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Debut novel deploys fantasy

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dave Jennings would escape into the worlds of Marvel comics and “Dungeons & Dragons” while growing up.

It was a way for him to expand his imagination.

“I fully embraced the worlds because I felt a connection,” he says. “The written word has always been important to me.”

Being an avid reader is what led Jennings to write the novel, “Gift of the Shaper.” It was also a chance for him to create his own fantasy universe and get the story that lived in his head out to the world.

“It’s ever evolving,” he says of the planned series. “I always have to make sure that nothing conflicts with what I’ve written before. I want to be consistent in this universe and make sure that it doesn’t stay too static.”

“Gift of the Shaper” is book one of the “Highglade Series.”

It starts with the Breaker of the Dawn, who has been locked away in the ethereal plane of the Otherworld. A young blacksmith’s apprentice finds himself trapped in a war between the noble Athrani, a subset of humanity gifted with the ability to transmute matter, and the malevolent and powerful Khyth, who seek to free the ancient god from his prison.

When his father, Olson, is kidnapped, Thornton Woods and his childhood friend, Miera, must leave their small village of Highglade to find him.

On their way, they are joined by Ynara and Kethras, cat-like humanoids called Kienari, who use their skills as hunter/trackers to follow Olson’s trail. When it comes to light that one among them possesses the key to the Breaker’s release, Thornton and his friends must defy the might of the Khyth as armies on both sides collide in pursuit of the ultimate prize.

The novel has already picked up best fantasy at the Beverly Hills Book Awards.

It took 10 years for Jennings to complete the book, where a good portion of the time he was based at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis.

“The state is beautiful and I did love getting out to Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos and Ruidoso,” he says. “In fact, I would take weekend trips out there just to write.”

Jennings spent 14 years in the Air Force – 10 of which were in the Special Operations.

He started off as a linguist and was stationed in Nebraska, Florida, North Carolina and New Mexico.

While deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and several countries in Africa, he used his downtime to continue working on the novel.

“I was air crew at the time and when we would get done for the day, I would grab my iPad and begin to write,” he says. “The ideas, plot lines and chapters began to come quickly. I would edit as I wrote and hammer out the details.”

Jennings wrote to pass the time and never thought he’d be an author.

“When I finished the book, publishers looked at me and said, ‘You’re a military vet, you don’t fit the mold,’ ” he says. “I love fantasy and there was a stigma attached to it. It’s not always involving magic and dragons and that’s what I’ve created.”

The book was released in February 2018 and Jennings is enjoying the reaction to the book.

“I really love the book and people are enjoying not only the novel but my story in getting there,” he says. “I’m not worried about critique because I already wrote it. I take the criticism in sections at a time. It’s emotionally draining.”

Jennings has already finished the first draft for the second book. “Gift of the Shaper” is available online at Amazon.