There’s a common saying about how a writer needs to get out a million “bad” words as practice before they can start writing the “good” ones. Good, in this specific context, referring to collections of words that could theoretically be published. Or at least words you wouldn’t be embarrassed to have anyone other than your cat see.

The good news: I wrote those million words back in middle school and high school and college. I dipped my fiction-writing toes into the waters of online fan fiction and decided I liked it. I hit the deep end of the pool with original fiction by the time I was in my later years of undergrad.

The bad news: I wrote those million words before I actually knew anything about how to be a good writer.

So, what does all that have to do with the current state of the Steel Empires series?

My first significant project past those million or so words was the original version of Steel Victory, my thesis novel for my master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction. I learned a lot while writing those 103k words, and they were decent enough to allow me to pass my thesis and graduate in 2007.

Though I half-heartedly shopped Steel Victory around to agents after grad school, I knew it was a long shot going in. It’s a weird, niche, non-traditional book. I put it away and embarked on a five-year interlude where I played a lot of video games, advanced my day job career, built a house, and acquired both a spouse and trio of ridiculous cats. Not a lot of writing, but I never forgot my passion. And I never forgot Steel Victory or the unique world and characters I’d created, which still had a place in my heart.

Cue Dog Star Books, the greater Raw Dog Screaming Press family, and a second shot at telling my story. Except it wasn’t as simple as digging the text and synopsis out of the bowels of my computer, throwing together a cover letter, and shooting off an email.

I learned a lot while writing Steel Victory, and I learned even more about writing while revising the book to under 90k words to meet the Dog Star Books submission guidelines. I still loved the story; it was definitely a stronger book.

But the story didn’t end when Dog Star Books published Steel Victory in June of 2015. Though the novel works as a stand-alone story, it turned out that Victory and Toria had more to say. And I was determined not to be one of those fantasy authors who made readers way for years between installments. Five books in five years has been a hell of a ride, and I’m thrilled to have taken it with you all.

Except I learned a lot more about writing again as I wrote another half-million words. Enough that while I still considered Steel Victory to be a solid story, the little stuff nagged at me. A lot of authors are embarrassed by their debut projects. I happen to be lucky enough to be able to do something about it.

With the blessing from Dog Star Books, I once again revised Steel Victory. Aside from a few minor moments, the story I love remains the same. The writing itself, however—the nuts and bolts of syntax and paragraph structure and flow (and let’s be honest, fixing a few residual typos)—is absolutely stronger.

This year, I’m pleased to present what I jokingly call Steel Victory 2.0, revised with the author’s preferred text. Readers who are new to the series will experience my writing at a level I’m proud to share. Previous readers should note that their memories of the story are still solid, with no significant changes to characters and storylines.

I do realize that I’m breaking the established pattern of a new book every summer. It’s a small consolation, but the “new” Steel Victory also includes the following bonus features:

  • Foreword by award-winning author and editor Lee Murray.
  • “The Reluctant Master”: A previously unpublished story featuring Victory and Mikelos in the early days of Limani.
  • “Limani: A Brief History”: An excerpt from a longer work by Lady Zhinu Zhuanxu-Wallace.

Even better, new readers to the series have four more books to enjoy right away. And for those of you waiting on the next installments, Steel Justice (Steel Empires #6) is already drafted and revised. The ideas for Steel Legacy (Steel Empires #7) are percolating and coalescing, and I can’t wait to start writing the epic conclusion to this series later this summer.

As always, thanks for joining me on this epic adventure, and especially for taking a chance on my non-traditional urban fantasy. I’m excited to keep learning about writing on this journey with all of you.

Get the paperback or the new hardcover edition here.