I haven't done much with the new Michael Macbeth idea (nor indeed, any idea at all) over the holidays, being too preoccupied with other matters. Whenever I've sat in front of the computer, all I've really had energy to do was shut my brain off via computer games. That does help feed my creative abilities, tho, just by giving them some input to chew on. ("Say, that's an interesting situation/twist/bit of dialog! File that under 'plagiarize later!'")
Also, no doubt influenced by Return of the King and all the Temple of Elemental Evil I've been playing, I've found my thoughts turning to sword and sorcery in the odd moments I've had to let them roam free. In particular, I've been thinking more about Soloman, the world of Ethangea, and what I want from it.
What I mean is, as time has gone by my vision of what Ethangea is like has wandered around. Originally, it was a pretty generic "medieval fantasy" sort of world, with chainmail and pikes ... then it morphed into something of a more Elizabethan mode, with flintlocks and muskets. When I actually wrote a novel in the world, it shifted back a bit to its earlier mode, with a "returning" dark king and his troll minions like some Sauron-wanna-be. Later still, when I wrote "Lords of Khaldun" and "The Stones In the Desert," there was a distinctly antique feel to them, more like Conan's Hyboria than Middle Earth.
The setting of a work has a task, which is to facilitate the story being told. Lord of the Rings is a mythic prehistory of Britain, and as such it has to incorporate aspects of British culture and folklore, early influences, and so on. Gandalf is a proto-Merlin, Aragorn is a proto-Arthur, Rohan the Brittanic celts, etc. The world reflects this in many ways, from the wistful melancholy of the elves leaving (see also, "the English love nothing more than tragic loss"), the significance of gardens and forests ("this emerald paradise set in the silver seas!"), and of course the importance of the sanctity of kings (Aragorn, as the true king, is the only one who can unite the world of men against Mordor).
The stories of Conan, on the other hand, are two-fisted adventure stories in the heroic mode of Greek mythology -- with more than a little Yankee rebel spirit thrown in. As such, a hero can be pretty darn amoral, as long as he's capable of great deeds, and Conan has little more than contempt for the ancient and decadent civilization that he eventually becomes the king of. To support this, the world is violent and dangerous, full of monsters and failed civilizations (not just lost, but failed). Without the raw animalistic power of the barbarian, civilization in Conan's world wastes away like atrophied muscles. Kings are not determined by the grace of God, but by who can take control and keep it (a la Kull the Conqueror, Conan's ancestor, and his famous declaration, "By this axe, I rule!").
So what kind of story do I want to tell? That, of course, is the sticking point that I keep coming up against -- the "so what HAPPENS?" problem. But if I can figure that part out, that will certainly help me figure out what I need to do to make Ethangea a realized world, rather than the collection of disconnected ideas it is now.