Sunday, June 5, 2011

Permission Denied!

Music’s a big part of my life, so it winds up slipping into my stories from time to time. Often I make up my own song for the story, or I’ll simply use the lyrics as written by the artist(s). The “permissions” people at Random House always clear using someone else’s copyrighted work with the copyright owner(s), and up until Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls (coming out in September), there has never been a problem being granted permission.

But cut Sammy and friends loose in the Santa Martina Cemetery on Halloween night, and this is what happens to a popular song…(Caution, you are about to read an unauthorized excerpt!)


“You know, the guy in costume? The one who lost his candy bag?” I look at Billy. “Where is it, anyway?”

Billy pats his pillowcase. “If I see him, I’ll give it back.”

Casey snorts. “Sure you will.”

“Dude, I’m serious. I’m no sugar-lootin’ ghoul. I’m a good ghoul!”

Casey chuckles, and then quietly he starts singing,

“He’s a good ghoul, loves his mama,

“Loves Jesus and America, too.

“He’s a good ghoul, crazy for Elvis,

“Loves horses and zarapes, too….”

And Billy chimes in louder with,

“’Cause I’m free! Free fallin’!

“Yeah, I’m free! Free fallin’!”

“Are you guys crazy?” Marissa says. “Do you want that guy with the shovel to hear you?”

“He won’t hear us,” Billy says. “He’s long gone.”

“What song was that?” I ask, because it was pretty obvious they weren’t just making it up.

Holly turns to me. “‘Free Fallin’, Tom Petty.”

Casey nods. “Also covered by John Mayer.”

Marissa and I give each other a Never-heard-of-it shrug, but very quietly Holly says, “My mom used to sing it.”

So now Marissa and I look at each other like, Oh, maaaaan, because to make a long, sad story short, Holly’s real mom is dead and Holly has no idea if she’s buried, or cremated, or what happened to her because Holly and her mom were homeless and her mom was a junkie and when Holly was, like, ten, she found her mother dead from an overdose. And since Holly was just a kid with no relatives and no money, she wound up in foster care.

Anyway, the point is, I know it really bothers Holly that she doesn’t know what happened to her mom’s body, and all of a sudden I’m feeling awful for Holly. I mean, maybe nobody visits these graves we’re walking by anymore, but at least at one point someone cared enough to bury them and put up a grave marker, right?

Thankfully Holly seems to be thinking nice thoughts about her mother because she gives a little smile and says, “But when my mom sang it, there were no ‘ghouls’ or ‘zarapes’ in the lyrics. It was ‘girls’ and ‘boyfriends’.”

Now I’m hoping Billy won’t say anything that’s meant to be funny but winds up being hurtful because I don’t know how much he knows about Holly and her mom and their awful past. But before he can say anything at all, Marissa changes the subject, “How are we going to get out of here, anyway?”

Casey points across the new section. “I’m thinking we’ll make a break for it across there and climb the fence.”

Marissa looks at him, horrified. “You’re serious?”

“Sure, why not? ”

Now, I knew it wasn’t the “make a break for it” part that was the problem. And I knew climbing the wall section of the fence wasn’t the problem, either. It was the wrought iron posts on top of the wall section that were the problem.

Specifically the pointy spears at the tippy top of each post.

See, Marissa has a history of getting stuck on fences that don’t have spears, so I didn’t even want to picture what might happen on one that did.

“Trust me,” I tell Casey. “You do not want Marissa to climb the fence.”


I ran the excerpt a little long because some of you have been asking for there you go!

Anyway, I thought the change in lyrics was fun but apparently holders of the copyright disagreed.

Permission denied!

They’re not required to give a reason. And it’s their right to say, Nah, we don’t want you putting ghouls in for girls or zarapes for boyfriends.

The copyright rules do allow for the use of two lines of a song without permission. The interesting question with a song is, what constitutes two lines?

The other interesting thing is that the advanced reader copies were printed and sent out months ago, full of mistakes (as usual) and copyright infringements (uh-oh). I know there’s a value to the uncorrected proofs—that some people collect them because they’re fairly rare, and scholars like to compare ARCs to the final book. And usually I’m of the mind that there’s just not enough shelf space in my life to care about ARCs after the final book is out. (Although I do have a black & white ARC of Hotel Thief, which I admit is pretty cool.) But with the change in cover art (as I posted about before), the error (it was a mistake in the mystery, which I realized after the ARCs had gone to press) and the copyright problem with “Free Fallin’” the Night of Skulls ARC would probably be interesting to anyone who follows such things.

So yes, I changed the above excerpt. I had to! And I was under pressure to do so quickly because (as these things usually go) the book is supposed to go to press any day now. So when the actual book comes out check back here and compare the passages, if you care.

Oh, and if you do you’ll notice there are other changes in the passage because the excerpt above is from my file before it went through editing and copyediting, and before I added that The Almost also covered the song. So this is like the original finished manuscript text…which (even though it had been rewritten about 20 times at that point) was obviously not nearly finished!

I hope some of you found this at least somewhat interesting (and / or enjoyed the sneak peek at the upcoming book). Permissions is one of those little areas in publishing that you don’t spend much time thinking until you receive a Permission Denied, but it can mess up your writing schedule in a big way!

