Buck Off: Helping to Spread Love for Fan Fiction

Buck off

For those of you who believe video games, fan fiction and comics should be considered literary art, I have good news for you. My colleagues and I are creating a new online magazine dedicated to these subjects. There’s just one problem. We need funding before we can get started.

Why, you might ask, should you spend your money on something when you don’t know how it will turn out?

Good question.

We are alumni from Salem State University who have participated in the various publications at the college, including The Salem State Log newspaper, Soundings East national literary magazine and Red Skies online magazine. We all have artistic talents we’d like to share with everyone by creating Buck Off Magazine.

Still not sold on donating? What if I mentioned you get perks for donations, including thank you gifts ranging from homemade art to a personal editor for a piece of your writing?

If you are interested, please donate here! If you don’t have a buck to spare, spread the word! We appreciate any help you can give us!

*Live long and Buck Off*


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One Short Day in the City on a Hill

Two Best Friends Sharing One Wonderful, Short, Wicked Day in Boston!

On the last day “Wicked” was being performed at the Boston Opera House, my friend and I walked into one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever visited. For a moment, I forgot about the play I had waited so long to see. After reading Gregory Maguire’s book, Wicked, so long ago, I’d been eager to see the spinoff play. It had been long enough that I only remembered the big events, which meant some of what happened in the play would be a surprise. But, having never been in the Boston Opera House, I tried to take in the elaborate decorative walls, the high white columns topped with golden arches, and the unforgettable ceiling with fancy chandeliers.

DSCF5884I was brought back to reality when I heard two bartenders set up next to each other calling out to potential costumers while we waited for the doors to open.

“Good witches over here!” said the bartender closest to us.

“Bad witches!” called the bartender to the left.

I couldn’t decide which witch I was. I stayed in line.

Finally the doors opened on a beautiful theater, the largest I’ve ever seen! (Note to self: see more plays). After we found our seats (right in the middle of a row in the orchestra section so we didn’t have to get up to let anyone pass us!), I noticed how the stage was set up. A screen that looked like parchment displayed a map of Oz, highlighted in emerald green lights. I love maps of fictional lands, so this made me feel like a green skinned witch in the Emerald City (well, when she first got there and felt like she fit in).

The performance was beyond words. I got so caught up in the land of Oz – from the one-of-a-kind dresses that swirled around the stage as the actors danced gleefully, their characters so mindlessly carefree, to the serious situations that were being performed. The play demonstrated the themes of school, life, love and friendship in a unique, musically accompanied way that no other play could match.

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“A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent”

The Real Life Experiences of a Fictional Character Created by Marie Brennan

Any of my followers or fellow bloggers who have noticed my last book review on this blog, and observed the title of this one, might realize that I have a soft spot for dragons. This book did not dissuade me from that sentiment. In fact, I share that feeling with the main character, Isabella Camherst, a.k.a. Lady Trent, who, against the “rules” for women in her society, defied social convention and made it possible to fulfill her deepest desire: to study dragons.

As someone who works in a library, I enjoyed Mrs. Camherst’s love of books. She spent much of her childhood raiding her father’s library, having her brother steal a book every now and then so she could learn without her parents’ knowledge. In fact, when her husband was proposing to her, he exclaimed, “You want me for my library.”

The symbolism in Brennan’s novel is unique. Who knew that one book could change someone’s life so much? If you haven’t guessed yet, that book is The Natural History of Dragons. I won’t say any more on the subject for fear of giving spoilers to anyone who happens upon this blog post before reading the five star book about which I am writing.

Despite the love story alongside the dragon documentation, this book is far more realistic than any romance, and yet, when you come out of your “this is awesome” comma, you realize that the contents contain more heartbreaking romance than any novel with a half naked couple on the cover. It’s subtle, but it makes you realize that the Camhersts were made for each other.

Brennan setting this novel up as if it were a memoir made it more interesting and different to read. Books start sounding the same if there isn’t some unique way of conveying the point of view. It also enabled us to get to know Mrs. Camherst quite well. The sketches that Lady Trent published with her memoir made it easier to picture where she was and what she saw on the expedition to Vystrana.

I seem to have the ability to chose fantasy novels that have a strong mystery story within them. This book being the main character’s memoir, it has foreshadowing, involving clues and different events that are all pieces to many of the puzzles and problems the characters face during their dragon-studying quest.

