I’m a firm believer that some of my best content comes during the later stages of editorial, nearly always as the result of an editorial note that confounds me, thus being the thing I leave to last. Such was the case with the Sea of the Dead.
It didn’t exist in the manuscript my editor acquired, not on the pages and not even my head. But when my editor came back to me with her notes, one of them said: I felt like I was promised some awesome seafaring adventure, like an uncrossable ocean, obstacles to navigate, etc., and then it was just a matter of the gods helping them reach a method of travel that everyone is already familiar with (Xenthier). Having it turn out that it would just take a long time to cross the regular way (sailing) was sort of a letdown. To paraphrase, she was saying that the seas being impassable by virtue of them being really large was boring and that I needed to do better.
I’d love to say the answer came to me easily, but it actually involved a lot of glaring at my blinking cursor. I knew I needed something fantastical, something that played into the Maarin connection to the sea, something that worked seamlessly with the clash between Madoria and Gespurn during the crossing, and something that I hadn’t used before in other series (storms were out). But what?
The idea to use doldrums finally popped out of my subconscious, and I knew it was the way to go because whole scenes created themselves in my head right on the heels of the idea’s arrival. It not only fit all my criteria, it, courtesy of the windless madness, made Marcus’s breakdown far more believable of his character. Most of all, it served as a perfect transition between the Empire, with its disbelief in the supernatural, to the Dark Shores, where the gods have their hands in everything, whether you see it yet or not…