Thanks for checking in! See you next week.


bookworm said...

I LOVE YOU WENDELIN THANK YOU SOOOOOO MUCH FOR AN EXCERPT I'M GOING TO READ IT ABOUT 500 TIMES THIS WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Awwww! Make me happy why don'tcha! Thank you :)

Alexa said...

YAY EXCERPT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You're SO AWESOME FOR GIVING US THAT!!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOUx1,000,000!

(Amazing how I was just thinking about that song and then it comes up here! I LOVE that song!!!!!!!!!!)

I love it when there's song lyrics in writing, I think that's really cool. REALLY COOL! I use song lyrics in my writing a lot (since I have a boat load of them and nothing to do with them). So...yeah.

THANK YOU! (You just totally made it onto my list of AWESOME PEOPLE!)

Anonymous said...

That'd spoil the fun,but,still,more more more more more more more.I hope if i die before that book comes out God'll let me peek on you to read the book(:

Thanks x a gajillion(:


Anonymous said...

Oh my god! I Iove that song! Except I hate John Mayer (sorry...?) because he's a jerk. So I obviously would like that Punk Goes Classic Rock version by The Almost better.
Okay, okay. Anyway, besides the fact that I love that song.

That excerpt made me really really excited! And I think it's weird that they would deny that. I mean, you even mentioned the fact that the words were a little changed. Right?
Okay and by the way I just love the mention of Marissa and the fence thing because Marissa is like legit one of the funniest people ever, even if it's unintentionally. She is almost just like my own best friend Alex. And that's why for some reason I always connect them in a weird way. And it's really funny because she was attempting to climb a fence (with one of her famous "squeak screams") one time with me and a group of other people and I had this literal deja vu of Marissa. Anyway I love Marissa just so you know.

And I loved the mention to Holly's old life! Because I never really knew how much Sammy knew about it. It kinda seemed like maybe Meg was the only person who knew everythingggg because she read the diary and that Holly just told Sammy a simple version of it. But I guess Holly told Sammy everything which would be expected because they're close? Right?

And last but not least, I love how Casey is always the one to suddenly burst out in song. It's really random but like a unique personality trait like his knack for finding food that taste good together..? Hahah. But really, I really like that. And let's just assume he's a good singer since you never really mentioned it *crosses fingers*.

Okay! Anyway. Well, that got me very very excited! Thank you for that. It doesn't matter if it's a draft or not, its still amazing. In my opinion you could just write he first draft and publish it and it would be JUST AS GOOD because you really are very talented!

katarinandersson said...

I've never thought about copyright people that much, but now I think they're boring. Yep, the whole bunch of them are boring people. Okay, maybe not all of them. But the people who said that you couldn't use that song are definitely boring. Why should they complain when you had the right lyrics in there too?
Anyway, thank you for the excerpt! I liked it very much, too bad you had to change it, but I'm sure that you made the final version awesome too. I can't wait to read the entire book!
By the way, I really like the Elvis impersonator who works at Maynard's market! Another peripheral character who I liked was that man with the squirrels in Art of Deception, he was so odd and unaware of everything except his squirrels.
Lastly, I wanted to tell you that I hope you'll have a nice week :)

Anonymous said...

Also this is a stupid question and I know I'm going to sound like an idiot, but arent zarapes Mexican blanket things? Or is there a different type of thing you're thinking about? I was like making my breakfast and your Halloween version of the song was going through my head and I'm like, "What does she mean 'zarape'?" So obviously I'm just really stupid and need to know now. :D

Cave said...

More of Billy? It seems as though Sammy and him will be dating by the end of book 17th

Jinnyd said...

But permission allowed for that awesome excerpt of Night of Skulls!! I just noticed this cool-fangled irony. :-D

At my school they play music for the last 2 minutes of passing time to, well, announce that there are two minutes left to go to your next class, and "Free Fallin'" is on quite often! Which makes me excited, b/c I always get excited when "real life" and "art" (books, i.e. Sammy Keyes) show a coincidental happening/thing!

Thanks a million for the excerpt!

neonina05 said...

Hey, Wendelin! It's been a while since I've stopped by your blog, but I'm sure glad I decided to today! Else I would have missed an awesome excerpt!

Haha, I can't believe Sammy hasn't ever heard Free Fallin'? That song is amazing. =)

Can't wait for night of skulls, because honestly, your mysteries and character have yet to leave me disappointed. I mean, hello? You'd think that, since I've been reading them since the third grade, that I'd have "grown out" of them, but I don't see that happening any time soon ... =D

Izze said...

JKLHGFDSAQ~ ohhh an excerpt. Love those. I'm soo bummed because i can't find the most recent Sammy Keyes book anywhere :| I feel deprived.

Also, that Holly part made me sad.
Buuuut, since I haven't read anything Holly related since I read Runaway (which tops the list of my favorite books, by the way), I was so glad to hear from herr :)

frances said...

I really love the excerpt! It's really amusing when Casey bursts out in song; he really knows music! :D

I also was interested with the Holly part because she's my favorite female character (Hudson's my favorite male character)and I hope she get's some moments like this when I read the book.