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Jack of Hearts Lives!

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Jan 16th, 2013
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I should have made an official announcement a long time ago, but things got a little hectic last year. There was this little game I was working on at the time called Dishonored, and it made thinking about anything else really difficult. But now the game is finished and out, and if you’re a gamer I hope you get a chance to play it. I’m really proud of it and all the work the team at Arkane did. I work with some really incredible people.

So, what I should have mentioned last year is that my first novel, Jack of Hearts, is going to be published. That’s right. Achievement unlocked at last. This is something I’ve been striving toward for a long time. Something I dreamed of as a kid, looking for Tanelorn with Prince Corum, visiting the Silent Planet, and following the Black company among others. It’s been a long grueling road, put off for years at a time, and I couldn’t have gotten here without the support of my amazing wife, a cloud of exceptionally talented and inspiring friends (some of them fellow game developers at Arkane Studios), and extended family. You know who you are and you rock.

Jack of Hearts is coming out in the spring of 2013 and will be published by the wonderful people at Belle Bridge Books. Click here to read more about the book.

I realize that many things which lead to our successes or failures are beyond any one person’s control, and so I feel incredibly blessed and grateful.

One last thing. As you might know if you’ve seen the site before, (or know me) I like to sketch as a I write. So, here’s a quick sketch I did of Jack the other night.

He has no heart.

Building-Head Land

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Aug 30th, 2010
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Since today is the day I was born, I’m pulling out something totally random. Consider it an exercise in imagination. Driving back from Ft. Worth recently I said something to my wife about my head (I don’t remember now what it was, but I bet it was normal-sounding, I promise). She looked at me and said something that had the words “look” and “red barn”.

“My head looks like a red barn?” I asked.

“No.” She pointed out the window. “Look at that red barn. It’s cute.”

“Oh!” Of course. I knew that. Why would she say my head looks like a red barn? Scrolling past on my right was a stretch of farmland with, of course, a dilapidated red barn.

But that got me to thinking. What if my head was a building? Not just mine. What if we lived in a world where everyone’s head was a building? As one of my favorite smiths of curse-wordery, Vince Vaughn, would say, “Stay with me, captain.”

Imagine, instead of a head, your body was capped with a building that best represented who you are. Sort of like a totem. It’s your spirit building. Now, you can’t pick a building that’s something you like. For instance, you can’t say: “Ooooh–I like coffee, so my head would be a Starbucks.” No. If your head was a Starbucks, that would mean that you are a person who energizes others. Or that you’re a spaz. Or you overcharge for your services.

All kinds of fun can be had with this. Maybe your head’s a smoke-chugging factory: you’re very industrious and you work brutally hard (or you exploit people, either way). Maybe you’re a motel (we all know what that means.) I was kind of thinking of my head as some sort of ancient temple or philosophical academy. The kind of place travelers would visit to gain deep insight, spiritual understanding. The Oracle at Delphi. Aristotle’s Lyceum.

So, I asked my wife, “What do you think my head would be?”

“Something like a cave.”

“That’s not a building.”

She thought a moment. “But the inside would have man-made stuff. Like tunnels.”


“Dark twisty tunnels. Like a maze.”

“What? I sound like a psycho!”

So, basically I’m walking around with a mountain on top of my neck. A mountain with a cave people wander into, get hopelessly lost, and then get eaten by some hideous bull-headed beast. Awesome. I guess.

Cave Head

So, seriously, what would your head be if it was a building?

Character Sketch: The Bridge Keeper

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Aug 9th, 2010
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In my novel, Jack of Hearts, all of the main characters eventually meet a creature in the wilderness named Vasti. Everyone refers to Vasti as a “dwarf”, but if you’re thinking about clever craftsmen who tinker beneath the mountains or “hi-ho-ing” shorties who befriend enchanted princesses–think again.

Here’s an excerpt from when Moribrand first runs into the creature. In this part of the story, Moribrand and his giant slave, Minnow, have come to a deep chasm. A rickety draw-bridge offers the only way across the gap. Unfortunately, the bridge is raised when they first arrive:

Moribrand called out, cupping his hands around his mouth. “Hello there!”

