Life, Writing Process

State of the Quarterly


Originally, my friend and co-editor, Stuart Warren, was to lead Rune Bear‘s Quarterly Contest, but he didn’t know what he was doing and our visions for the magazine clashed (Stu saw this journal as an opportunity to publish only his and my work, while I wanted Rune Bear to follow a less narcissistic path).

After letting Stu go, I took over the defunct effort and implemented a drabble series with a $10 prize. One year later, so far, so good. We’ve completed four seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter) without any complications and are now cycling back into spring. Last season was our most successful submission period; the Quarterly received 53 drabbles.

My Oregon-bound friend Robin Stranahan has been creating the art to accompany our prompts, with the exception of the first contest, which featured a dragon and cowboy by Hari Nezumi.

Wanting a more consistent style, and after receiving fifteen stories about dragons snatching horses, we opted for Robin’s simpler, vaguer, and deeper imagery.

Here is her collection so far.

Summer 2020
Prompt: Apocalypse

Fall 2020
Prompt: Things that Live in Holes

Winter 2020
Prompt: Dead of Winter

Spring 2021
Prompt: Patch Notes Version 2.0

And, in accordance with our last prompt about scifi transhumanism, here’s to a weird, wonderful, unpredictable future!


Drabble — “Bird Lizard Coming On Strong”

A story in exactly 100 words.

Jim scratched his groin, itching fierce since last week’s romp at Ophelia’s. With a squint particular to these plains, he muttered, “I’m telling ya, that there’s a wyvern.”

Turner pulled from her scope, rested the rifle on the blue ridge of the roof. “It’s a dragon. Release the flare.”

Jim spat. “Wyvern! See the tail? Got a stinger there. That two-wings couldn’t burn down a barn.”

That two-wings released a hot beam of fire that took out Ophelia’s Place. The critter swooped overhead, a stingerless tail whistling by.

“One of them fire-breathing wyverns,” Jim muttered stubbornly, reaching for the flare.

Life, Writing Process


For a long time I’ve envisioned Rune Bear Magazine divided between Weekly and Quarterly. We would publish weekly stories under 300 words, but we would also have a seasonal writing contest.

Unfortunately, the Quarterly page on our website has looked like this for two years:

The guy we put in charge of Quarterly turned out to be a dud, so we let him go and I took over the contest. Instead of long-form writing, I decided to pull back to the flashiest flash fiction — the Drabble. Stories of 100 words exactly.

With $10 rewarded to the winner.

My editors came up with a list of prompts, democratically selected one, we hired an artist, and boom—I’m proud to announce that Rune Bear Quarterly is open for submissions until April 30, 2020. May will be a reading & selection period with the winner announced on May 31st.

The Spring 2020 prompt is “Weird Wild West” and the inspirational image (by no means the only interpretation of the prompt) is a dragon stealing a cowboy’s horse. This piece was made by the very talented Hari Nezumi, although in the future we will be relying on in-house artist Robin Stranahan.



Opening Pages of Iron Abbie

A bird landed on the sill and cheeped. It was a pretty thing, mostly brown with a few blue and yellow feathers like scales on a fish. Abigail sat very still and peered over, not wanting to startle it, and noticed that the poor bird had a padlock stuck on its head—the metal hook, like a curled finger, wrapped around its neck. The padlock was small and silver and it gave the bird a noble look, but it was obvious the bird was suffering. Perhaps it had come for help?

“Don’t move,” said Abigail, and she ran about the house, finally returning with a coterie of keys. The bird stood patiently while she applied the metals, but none fit. Not the one to mother’s jewelry-box, not the one that looked like a skeletal finger, not the golden one for the shelf beneath the peering glass, not the one to father’s desk. Finally, Abigail went down into the foyer and with some hesitation pulled the key to the front door from her father’s spare coat. It was shaped like an F and it fit into the padlock. Liberated, the bird flew out the window, soaring over bowler hats and stone heads to the park across the road. From a branch it looked back, then was gone.

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Western — “Above the Snakes”

Leagues ahead, as if justification for the old man’s suffering, was a boat. How could refuge exist out here in the abandon? The red dust and crags. Would he find whale bone, and coral, and mermaid skulls, and impossible Lemuria?

He drew near the boat. A thing of wood and shadow, like a coffin, or a cradle. Beneath its keel, he said, I’ll lose them. Or maybe despair waited for dry bones to rest on canine prayers.

A starving Colt 45, unholstered. The storm-stained old man fingered pockets, finally slipping a solitary shell into the loading gate. It would probably end up lodged between his eyes before biting his pursuers. It’d been a long ride through the desert, and when the horse died, a long hike.

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