It was at the SC Literary Convention in 2009, where I first met Nick Valentino. I was in attendance with authors from my small press, Shadow Archer Press and Fissure Magazine and co-writers from our Greenville writers' critique group, The Reedy River Rats.
I knew just a little about steampunk and I recognized Nick's connection with the genre by his goggles and became enthralled by the genre after our animated conversation. He took so much time to describe the genre, give us concrete examples and let me tell you, his excitement was contagious. He was the standout author at this very stodgy literary con and attendees hung on his words.
I've never read a YA novel and was surprised at how involved Valentino's steampunk novel, Thomas Riley,was in both plot and steampunk technology. The novel is a fast paced wild ride through varied landscapes and near scrapes for Thomas and Cynthia, who are a complimentary pair, with their odd little quirks and dedication to their mission. I was constantly surprised by the well thought out weaponry and alchemy touches, all the little details that make a story rich and memorable. The interplay between the two characters proved fun and lively and in addition, a third imprisoned character of the princess (I won't say how and ruin the plot) makes for a complexity which challenges the hero and heroine both from within and without.
Nick makes a rather confusing and off beat world fun and creative and I learned a lot about the odd technical aspects of steampunk weapons, visual devices, and airships from Thomas Riley.
Quite an interesting twist in the steampunk genre.
Nick and his story are actually two of the most pivotal aspects which inspired me to become involved in the steampunk community over the past few years. I produced a special steampunk issue of Fissure magazine, led a panel of authors at the Upstate Steampunk Convention in Greenville, SC, had my article on the psychology of steampunk published in their hardcover academic journal of the presenations. I've also created, sold and taught steampunk art and attend monthly dining outs at steampunk meetings and cons. And best of all, Nick inspired me to write in the steampunk genre, with two short stories in circulation and my steampunk novel, Orchiderlium, almost completed.
It would be remiss if I didn't reprint this brief review I wrote shortly after I read Thomas Riley, my first steampunk book, ever, as well as my first YA. .In the intervening years, Nick has been relentlessly traveling to market his book and we have not as of yet crossed paths, but one day we will and I shall have to offer him my profuse thanks for his exuberant, excited and educated conversation with us which led, the Fissure folk, to investigate this intriguing world where I have met many many good friends, enjoyed immensely exciting discussions and wore some of the most deliciously fun gear and costumes I could ever imagine.