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever wanted to study a dragon in its natural habitat.

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Where’s Waldo?

In Marblehead!

My niece’s second birthday is coming up next month, so I decided to go to a little bookstore in Marblehead called Wit and Whimsey. When you first walk in, you’re greeted by a child-sized cardboard cut out of Waldo. You know, that guy who wears a red-and-white-striped shirt, matching hat and big glasses, who likes to hide in large crowds and make you find him. He thinks he’s so clever, with his triumphant smile, as if we don’t see him right there.

When I went up to the counter to purchase my books, I noticed a pile of Waldo Passports, folded sheets of paper with Waldo’s face on the cover, saying “Shop Local” and “Find Waldo Here!” It turns out the doorman wasn’t the only Waldo: there was another, smaller Waldo who was actually hiding at Wit and Whimsey, and twenty-five more Waldos are hiding in other venues in Marblehead this month, including Chet’s Video, Shubie’s, Orange Leaf, and Mud Puddle Toys. The passport has a chart with all these places, and when you find Waldo at each store, they will stamp your passport. If you find enough Waldos, you get a Waldo sticker and other cool prizes.

If you’re looking for a fun activity to do with your child or someone else’s, a Waldo scavenger hunt might be your ticket to a fun time. I wonder where all these cool events were when I was a kid…

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A Good Book to Hoard by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina covers

Seraphina started out slow but turned out to be an exciting read that left me eager for more. In her novel, Hartman brings out the politics and societal conflicts of an imaginary world where humans and dragons live together in peace. But oh no! A murdered prince is found whose mysterious beheading makes people wonder if dragons really can be trustworthy and live in peace with humans.

The two strong points of this book were the plot and the characters, which went hand in hand. You couldn’t have one without the other. An underlying murder mystery was seen throughout, as well as a forbidden romance, but at the forefront of things was Seraphina and her big secret that caused her to hide from the world. The first person perspective was perfect for this book because so many things were happening. Seraphina connected them all, making hers the ideal point of view. Despite her differences, she is a very relatable character.

Music is important for Seraphina. Her mom played exceptionally well, and when she herself plays, it is so heart wrenching that it brings people together. It’s also a form of identity for her. She wouldn’t be Seraphina without her flute and her position at the castle as music mistress.

This book gives a new outlook to dragons. They can take human form (called a saarantras) and, not only is there prejudice between humans and dragons, but there is a second species of dragon in this book called quigutl that appear to be more disliked, maybe because they can’t take human form.

I admire fantasy novelists for being talented enough to come up with their own world. Not everyone can convey this world successfully, but Hartman does. I look forward to seeing these characters again in the sequel.

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“Three Parts Dead”

A Fantastic Fantasy by Max Gladstone

I usually read during my twenty minute work breaks, and I found it more difficult than usual dragging myself back to work while reading Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead. Every section seemed to end with a cliffhanger that made me thirsty for a resolution. No wonder this book was one of this year’s Must Read books.

This conglomeration of steampunk, crime and fantasy opens with the death of Kos Everburning, the God of Alt Coulumb. Enter Tara Abernathy and her boss, Elayne Kevarian, both Craftswomen working for Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao to investigate the god’s murder. Then another murder occurs, of a human this time. But could the murders be connected? That’s what the Craftwomen, and the readers of this magical mystery, must find out. The plot always keeps you on your toes, with twists and turns, vampires, living gargoyles, and blacksuits, statue-like servants of Justice. All the characters are suspect. You have to be careful who to trust as events unravel.

Elayne Kevarian is kind of like a Sherlock Holmes who can use magic. She doesn’t always tell Tara what she knows, and she always knows more than she lets on. Tara is in no way a Watson character. She’s more like a Sherlock-in-training. She figures things out more quickly than the other characters. I like her because she’s strong and brilliant, but not so much so that the resolution becomes too clear. Her archenemy – antagonistic, power-hungry craftsman and teacher, Alexander Denovo – is pretty clever, too. Scary clever. A force to be reckoned with. Gladstone’s characters in this book are so life-like that, when I read about the second book in the series (Two Serpents Rise), I was heartbroken that these characters aren’t in the second book. I hope they come back.

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