – and believe me when I say I read a lot – that has touched me so deeply. Especially ‘Afterglow’ was such an emotional roller coaster ride that had me sobbing one moment and laughing with relief the next. I went through several boxes of Kleenex reading that book, but I'm not complaining. It is such a rare and fantastic thing to be pulled that deeply into a world someone else has created. I am so amazed by your unique writing style and by your vivid imagination. The characters you created seem so real, it really felt for me like watching a movie, like being there with them and really getting to know them… Thank you so much for creating that intriguing universe and letting me have such a wonderful time living there with your characters…

Thank you for believing in yourself, in your work and never giving up. Otherwise we – as your devoted readers – wouldn’t have been gifted with such a life altering reading-experience…

Because I loved ‘Naked in the Rain’ I gave it to a friend who also enjoyed it immensely. He moaned for weeks about the cliff hanger ending and asked me daily when the next part will be published. I gave him ‘Afterglow’ as a gift so we both could read the book at the same time and discuss it. I have to admit I often use my best friend as some kind of guinea pig, because for me it is really interesting to get the perspective of a gay man on stories I have written myself or that I loved reading. His favorite was ‘Naked in the Rain” because it was fast-paced, full of suspense, exciting plot twists and “fascinating creepiness”. My favorite is ‘Afterglow’ because I felt much more connected to Brian’s thoughts and feelings in that one. I loved the slower pace and the description of the growing up he has to do. It was so painful but at the same time so breathtakingly beautiful. Thank you for being such a talented and generous story teller. I hope to grow and improve and will someday be able to develop such a unique and impressive voice as a writer as you have.

- Anja Busse"

Thank you, Anja!!

Labels: ,