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Tales from Thac: Author J. L. Price

Updated: Sep 23, 2019

Hi Folks,

This month I'd like to introduce you to another of my co-authors from the Tales from Thac anthology. Jeff L. Price is a friend and soon to be author of the sci-fi series Tears of the Phoenix. Although no stranger to publishing (he started his career as a journalist and has worked at multiple newspapers), Tears will be Jeff’s first foray into independent publishing.

Jeff has penned the short story Art of the Steal for the upcoming anthology. It is rather appropriate since he is the driving force behind the flamboyant character from Heroes, the one and only Donatello.

Q. Hi Jeff, Thanks for stopping by. Tell us a little about the premise of Art of the Steal.

A. Sure. It’s just your fairly typical superhero origin story….

Q. Umm, “superhero?”

A. Yeah, superhero. Donatello has a cape, wears tights and fights villains who are always threatening to end the world. I think that qualifies him to join the likes of the Avengers or Justice League. So Kevin Feige, if you’re reading this give me a call, I’ve got a few ideas for you.

Q. You want Donnie to be the next Avenger?

A. Why not? {Laughs} Now that Tony Stark is gone, some one’s got to be the flamboyant womanizer in that group...

Q. Is that what prompted you to write this story then?

A. No. I wrote it more as a lark. Something to make the Dungeon Master running the D&D campaign we were in laugh while at the same time giving him an idea of what Donnie might have been up to before he joined the Heroes of Ravenford. I thought it might provide some fodder for future adventures or adversaries.

Q. Since you bring that up, can you tell us a little about the creation of Donnie? What prompted you to craft such an iconic character?

A. I wouldn’t really call Donatello an “iconic” character. To me, an iconic character is someone whose originality makes him/her/it stand out from all similar characters throughout literature, movies, TV, comics, and other media. It’s the type of character that creates a character trope, and Donnie is definitely not that.

Q. Okay, so not "iconic", but what is he then?

A. He’s a compilation of every swashbuckler / devil-may-care stereotype out there. He was intended to be that from the very get-go and to provide comic relief and a bit of fun to party through his outrageous actions.

Q. So it’s safe to say he’s your favorite character?

A. {Laughs} That’s a loaded question. If I answer yes, then I look like a conceited jerk…..

Q. Then who is (are) your favorite character(s)?

A. Glo, or maybe Askel.

Q. Really? {arches an eyebrow}

A. {Laughs again} No. But I thought it couldn’t hurt to suck up to the author, in hopes of getting a little more “screen time” for Donnie… Maybe making him the central figure of the group. I mean, it could work….

Q. Speaking of “screen time,” is there a particular scene you are especially fond of?

A. Yes. I can’t remember now if it was in Serpent Cult or the battle in the Marsh Tower, but it’s the scene where Donatello saves Ruka’s life. She’s battling a huge snake that has poisoned her. They’re still fighting and Ruka is losing. So Donnie jumps off a some high ledge above both of them, lands on the snake’s head impaling it his sword and killing it in a single blow. Then saves Ruka’s life by sharing his life-force with her until the group can get her to a healer. It was all very cinematic and played like the climax of the kind of action movies I grew up on.

Q. That scene was actually from the Dark Monolith. But what about “Art of the Steal”? Do you have a favorite scene there?

A. {Thinks for a minute} If I had to pick just one, it’d probably be the fight in the masts with the Black Pearl.

Q. What did you like about it?

A. Well for starters, it was really run to write and sums up Donatello’s character perfectly. He’s not always the sharpest crayon in the box and tends to lead with his heart instead of head – like not realizing the woman he was protecting wasn’t a damsel in distress but the dread Pirate Roberts…. er… I mean … The Black Pearl.

Q. Speaking of the Dread Pirate Roberts, that scene was influenced by “The Princess Bride” wasn’t it?

A. Influenced” is being kind. The banter in the masts was initially a word-for-word rip-off of the duel between Wesley and Inigo Montoya. Like I said, when I first wrote the story, I was trying to cram in as many swashbuckler movie references as possible to make our DM laugh. I think the only difference between the two was that I lampshaded the whole “I know something you don’t” routine.

Q. That is one of the all time classics, and a personal favorite. So what made you change it?

A. Other than the copyright police? {Laughs} Well when you said you wanted the story for your book, I thought I’d better make it a bit less obvious and somewhat more original. And as it turns out, I actually like it better this way now. It’s now more a homage to the Errol Flynn / Basil Rathbone pirate flicks like “Sea Hawk” or “Captain Blood” I loved as a kid rather than just a tired retread of that “Princess Bride” scene.

