I did manage to work on By the Blood this weekend. I didn't really add much to it, though, because once again I got mired in the opening paragraphs. I'm hoping what I came up with last night will pass the next inspection; I'm tired of second- and triple-guessing myself.
I can tell you what the problem is. The story is set in a psuedo-Ancient Egyptian world. I've done lots of research. Although, let's be honest, can you ever really research enough? Someone somewhere will nitpick the smallest details. I think I may have to put a nice little author's note at the beginning of the manuscript. Something along the lines of "While many elements in this story may resemeble Ancient Egyptian culture, landscape, and beliefs, this story is a piece of fiction and pure fantasy. It is not meant to be used for scholarly purposes. For accurate portrayals of the Ancient Egyptians, please seek reference books available at your local bookstore or library."
Even with those boundaries established, it's a challenge to nail the setting and cultural intricacies in the first few paragraphs. I hate opening a book with a long-winded description of landscape. Boring. I prefer to start with some action, even if it's very small action. Adding landscape and cultural references in between lines of dialogue or during action sequences is how I normally work. Yet, because this is fantasy and so many fantasy books have a medieval feel, I want to establish a sense of difference right away. But I don't want to dump a bunch of description, either. So it's a balancing act. One I'm struggling to maintain.
Of course, once I put my heroine into action, I need to consider how best to introduce my hero. And my villians--both big and small.