13:44 PM

Security Management Grad Pens Fantasy Epic “Gift of the Shaper”

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Pining away for the new “Game of Thrones” season to start? Or worse yet, waiting on George R.R. Martin to finish the next book in the series? You’re going to have a little time to kill.

Fortunately, Bellevue University graduate and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. D.L. Jennings can help you out. Jennings has recently completed and published “Gift of the Shaper,” the first in a planned fantasy trilogy. Jennings started the book while on a deployment to Africa, where spotty internet access left him with some extra free time himself.

“I had found the upper limit of the times you can play Candy Crush on an iPad, and happened to be reading a book from Robert Jordan’s incredible fantasy series ’The Wheel of Time.’ During one of my bouts of boredom, I thought to myself that I knew the basics of good storytelling - I had grown up on C.S. Lewis and .JR.R. Tolkien thanks to my mother - and really enjoyed the fantasy genre as a whole,” he said. “That was when I made the conscious effort to stop wasting time and start writing a story. And, following Stephen King’s classic advice of ‘just write,’ I just wrote.”

The back cover of the book describes the plot as an “epic struggle between the existing forces of good and evil, with both sides vying for control of the key that unlocks the Otherworld. The very powers of creation and destruction hang in the balance, and only a heroic effort by Thornton and Miera, backed by the power of the Athrani, can possibly stop the Khyth from unleashing ruin – and the Breaker – upon their world.”

Jennings’ writing style is influenced by the aforementioned Martin, as well as other greats in the fantasy and science fiction genres.

“If I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Frankenstein and have him put together the best brains in writing, I would use George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury and Robert Jordan,” Jennings said.  “I love each one of them for a certain aspect of their writing and I think that if you were able to combine their brains into one monster brain, you would be able to write the perfect novel.”

A 2008 graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Security Management program, Jennings posted a 4.0 grade point average despite being deployed at times during his studies. Jennings was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base as an Airborne Korean linguist when Bellevue University first came on his radar.

“I looked into it and saw that, sure enough, it was the perfect fit for me: online courses with a core curriculum that would take the credits I’d earned at the Defense Language Institute of Monterey where I’d had my language training,” Jennings said. “Being that the school was practically down the road from me, I poked my head into the office and got the paperwork started. Fittingly enough, I finished writing the capstone for my Bachelor’s (full name of degree? It’s throwing me with one piece up and one piece down) in Security Management while I was on my first combat deployment.”

The flexibility that was offered by Bellevue University’s online courses was a key component for Jennings.

“It meant I was able to do it whenever I had free time. The way that the courses were set up were one right after the other and geared heavily toward how well you could write,” Jennings said. “I had always had an idea that I was a capable writer, but the courses really solidified that opinion as I found myself writing quality papers and getting good grades based on the criteria.”

Jennings is currently stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico. He has completed nine combat tours and serves as an Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Operator, usually out of a U-28A aircraft.  His main responsibility is to provide threat warning support to ground commanders and troops.

“Some of the work we do is the most exciting that I’ve ever done,” he said. “There is a reason I’ve been doing this same job for almost 10 years and still love it as much as day one.”

Jennings comes from a military family, a key influence in his decision to serve himself. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, further motivated him.

“My parents were both in the Air Force,” he said, “My dad being an Academy grad of the Class of ’77, and I was born on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where I am almost positive they swore me into service after cutting my umbilical cord.”. “In actuality, though, I was going to college at Kent State, working at a record store making just over minimum wage, not really doing anything with my life and being mostly content to keep doing so. But then, Sept. 11 happened, and my world – along with everyone else’s – changed. I sat down and had a long talk with my parents about joining, and they supported me 100 percent. Then, in 2004, I made the best decision of my life and enlisted.”

Jennings father is an accomplished writer himself, having penned “The Serving Leader,” a best-selling business book.

“He was the one who encouraged me to pursue my degree through Bellevue when I told him about the program,” Jennings said. “He likes to joke that writing is genetic and he gets it from his kids, but I know he’s a big reason that I’ve gotten this far at all.”