In less than a week, Bennet will finally return to the Shield Regiment, leaving behind the Gyrfalcon, his father, his friends… and Flynn. Promotion to Shield Major and being given command of a battle group despite the political fallout from Makepeace the year before is everything he thought he wanted. Everything he’s worked towards for the last three years. Except for leaving Flynn. He really doesn’t want to leave Flynn.
There’s time for one last flight together. A routine mission. Nothing too taxing, just savouring every moment with the best wingman, the best friend, he’s ever had. That’s the plan.
Bennet should know better than to trust to routine because what waits for them out there will change their lives forever.
Length: 106,470 words
The Bitter End
More than a decade ago, I started writing oddments—bits of scenes, action sequences, short stories—that would eventually grow into the five Taking Shield books. At that time, the idea of codifying those bits and pieces into a series telling one big story was just a twinkle in the eye and a mental ‘Someday, maybe’, but even then, I knew how the series would end. Indeed, one of those scraps of a scene held the eleven words that I thought would make the perfect last line.
A couple of months ago, I wrote “The End” at the bottom of the final page. Not just the final page of one of the books in the series, but the final page of the entire series. And I still don’t quite know what I feel about that.
Yes, I’ve only seriously worked on the series for the last four years, but it’s been a part of my writing life for at least the last ten. That’s a big chunk of time. Of course, there’s a real sense of achievement when, close to half a million words after I started, Bennet and Flynn have reached the end of their story. Not to mention the surge of relief that I did it with sanity (mostly) intact, marriage still strong and without ignoring most of my RL responsibilities to family, friends and the dogs. I’ve done it. Finished it. Bennet and Flynn have reached their final paragraph.
So. Yes. Of course I feel some elation and satisfaction. Triumph, even.
And then there’s the regret. The ‘oh no, it can’t be over!’ feeling that wells up from somewhere down near the solar plexus every time I contemplate a future without Bennet, Flynn, Caeden, Cruz, Quist… . The slight feeling I have of being rudderless, aimless, whenever I look at the Shield book covers on the wall and realise there won’t ever be another one. It is one ginormous, universe-wrenching pang of sorrow to write those final words on the last book of five, and send my boys off to editing for the very last time. I feel quite lost, actually, as if someone’s taken all my navigation computers off line. It’s a species of empty nest syndrome, I expect.
A bit of me is dancing and singing at finally finishing. Another bit is very triste and bitter-sweet and woebegone. I shall miss this series both terribly, but it has to be done. I have to let it go. All I can hope is that it gets a good reception and that others come to love Bennet and Flynn almost as much as I do.
There is one thing I’m very proud about. The final line I planned all those years ago? Exactly where I ended up. I was right: those eleven words make the perfect full stop to the Shield series. The adventure getting there has been wonderful. I’ve learned so much about writing, about characterization and plotting—and myself!—en route, and I’m both elated and regretful that the story of Bennet and Flynn is finally done.
Taking Shield Series
Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She recently moved out of the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London to the rather slower environs of a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, where she lives with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo.
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