Hello, dear readers! If you've read Where the Clouds Catch Fire, you're probably familiar with Captain Tamlane McMahon. He is a wonderful person, a skilled sea captain, and a good friend of Alynn's father. Although his fate is uncertain after the storm that sank the Circlehawk and presumably the Darting Swallow as well, I found some old correspondences we'd had via carrier pigeon. I've recreated the conversation as best as I could:
M.J.: It's quite an honor to speak with you, Captain. Where are you right now?
Tamlane McMahon: We're on our way back from Francia. We had to stop in England for supplies, but we stopped in three towns before we found one that wasn't having a smallpox epidemic. I'll be glad to return to Scotland.
M.J.: I thought you lived in Ireland.
T.M.: I was raised in Ireland, aye, but born in Scotland. Now that I'm a captain, I live all over the place. I spend some winters in Mount Shannon with my mum, and others in Dumfries with my cousins.
M.J.: Where did you meet the McNeil family?
T.M.: I grew up with Rowan--we lived next door to each other in Mount Shannon when we were lads. He was a sight--this tall, scrawny thing, and he could never get his hair to lay right. He was fifteen before he grew into himself.
M.J.: And how well have you kept in touch with him?
T.M.: I ran into him a couple months after I signed onto my first ship--just as a deckhand. After that, I'd see him every few months. He didn't stay in one spot for long. I was glad when he settled down in Limerick City. I was having a hard time keeping track of him.
M.J.: So you're close?
T.M.: We're brothers in all but name and blood. You ought to be talking to him yourself. He's a fierce important character.
M.J.: You may not realize this, Captain, but you're a very important character as well. You're what filmmakers call a MacGuffin.
T.M.: I thought I was a McMahon.
M.J.: You are. But a MacGuffin is a literary device that propels the plot forward. Without you, there would be no Where the Clouds Catch Fire.
T.M.: (humbly smug) I'm a bit of wind in your sails, aye? Much obliged. How do I manage to do this in the first two chapters?
M.J.: Without you, the McNeils wouldn't be leaving for Scotland. And if they didn't leave for Scotland, there would be no plot.
T.M.: Anyone could have brought the McNeils to Scotland. Ye could have just made a run-of-the-mill ship, and a nameless captain, and done the job just as well.
M.J.: I could have. But since I'm the author, I'm not limited by your perspective. I see everything that happens in this story, and in the stories to come, and I can plan things accordingly. You're doing precisely what I need you to be doing.
T.M.: Just by sailing my ship, aye?
M.J.: Yes, just by sailing your ship. By doing the job you were designed to do.
T.M.: If ye're writing another story, milady, ye might consider putting me in more than two chapters.
M.J.: I'll put you where I need you. Don't worry.
T.M.: My men just found the supplies we're needing. I'd best leave. We sail at dawn and I've yet to find a decent place for the night. It's always a treat to sleep in a bed that doesn't move.
M.J.: I trust it is, Captain. Thank you for your time, and be sure to reward your carrier pigeon. It does good work.
*Here the correspondences end. Either Captain McMahon didn't send another letter, or something happened to the pigeon.*
Do you want to read more about Captain McMahon? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.