Monthly Archives: March 2019

Copyright for Short Online Literary Works

Written 3/27/2019

I was going to post the first installment of a piece of fiction this week, but I got a tweet this morning from @hopeclark NEW! Group Registration for Unpublished Works. One copyright fee for multiple works sounded like an important diversion. I’d been wondering about copyright if I serialize and post an entire novel on my blog. That link says “unpublished” – would they be considered “published” on the blog?

First of all, in case you didn’t know it, everything you write is copyrighted as soon as you put it into a “tangible form,” but for better legal protection you “register” your copyright through the Copyright Office. The fee is going up later this year, but it’s relatively cheap insurance against abusive copyright infringement or bogus claims against you.

That tweet from Hope Clark linked to a description and date the rule allegedly went into effect at a seemingly reliable source, the Copyright Alliance. However, whenever possible, I like to get my information from the primary source. The primary source for anything is the base, where it originates, which in this case would be the law or regulation coming out of the Copyright Office.

Searching through the Copyright Office website, all I could find was the proposed change as written back in December. If you open the Copyright Office link, scroll down to “Rulemaking” and, as of today, you’ll see Group Registration for Short Online Literary Works. There you’ll find another link to the proposed change: December 21, 2018 – Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

Well, rules don’t always go through as proposed, so I looked around the Copyright Office website for the actual rule allegedly put into force more than a week ago, to no avail. Finally, I called them. I was on hold less than five minutes and got a very pleasant person who explained where to find the new rule when it is postedBelow that “Rulemaking” bar on their homepage is a gray bar More Rulemakings which brings up a page where Open Rulemakings are listed at the top (with that same December notice link) and, as you scroll down, Closed Rulemakings. That is where the actual rule will be linked so you can verify whatever other sources tell you.

My competent Copyright Office person (sorry I didn’t think to get your name) verified that this particular rule has been approved and the final version will be posted in Closed Rulemakings. She could not say whether or not it was approved as proposed in December, however I had some specific questions she was able to address. In particular, I wanted to know if I could copyright the novella I meant to start posting this week. She advised me to not use the word “chapter” because this new rule is not designed for books. We will be able to copyright (in one application with one fee) up to fifty blog posts made within three calendar months. Each post has word limitations.

Running the numbers led to looking for online serializations and that led to wondering where I want to post the fiction – here? On the blog that will be part of my new website? Would I lose my WordPress readers and be harder for readers to discover?

Whatever I decide, the next fiction blog will be next week, in April, so I’ll have the option of copyrighting three month’s worth of blogs under one title with subtitles for each blog. Meantime, it feels good to have popped back to writing for writers this week.


You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the material elsewhere.

Thank you.




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Warped Tales: The Gardener – Part 6

Warped Tales – be warned.
As a child I read piles of books filled with short stories – the complete works of Poe, stories from the Twilight Zone, collections from Hitchcock, etc.

As an adult, thrillers rule.

This is that kind of story, in six parts.

The medics arrived first and, following Anne’s instructions to avoid unnecessary contamination of the scene, determined that she was indeed right. John Davenport was dead. They’d barely returned to the kitchen when the police arrived.

Officer Hendricks reminded Anne of her son when he left for boot camp – head shaved nearly bald, posture erect, proud yet nervous. Detective Grant, on the other hand, was more like her husband. He was gruff, numbed to the horrors of the job even in this small mountain community.

When they moved to the bedroom, she followed, but positioned herself in the hallway so she would not have to see John’s face again.

“Did you recognize the gun, Ma’am?” Officer Hendricks asked from the doorway.

“Yes. It’s his. He kept it loaded, on the bedside table,” she said.

“A Colt?” questioned Grant.

“He got it when we moved here. Liked the way it looks. His Glock is in a drawer in the kitchen. He was a detective with Schenectady PD. He’s had a hard time adjusting to retirement.”

“The gun is in his hand,” Hendricks said softly.

