Category: The Business of Writing

Industry information regarding branding, publishing, and marketing. This includes my personal experience founding Rune Bear, a digital literary magazine devoted to flashy weird fiction.

Creating the Logo & Mascot for Rune Bear

Phil Kiner has always been my go-to guy for visual marketing, so when I started Rune Bear, I had constant reassurance that the logo would end up looking awesome. And, indeed, I ended up with this:

But that wasn’t the first rune bear that Phil designed. Phil also experimented with configurations based on actual runes, specifically Elder Futhark (c. 150–800 AD).

A futhark is a type of alphabet that starts with some variation of F, U, Þ, A, R, and K, and Elder Futhark is the earliest known form. The alphabet was used by Germanic tribes during the ‘Barbarian Invasions’ (the Germans have a better word for it—Völkerwanderung while English academics have a more boring description—the ‘Migration Period’) which may or may not have led to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Today, Elder Futhark is often found on old weapons, amulets, tools, and, yes, this is real life, runestones scattered across the European landscape.

Phil sent me three designs based on the futhark.

The first:

While I loved the diamond nose and frumpy grin, the ears, while stylish, gave the bear an undesirable ant-like quality.

The second:

The test market (me) liked the sideburns but thought the bear looked too grumpy.

The third:

#perfection

For a while I had settled on this design for the magazine.

But there was still this itchy inkling (writer’s rash?) in the back of my mind. I wanted something that would allow other artists to create their own variations. And something more blue, more realistic. My attempt looked like this:

No, wait, that’s something else.

My first design was this:

In his mouth I wanted the futhark word “alu” (ᚨᛚᚢ). The alu’s meaning is a contested issue, but some of its definitions hint at a strange, disturbed state created by sorcery or induced by ale (we’ve all been there). It is usually inscribed on artifacts of magical or mystical import. Other potential meanings include “taboo,” “strange,” “distraught,” and the “world between the living and the dead.” (I also considered ᛒᛖᚨᚱ, which is the word “bear” spelled out in futhark letters.)

In the end, Phil drew this:

… and the rest is rune history.

Writ in Water Issue #2

Today, I swung by HBU’s Author Celebration to pick up Issue #2 of Writ in Water.

(I’m the dude in the earflaps)

Writ in Water is the student literary magazine that I launched last year and subsequently passed on to Seth Grant (the lad to the left) when I graduated.

And Seth has done a remarkable job. Issue #2 is beautiful; the cover and interior as remarkable as the prose and poetry inside.

And speaking of remarkable prose, one of my pieces ‘somehow’ made it into the final print.

According to an editorial note, this year’s theme was “Community,” which comes from two Latin words that denote a group coming together in “oneness.”

Seth adds: “The pieces published here do not paint a picture of a perfect world because the world we live in is not perfect. It is not sanitized nor masked with false optimism. Life – yes, even the Christian life – is a struggle.”

Per tradition, Seth will graduate this spring and pass on the editor-in-chief position to the next aspiring bad ass.

Naming Rune Bear

My hench-editors (it’s my wifeStuart, and his wife) and I kept rejecting names for a literary genres-remix website we were envisioning (and one poor guy had been building pro bono). For the longest time we had our fat hearts set on Idiosync (short for ‘idiosyncrasy’) but the title was too lazy and it sounded like ‘Idiot Sink.’ Then we wanted Idiot Sink, but that impulse didn’t last. AstroLack was too spacey. Los Orcus was too fantasy. We wanted less swords-and-sorcery and more swords-and-sandworms. No to Wyrdfic (is ‘weird’ gender-biased or something?), Grot Gear, Desmorious (I was down), Wristcanon (people would think we spelled ‘cannon’ wrong), Battle Droid (‘droid’ is trademarked by LucasFilm Ltd.).

For a while we settled on Rune Beard. We wondered if Nordic facial hair would evoke a space pirate captain firing plasma bolts at sword-wielding mechs on distant asteroids (it was the Warhammer 40,000 side of us that connected runes with sci-fi in the first place), but instead our test audience pictured a neckbeard playing WoW, and incidentally, they weren’t wrong. Dumping Rune Beard was emotional for me, because Alyssa, Stuart, and I had devised an awesome icon to accompany our logo—a bewhiskered Odinesque whose face was comprised of two Anglo-Saxon runes that corresponded with our initials (the scarred-eye is the jera, or j-rune, and my first name is Jared; the crooked nose is the sigel, or s-rune, i.e. Stuart). Being boys, we didn’t consider adding a rune for Alyssa.

Here’s Alyssa’s mock-up:

However, while I was pining over Rune Beard in my notebook, I noticed that without the “D” there was another great name for our mag—Rune Bear. The domain wasn’t taken, and there weren’t any rune bears out there except for the Runeclaw Bear in Magic the Gathering. The others were hesitant but the name grew on them. I went ahead and drew a rough sketch of what I was envisioning for the mascot. (Although these details weren’t in the sketch, I knew the bear had to be blue and have a rune in its mouth).

I finally turned to an old friend of mine, Phil Kiner, to create the mascot we have today:

Writ in Water Updates

Last year I launched a student magazine, Writ in Water, through HBU’s Academic Success Center. At the time I was the center’s Writing Coordinator, a position that involved working with staff and tutors to assist students with academic writing. That was, after all, the mission of the ASC—”to facilitate student academic success.” But I also wanted to promote student success through creative writing. All throughout Fall and Winter, I worked diligently with my Assistant Director, Samantha Bottoms, and a dedicated corps of tutors to set up a submission and reading period and finally a physical print of the magazine.

After I graduated from Houston Baptist University, I stepped down from my role as the Writing Coordinator and redevoted my full attention to my career as a high school teacher. Call it a year of rest where I no longer had to be a teacher by day, student by night, and writing coordinator in-between. Along with my ASC retirement, I passed on Writ in Water, a campus literary magazine that I founded, to an amazing dude named Seth Grant.

This semester I’ve been sneaking into a Roman History course (all right, fine, I’m not that cool—the professor lets me swing by), and just imagine my profound sense of place when I discovered that HBU will be continuing the Writ in Water series!


I’m excited.