A man popped up on the other side, surprising Moribrand. He had been sitting behind a stand of spare barrels. He waved a long arm in response.

Moribrand frowned; he was the ugliest man he had ever seen, far uglier than Minnow. A nose like a worm-eaten potato clogged the middle of his face, the perimeter of which was shrouded by a wild reddish beard that extended down to his shirtless belly.

“You want to cross?” the ugly man asked. He had a rough grating voice that Moribrand found entirely disagreeable.

After some arguing and negotiating, Moribrand persuades the ugly keeper to lower the bridge, but when he crosses to the other side a surprise awaits him:

Moribrand let out an exasperated breath and began to cross, taking careful but quick steps. The bridge had no railing and some of the timbers were slick from the mist of the river below. He decided not to look down as he crossed, holding the hem of his robe up to keep it from getting damp, but he couldn’t resist one peek at the white line of water far below. The glance made his stomach twist and his knees wobble. Before his legs could fail him, he stumbled across the last few yards, catching himself on the giant.

With a great racket the keeper raised the bridge again. Afterward, he came out onto the trail to greet them. At seeing him emerge, Moribrand recoiled and cursed loudly.

The bridge keeper had no legs. Instead he walked on the palms of his hands. He’d been seated on a barrel the entire time, disguising his actual height. His shoulder muscles were over-developed and his arms hung down like long thick ropes, so that he could easily lay his elbows on the ground while resting on the end of his torso. Overall, the way he moved, his wild hair, and the length of his arms gave him the appearance of a legless ape.

Moribrand fought down another shudder. Legless men were ill luck. He thought he remembered something about that, some old story from when he had studied at Argent, but the specifics of the memory escaped him now. What was it? It buzzed in his brain like a fly, irritating him, warning him, but in the end he swatted the thought away. He had no time to dwell on the academics of this youth. The sooner he was gone from this place the better.

The keeper scowled at Moribrand’s outburst. “What’s with you? Never seen a crippled man before?”

As it turns out, Vasti is anything but crippled. He may not be a craftsman, but he’s handy with a saw, and Moribrand’s slave  has the loveliest  legs Vasti has ever laid his rheumy eyes on. That’s all I’ll say for now. Here’s the sketch of Vasti I did recently:


Character Sketch: The Salt Baron

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Jul 6th, 2010
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Aside from doing character bios, sometimes I like to do character or creature sketches. Yesterday I was reading the first book in the Monster Blood Tatoo series, and the book includes artwork of the creatures, characters and some of the clever devices in the world. I love it when books do that. So, it inspired me to whip out my Wacom tablet.

I ended up with a sketch of a character named Jacosta, a ruthless Salt Baron in the Desert of Night Walking from my novel, Jack of Hearts. Here’s the scene in the story where he’s first introduced. Jacosta and a charlatan named Moribrand are taking a meal when Jack is dragged into the room in chains:

Jacosta sat across the table from him, his opposite in every way, a face of hard edges and sharp angles. A trim beard followed the line of his jaw like an impassable black border. He kept his back straight and stiff, never hunching or reclining as if the cushions presented an extravagant temptation to which he refused to succumb.

The Salt Baron listened to Moribrand without interrupting, his lips fixed into an obligatory smile. A white eye patch cupped his right eye like an eggshell, held in place by straps that resembled thin scars etched into his skin. Jacosta’s other eye stared flatly, its glare suggesting a reservoir of venom. Jack thought Jacosta looked like a hawk watching a piglet eat, waiting for the right moment to dive down from the heights and crush it.

Jacosta the Salt Baron

I’m not 100% sure I’m happy with the style. Probably could do a better job with the line work and the values in places, but eventually I get lazy and just want to be done.

About Me

Ricardo Bare
Austin, Tx

Ricardo Bare is a writer and game designer living near Austin, Texas. Currently he works as a game designer for Arkane Studios, which in 2012 released Dishonored. Ricardo started his career in the games industry working on the Deus Ex series, winner of the BAFTA and numerous other Game of the Year awards.

Ricardo is the author of Jack of Hearts and Fool of Fate, the first two books in a young adult fantasy series.


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