“Until the coroner gives us his findings, we can’t make assumptions,” said Grant.

“Hendricks, go call in and let them know we need a lab team out here. We may want to work with DPS.”

Hendricks passed Anne, then turned and asked, “Were you in the gun safety class?”

“John insisted I should know how to shoot.”

“I remember,” said Hendricks. He looked at Grant as he explained, “It was too much gun for her. Nearly tore her arm off. She quit after her first shot.”

“I hate guns,” Anne said. “I told him not to bother getting a smaller one for me.”
Grant ushered Anne out of the house behind Hendricks.

“Any sign of forced entry?” he asked. He didn’t believe it was a suicide.

“No. But the side door wasn’t locked. I must have forgotten. I was running late when I left. He’d already laid down for a nap.”

“A nap?”

“He’d gotten into the habit of doing that after a big meal. We ate about five and I left at five-forty-five.” She inhaled deeply and pulled up her shoulders and allowed her eyes to glisten. “If it was murder, it’s probably my fault he’s dead.” She let her chin quiver slightly.

Grant paused a few moments, then said, “You shouldn’t blame yourself for leaving that door unlocked. Most folks here don’t bother with that unless they’re leaving the place empty.”

They sat on the front deck. Hendricks closed the police car door and came over.

“There’s a team on the way,” he said.

Grant nodded, then asked Anne, “Was there a particular reason you would have locked up, if you’d remembered?”

“After thirty-five years as a cop, twenty of them in homicide, my husband insisted on keeping the doors locked, even when we were both home, even when I was working in the yard.”

“You do the yard work?”

“John loved the fact there was no lawn to mow. He liked the tall pines.”

“Are those tomato plants in that raised bed?”

Anne was surprised. Grant didn’t seem like the kind of man who would care about anything other than his work, and dead tomato plants were not readily recognizable from a distance. “They were. I haven’t got the knack of gardening here yet. It’s so different.”

“You’re from New York?”

“Yes. Schenectady. I always had a wonderful garden. I don’t know how anyone can grow anything here.”

“So your husband was asleep when you left?” Grant asked.

“Yes.” She needed to stay focused. This wasn’t the time to complain about anything.

“Where did you go?”

“The assisted living center. I play cards every Wednesday with some of the residents, six until seven. That’s as long as most of them can last.”

Detective Grant wrote that on his pad. “Do you have a friend we could call for you?”

“No. No one I’d want to bother at a time like this. We’ve only been here a year, almost a year, actually; not long enough to make that kind of friend.”

“We can drive you to a motel,” he offered.

“Thank you. I’d like that.”

“We have to wait for the lab people to check your hands and clothing for residue, though.”

“Of course,” she said.

“It’s standard procedure,” Hendricks assured her. Then he got her talking about John while they waited for the specialists and watched the sun slide down to the horizon.

Grant listened. It wasn’t a suicide. The Colt would have kicked the man’s hand back, or flown right out of it. Most murders were personal. The victim hadn’t known anyone here. It was unlikely some low-life had tracked him down this far for revenge, which left the woman. The spouse was the most likely candidate in any homicide.

When the lab specialist got there, Grant watched as Anne pulled clean clothes out of the dryer, then he left her alone to remove the clothing that would have to be tested.

“Don’t run any water, though,” he warned.

“I won’t, but I’m sure I washed my hands after playing cards.”

Grant knew they wouldn’t find anything on her, but procedure demanded she be checked. He’d also make sure they did a toxicology screen on her husband. Women traditionally used poison. She could conceivably have shot her husband while he was comatose from something he ate. But, being a homicide detective’s wife, she’d know that would be suspected, so the tests would probably be a waste of money.

When the lab people were done with her, Hendricks drove Anne to a motel in the Mustang while Grant followed – and watched as the car ahead of him passed under the street lights on Main.

At the motel, Hendricks walked the woman into the office, then slid into the passenger seat. “She’ll probably end up selling the place, if anyone will have it, and moving back to New York.”

