Today, I have something super fun to share… official character art from The Electrical Menagerie! Plus, to make it even more special, a special flash fiction! Keep scrolling for artwork and story.
About the Artist: before I even finished the first draft of The Electrical Menagerie, I knew that I wanted Randi Lynn Jackson to draw the characters. Randi is an incredible artist with a distinct talent for translating imagination into illustration, and working with her has been an incredibly fun opportunity (honestly, our collaboration is mostly just us fangirling together).
Three more Electrical Menagerie character illustrations are forthcoming, so stay tuned! (But of course, we had to begin with Carthage!)
Sylvester F. Carthage: Bio
Once shut-in by a paralytic illness, Sylvester Carthage grew up with an affinity for stories and a powerfully childlike imagination – but an oftentimes dissonant relationship with the real world. An inventor and former street magician, Carthage is now the headlining star and master engineer of the Electrical Menagerie. A virtuoso of illusion, behind his effects lie a secretive spirit with desperate aspirations and hidden faults.
Guys. GUYS. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see this portrait for the first time. I especially love that Randi chose English Ivy – we decided all the characters would have a different type of laurel, but I wasn’t sure what his should be and told her to surprise me. She chose ivy because reading about Carthage made her think of “mysterious vines”. If you think she did an amazing job, you should definitely go follow her on Instagram (@randilynn_jackson)!
Now, I wanted to do something extra special to celebrate this artwork drop, so I decided to give a small glimpse into Carthage’s backstory. Here is a special Celestial Isles flash fiction set when Carthage was a young boy – shortly before he fell ill, told from the perspective of his mother Vivian.
It was a clear day when Sylvester found the bluebird.
Sitting in the garden, Vivian watched Elys put garden rocks to bed under leaves. The nursery was full of dolls, even one with real hair that Grandmama sent from a shop on Astoria, but there was Elys, murmuring to her handful of rocks: Good baby. Goodnight, baby.
The garden was quiet. Some maternal instinct prickled, and Vivian looked up to realize Sylvester was no longer playing nearby. Her heart went into her mouth.
She had reoccurring nightmares about the woods behind the house — shepherds talked of wolves coming out of the glen to eat their new lambs — and unlike Elys, who stood up and clung to Vivian’s skirts even now, Sylvester was always straying.
Once, in town, he’d been missing for almost an hour. They found him watching the local baker make bread, seemingly unaware that he was even lost.
He was fascinated with the woods, and what if he had walked out of the garden, down the path, right into the black mouth of the forest?
Only her hammering heartbeat answered.
Her fear was irrational. He’d just been there, digging little trenches with a stick, and he couldn’t have gone very far. But he was having a perplexing spell of clumsiness lately, and it felt like calamity hovered over him. Last Terrasday, he had somehow tripped and fallen down the staircase. She heard the impact from the other room as his head connected with the bottom step, a sickening sound she thought would haunt her forever.
“Sylvester!” she called again, and snatched up Elys, ready to chase after him. But then he appeared around the garden gate, small face flushed.
“Come here!” he answered.
Her alarm transformed into annoyance. Before she could scold him, he darted back behind the wall and disappeared. Setting Elys on her hip, she followed.
Beyond the wall, he crouched beneath a spreading tree.
“Sylvester Fox. You aren’t to go past the gate unless…” Her words caught. There was a fallen bluebird in the dirt.
Sylvester, pointing to it, looked at her for some input.
Its plumage was too full to be a fledging simply tumbled from a nest. The wings were askew against the shaded ground — one of them even looked broken. A breeze ruffled the feathers, but the bird didn’t move.
“It’s dead,” she told him.
He looked troubled. She knew he understood death; he had been there last Half-Noctus when they buried her father, and he had expressed the proper solemnity.
“Say a prayer for it,” he answered.
Eulogizing a dead bird was foolish, but that grave look was compelling. Days after falling down the stairs, he still had a scabby red mark between his eyes.
“Our Hallowed Father…” she began. “Bless you for… the life of this bird, and in its death —”
“No,” he interrupted.
“Pray for it to get better,” he said.
Children. Their rocks for dolls, their childlike faith. Imagination was charming, but it wasn’t powerful enough to undo what was already done.
“Sylvester,” she said, feeling suddenly worse, “it’s already dead.”
“No,” he denied, and his brow furrowed, making that mark between his eyes crease. “No, it wants to get up.”
She took his hand and tried to pull him to his feet. “It’s dead,” she said, for what she was determined would be the final time.
“It isn’t dead,” he said, and strained her grasp to lean toward the bird. She tried to yank him back before he could touch it, but she wasn’t quick enough. His fingertips brushed the blue back.
The bird flinched.
She was so startled that she released his hand entirely, but when he eagerly leaned forward to touch it again, she seized him and pulled him back.
The bird hopped forward twice and flew away.
When it had turned to a black speck against the blue sky, she turned to Sylvester and tried to find her words.
“It’s very dirty to touch wild animals,” she said finally.
He wiped the offending hand on his shorts, then looked at her again.
“With water,” she corrected, then sent him and his sister back through the gate and toward the house.
Of course, she told herself as she followed them, she had been mistaken.
The bird was never dead.
Only stunned, lying there to rest.
But her heart still hammered — this time, in some lighter and more delicious way.
She caught herself, as she shut the garden gate and latched it, looking beyond the garden. Something tugged on her, something somehow both wild and certain. Some feeling almost forgotten. Something that felt just a little bit like magic.
Maybe childlike faith was more powerful than it seemed.
She now heard the voice of the bluebirds that sang beyond the safety of her walls. Had it always been so beautiful? Anxiety had deafened her to anything but the wolves that howled on the hilltops.
For the first time in a long time — for the first time in years — she looked toward the woods and felt something other than fear.
What did you think of the story? Are you excited to meet Sylvester Carthage in The Electrical Menagerie? Comment below and tell me which part of his bio/backstory you’re most curious to learn more about!
Also, don’t forget! You have just two more days to win a FREE advance copy of Celestial Isles #1, The Electrical Menagerie, by entering the giveaway here!