I think I figured out the reason behind some of the story nag. My subconscious must have needed the conscious part of my mind to get out of the way so it could work, and it did it by creating busy work for it. I decided I needed to take another look at my plot outlines for the current book, since I've changed a lot about the plot, and I had a really depressing epiphany: The "crossing the threshold" part of the story that's the end of act I doesn't come until nearly halfway through the book. I tried a few ways of charting it to try to call that the "approach to the inmost cave," but it wouldn't fit. Even when I gave each character his/her own journey, it didn't work. The moment I aligned that scene with crossing the threshold, everything else snapped into place.
That means I need to cut a lot, probably at least 60 pages. The really sad thing is that I don't have to strain my brain to come up with which parts to cut. I think I was always sort of aware that I had a lot of wheel-spinning going on. That's probably where that "but there's no peril or urgency!" issue came from a few weeks ago. Adding danger to the scenes didn't help the real problem, which was that the scenes weren't necessary. There's some information in those scenes that will have to be added in a different way, but otherwise, I can cut them. The really depressing thing is that one of them is a "kill your darlings" scene -- a scene I've been visualizing since I was midway through writing the previous book. It's a lovely scene that tells us a lot about the characters, but I think I could cut it without changing anything other than removing later references to it. However, it might be a better fit for a sequel to this book, so I'm not trashing it entirely.
Other than going instantly from being halfway through with the book to being a quarter through with it, I feel pretty good about this. Usually, when I get stuck, there's a reason, and once I figure it out, everything moves a lot more quickly. Today will be plot machete time, then I want to do a good writing marathon tomorrow to get back on track.
In the meantime, that story nag is still there, but much less insistent. I have this vague idea of a modern woman from our world captured and taken to a fantasy-type land, where she in desperation tries to prolong her life, Scheherazade-style, by telling stories -- the fairy tales she remembers from childhood. But it turns out to be the history of the world she's in. But I don't know where to go with it from there or how to use the stories if they're history.
I will confess that part of my current interest in Once Upon a Time has nothing to do with fairy tales and everything to do with Captain Hook, which really surprises me, as I've never been the type to go for the bad boys. This version isn't really a villain. He started as a rogue with a personal agenda that aligned him with one of the villains, but since then has become more of a Han Solo type who works with the good guys. Still, I've never been into the Han Solo types, so I was surprised by how appealing I found this character. Then we got his backstory and learned that he started as a very earnest Horatio Hornblower-type young naval officer who turned pirate in rebellion against a king who betrayed his people. That explains a lot. He's not so much a Han Solo as a Luke turned cynical by having his ideals betrayed. And then I saw an interview of the actor, and it seems it's very easy to make him blush furiously (and his co-stars know exactly how to do it). I hadn't thought that blushing really showed up on camera, but he managed it. If he didn't have the current job, I guess he'd be a good fit to play Owen because he can pull off the visible blushing (the coloring is right, too, though I don't know if he could play American, as he's rather Irish). So now I don't feel quite like I've turned against my usual patterns. If you haven't seen the show, this should give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Be warned that it loads very slowly since some of the pictures are animated.
In other geeky news, SyFy has announced an actual show with a spaceship in it. Wow! They describe it as being like Battlestar Galactica meets Downton Abby. I'm not quite sure how that would work, but it sounds like it would be right up my alley. However, about 90 percent of the appeal of Downton Abbey for me is the costumes, and that would be lost with the typical spaceship jumpsuit attire.