“She said that?” Grant asked.

“I asked again if she had a friend we could call to come be with her.”

On the way back to the crime scene, Grant pulled around behind Safeway and parked with the headlights on the dumpster. He pulled on a pair of disposable gloves as Hendricks watched, puzzled.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

Grant ignored the question. He got out and lifted the heavy lid. There was a neatly tied black yard bag tucked under some cardboard that should have gone into the recycle bin, but on top of the other trash. He yanked the bag out and opened it as Hendricks joined him.

Grant pulled out the plastic rain gear with duct tape still sticking plastic bags to the cuffs. There was a shower cap with a clear veil of plastic taped to it as well.

“What made you check here?” Hendricks asked.

“She looked toward Safeway when you drove by, while she was rubbing her shoulder. I expect it’ll be her DNA on the inside of this and we’ll probably find his on the outside.”

When they went back to the motel to pick her up, Anne saw the bag and nodded.

“He killed me first,” she said. “I was a gardener. He killed me.”


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Warped Tales: The Gardener – Part 5

At first, Anne tried to adjust to the idea of staying married. They had enough money they could take a modest trip each winter, if they were cautious with other spending. So when the window air conditioner broke and John decided not to replace it, she did not argue. There were ceiling fans and her friends told her the monsoons – daily thunderstorms – would cool things off most days. It helped that John started going out every day again – usually fishing, sometimes hunting, always alone. He seemed less depressed than he’d been all winter.

Then she realized the roses and berries she’d planted in the fall had died, because she didn’t understand she needed to start watering in the first months of the year. Back home, the only thing her garden needed in the winter was some pruning – she hadn’t even checked on the roses and berries for months. She didn’t want to ask John for money to replace them, so she suggested she could work part time for her garden money.

“No. My mother never had to work and my wife doesn’t either,” was his knee-jerk response. “If you have to have your damn garden, here, use this.”

He handed her a twenty, which might be enough for seeds and a few starts, but not for new roses and berries. She started skimming money from the grocery allowance he gave her each week, but it wasn’t enough. She didn’t dare take money out of the bank – he might take her name back off the accounts.

She gave up on having anything along the fence, at least for now.

She planted tomato starts and seeds for other vegetables in the raised beds she’d insisted on when they first arrived last fall. John would never have agreed to that expense now.

The monsoons were nothing but a promise – everyone commented on how late they were. There were blistering hot days with no wind when John stayed in the stifling house while Anne volunteered in air-conditioned luxury. When the AC on her truck went out, John reluctantly agreed to let her use the Mustang – if he wasn’t going to use it.

He did go out before dawn most days, but would come back to spend the heat of the day watching television. Sometimes he went back out, sometimes he didn’t. His depression seemed to have returned with the heat.

Anne began to express concern about her husband with her casual friends – a bit here, a tad there, a partially expressed thought followed by biting her lower lip. Just enough to let it be known she was worried that her husband was depressed. She told them she thought he might have jumped into retirement too early, and that he wasn’t as satisfied with hunting and fishing as he’d expected. When the librarian saw her researching depression, Anne assured the concerned woman that it was her husband about whom she was concerned, not herself. The librarian suggested he might be having an identity crisis, after having been a detective for so many years.

Anne considered the irony of that possibility – he’d been unconcerned about her losing her identity as a gardener, but he’d lost his own, while she still thought of herself as a gardener.

Then one June day she came home from her book club meeting to find a scorching wind had killed her tomato plants and shriveled the sprouting vegetables. She stood staring at them and burst into tears.

She cried for her lost identity as a gardener, for the hours spent in her lovely garden with her son, for the smell of his sun-warmed hair, for the years devoted to creating that beautiful place – years that garden allowed her to stay trapped in a loveless marriage. She cried for her absent mother who had lived the same kind of life. She cried for the girl who might have found a happier life.