Q. Now that it’s all said and done, is there anything about Donnie, or the story, you would change?

A. Aside from making him the central figure of the series? {Laughs} No, not really. It would be nice to see Donnie get a chance to confront and kill Wraithbone in the series finale, but it’s not really necessary. Donnie is really one of the peripheral characters there to keep the story light and fun. As long as he’s done that, he’s fulfilled his purpose.

Q. Well you could always write it yourself…

A. I’ve thought about it. But in all seriousness, I’m not sure how interesting it would be. Donnie is really kind of a one-note character. He works perfectly well as part of an ensemble cast, but I’m not really sure he can carry a solo story all by himself. I think the swashbuckler antics would wear thin very quickly and while Donnie does have a darker, more serious side that could be interesting to explore, it’d take a whole lot of planning and plotting, and I don’t have time for that right now.

Q. Because you have another project you’re working on - “Tears of the Phoenix”.

A. Yes, and thanks for allowing the shameless plug. It’s my galaxy-spanning sci-fi epic, and I don’t mean that in the marketing sense. That’s not to say it won’t be “awesome, great and unforgettable” when I finally finish it. I mean it in its literary sense, because while it’s not “a long poem” it is, going to be long and does follow the “ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation” which in this case happens to be an alien civilization.

Q. I've had the privilege of reviewing some of your drafts. As a long time sci-fi fan, I love the premise and your characters. Would you care to elaborate more about it for our audience?

A. Why thank you! Glad you asked! {Pretends open wallet and slip $20 across the table}. The back-of-book blurb is: During the 1980s, a young medical student at Syracuse University meets an enigmatic graduate student and finds herself drawn into a galactic civil war between aliens battling for control over ancient artifacts that have to power to reshape reality. I know it sounds kind of pulpy, but I’d like to think it’s a bit more serious than that, with fully rounded characters who are not just like architypes the way Donatello is. I tried to make the two main characters, Dawn Anne Amanda, the young medical student, and Jethric Wilcox, the grad student who turns out to be an alien hiding out on Earth, seem like real people. They don’t always know the right thing to do, nor do they have all the answers or skills to get out of the situations they find themselves in. Unlike the heroes of those pulp novels, TV shows and movies I loved as a kid, my characters struggle to make the best decisions they can under extraordinary circumstances.

Q. This has been your passion of yours for more than a few years now, right?

A. That’s putting it nicely. I’ve been working on this story in a number of different forms now since I was in junior high school. And no, I won’t tell you how long ago that was! But this is the first time in all those years that I’ve come close to finally completing it. I’m about 90 percent done now, and hope to have it finally finished in a year or two. Of course, I’ve been saying that for a while now too, so we’ll see…

Q. This might be going back a few years, but what first inspired you to write? Was it strictly an offshoot of gaming, or did you always have the bug?

A. I’ve always had a very active imagination and been making up stories all my life, even before I ever knew what Dungeons and Dragons was. I think the first time I ever started to put it down on paper in any serious way was in sixth grade or maybe in junior high school. You’d need to double check with some of my other friends on that one….

Q. Who are some of your favorite authors?

A. You mean other than F.P. Spirit? I was never much of a reader when I was younger. I’m dyslexic and had a lot of trouble learning to read and even today I’m a very slow reader. (My wife jokes that I have to sound-out each word). But the few authors I did read quite a lot of were Robert Heinlein – “Starship Troopers,” “Friday” and “Glory Road” were my favorites – and Piers Anthony, whose Incarnations of Immortality series I really adored. I also loved reading Anthony’s essays at the end of those books and I think it was really those that inspired me to be a writer.

Q. But you work in IT now, don’t you?

A. Yup, but I started my career as a journalist and spent half my life as a reporter and editor before turning to the “Dark Side” and going into IT. They have “cookies” after all!

Q. {Laughs} Love the "Family Guy" reference. I know you don’t as yet have a social media presence as an author, but is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

A. Yeah, I do have a blog where I write about random nerdy essays on sci-fi/fantasy topics or geeky stuff about computers and technology. It’s called The Blue Scream of Jeff and you can find it here: I took some time off from it so I could devote some more time to “Tears of the Phoenix” but I plan on resuming my monthly posts late this month.


Well that's it for this month. In the coming months we will have more excerpts from the upcoming anthology and possibly another author interview. Also, we'll delve into the plans for City of Tears, the first book of the Rise of the Thrall Lord series.


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