When there were no more tears, she went inside the cabin where John was sitting like a zombie, staring at the television. She grabbed the remote and turned it off.

“I’m done,” she said. “I want a divorce.”

John stared at her silently.

“Did you hear me?” she screeched. “I want a divorce.”

He got up slowly and walked up to her until his nose almost touched hers. He spoke quietly, but in that tone he had that meant the matter was closed. “No.”

He slid the remote out of her hand, sat down, and turned the television back on.

“I want a divorce,” she repeated. “I’m serious. I’m sick of this place and I’m sick of you!”

If he’d argued, there might have been a chance at reconciliation. They might have agreed the move was not working well for either of them and made plans to try another place.

But he didn’t.

She tried one more time. “John, we’re both miserable.”

He shook his head and replied quietly. “Until death do us part – marriage vows don’t say anything about being happy. What’s for dinner?”

Stunned, Anne put away groceries and started cooking.

They ate at 5:00. At 5:20 John finished and went to their room for his after-dinner nap. By 5:30 Anne had cleaned up the kitchen and could hear him snoring. At 5:45 she put a yard-waste bag into the trunk of the Mustang and left for the senior center, making one stop on the way to toss the bag into a dumpster. She played cards with the residents for an hour. She and old Mr. Smith in his wheelchair were the weekly winners.

On the way home, she put the top down and sat tall so the breeze could catch her hair.

As soon as she parked the Mustang beside the cabin, the heat pressed down on her. It was so difficult to breathe when it was this hot. The sun wouldn’t set for another hour or more.

The house was quiet. She walked back to the bedroom where John was lying on the bed, his head on a pillow soaked with gelatinous blood. She pulled her cellphone out of her pocket and dialed 911 as she returned to the kitchen.

“My husband’s been shot,” she told the woman at the other end of the line.

Her carefully controlled voice conveyed hysteria threatening to erupt.


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Warped Tales: The Gardener – Part 4

Warped Tales – be warned.
As a child I read piles of books filled with short stories – the complete works of Poe, stories from the Twilight Zone, collections from Hitchcock, etc.

As an adult, thrillers rule.

This is that kind of story, in six parts.

While John spent his time alone, fishing and hunting or sitting in front of the television, Anne shelved books at the library on Mondays, played cards with residents of the assisted living center on Wednesdays, and read with first graders on Fridays – not to mention the monthly book club. She was making a place for herself in the community.

As the air began to crisp in October, both of the Davenports missed the red of the sugar maples, so they took the Mustang up to the higher elevations where aspens shed their yellow leaves. The day was pleasant enough that Anne thought she might enjoy traveling with him, that there might be hope for the marriage if he stayed busy hunting the rest of the time and let her garden in peace. The thought cheered her, since it looked like she was stuck in the marriage whether or not it was tolerable. She had nosed around in his desk when he was out hunting and found some bank statements, but she still wasn’t sure if they could afford to live separately.

Then came winter.

John went for weeks without leaving the cabin. He looked at travel options and said they were too costly, they should wait a year. He complained about her activities – as if she should be sitting next to him as he sank into depression. It wasn’t her fault John’s life had revolved around his work or that his hunting buddies had been fellow detectives and officers from the Schenectady Police Department or that going hunting and fishing alone had quickly lost its appeal. He was the one who decided to buy this cabin and retire in a place where he didn’t know anyone. He’d made her give up everything that mattered to her to come here. He could complain all he wanted about her activities. She didn’t care. Volunteering, focusing on other people’s needs, had kept her from falling apart when John Jr. was blown to smithereens and it was helping her make this transition. She was adapting – he should try it.

Of course she didn’t say any of that. She just went about her business as she pleased.

While she missed her home and garden, John had been right about winter. In March they had one big snow that lasted just long enough to stop Anne’s pining for real winter. The rest of the time they got a light dusting that no one bothered to shovel. That was much nicer than winter in Schenectady. She had already planned out her raised beds and the rest of the yard

“Do you realize four out of the six houses on this stretch of road are empty?” John asked Anne one evening during the big snow. “The house down on the corner is the only other place with a plowed driveway, and there aren’t any cars parking on the road, so the others have to be empty.”

“They’re snowbirds or flatlanders,” Anne replied, automatically using the terms she’d picked up from her new friends.


“Snowbirds are from up north. Flatlanders are people who live in The Valley – Tucson or Phoenix – and only come up on weekends or a week or two when it’s unbearably hot.”

John responded to the recognition that they lived in a largely vacant neighborhood by buying new deadbolts for the doors and insisting Anne take a gun safety course. She did fine in the class until the first night they had target practice. She had a little bursitis from years of gardening. When the backlash from firing John’s gun threw her arms up, the pain was so intense that she’d cried right there in front of everyone.

The instructor apologized. “That is way too much gun for you. I should never have let you try that your first time shooting.”

She’d gone straight home and handed John his .45 as if it were venomous.

“My shoulder’s killing me.” She glared at him.

“I should get you something smaller,” he’d acknowledged.

“No! I quit the class. I could never shoot a person anyway!” In twenty-some years, this was the first time she had yelled at him. She half expected him to get up and hit her. She was prepared to call the cops on him. Wouldn’t that be something!

He just shrugged, though. “Well, at least you’ve fired it. If you need to, you can do it.”

Anne walked away.

By the time April rolled around, an idiot could see John was severely depressed, and the taxes he had to pay on the sale of his ancestral home made it worse. One sunny Tuesday, Anne made his favorite breakfast, including the last of the elk sausage. As they finished eating, she started the conversation she’d been planning for months.

“There was this lady at the library yesterday, I couldn’t help overhearing her tell her friend how her husband had passed on and she was losing her home because she didn’t have enough for the inheritance taxes. I just couldn’t stop worrying about it last night.”

“That wouldn’t happen to you,” John reassured her. “I invested the money from the house to make up for using my retirement fund for this place. You’ll have enough to pay the taxes.”

“Even after all they took?” she asked in her most innocent voice.

He shrugged. “You don’t have to worry.” There was no strength in his voice as he said it.

“Good,” she said, as if that had alleviated all of her concerns. Then she added, as if it was an afterthought, “It is a shame, though, how they tax the same money over and over.”

John actually made the suggestion for her. “I should put your name on the cabin – and the Mustang. Then we’ll both have to be gone before they can take more taxes on those.”

“Is there anything else we should have in both names?” She again played innocent.

“Everything,” he said, slapping his hand on the table. “I should put your name on everything so they can’t take a cent.”

“I can do these dishes later,” she offered.

He nodded. “Let’s get it done.”

She went with him to the Motor Vehicle Department to change the title and registration on the Mustang and then the county recorder to add her name to the deed of the cabin. John took her out for lunch then. She was worried he’d lose interest in this project, but he seemed happier than he’d been in ages.

“All that’s left is the bank,” he said as they left the restaurant. “You don’t have to go anywhere else this afternoon?”

“No, I’m all yours.” She smiled brightly.

At the bank he added her name to all of his accounts, including his investment account and the safety deposit box. The banker even convinced him to set up online access for Anne, so she could take care of bills if John was not able to do so.

“You’re wise to be doing this. It makes everything so much easier for a surviving partner,” said the banker. She tucked a gray lock of hair behind her ear. “Have you done this with all your investments and belongings?”

Anne could have kissed the woman.

“Nope,” he said. “We’ve taken care of it all now, except my pension. Can’t put that in her name, but it’s set up with her as beneficiary.”

At last, Anne could assess their financial condition. While it looked like a lot of money to her at first, when she did more research, she realized it really wasn’t enough for two separate households.

Divorce was not a good plan.


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Sheri McGuinn

Object Relations

"A Word of Substance"

Little Fears

Tales of humour, whimsy and courgettes

Elan Mudrow



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