Here are the front-runners I've been dithering over. I do have a few urban / contemporary ideas, but right now, those are tabled because that honestly isn't what I feel like doing.
Background: In this world, magic is performed by creating "thought machines" - and the natural world is held suspect. Centuries ago, enchanters sealed off the realm of the Deep Ones, earning permanent acclaim for wielders of magic. Enchanters create familiars by blending parts of various animals together.
Story: A prominent enchanter dies under mysterious circumstances after petitioning for the rights of familiars. Her own familiar takes on the case with the enchanter's former apprentice as her sidekick. Unfortunately, the suspect list is long and tangled, and the authorities are no mood to see the answer found … much less to cooperate with a lesser being.
Pros: This would be my first attempt to truly do something that has been a goal of mine for a while - write a novel featuring a "traditional" detective in a fantasy world.
Cons: I write a lot of stories that are heavy on conspiracy / politic play. I am concerned I need to get away from that.
Background: This world has a mixed Egyptian / Grecian mythos, where the afterlife is of key importance and the survival of the corpse part and parcel to that. Losing the coin under the tongue also dooms a spirit to wander on the wrong side of the river.
Story: Our heroine … has just died. Unable to pay the toll to cross the afterlife's river, she seeks a way to escape this limbo with other spirits in tow. At the same time, her corpse has been abducted by graverobbers, and her former lover put his role (as secretary to a highly-placed dignitary) in jeopardy attempting to rescue it. A third strand enters as her little sister attempts to enter the underworld to plead her case.
Pros: I really do like the idea of writing a story centered around the underworld. Things To Do In Fantasyland When You're Dead.
Cons: I just did a riff on Egypt and Greece (Journal of the Dead) - though it was a very different feel and the mythos was not central to the storyline.
Background: A massive pantheon of bored, minor gods and an archetypal / trope-heavy fantasy setting …
Story: To entertain lesser gods, the pantheon decides to put on a competition amongst mortal heroes to create a new warrior-king - running them through various challenges and eliminating them one by one. (In a nutshell, it's reality TV competition - fantasy-ized. My model for this has been Bravo shows, The Next Food Network Star, and Project Runway.) Throw in a shapechanging demi-god(dess) intended to be the bride / husband of the victor, an old hero as mentor and teacher, mix, and stand back.
Pros: This is completely whacky, and I think would turn out to be a blast. The structure also gives me an easy way to map out plot and word count.
Cons: Deciding how much to script and how much (if any) to leave to chance; how to handle a huge and gradually diminishing cast; how to handle POV issues.
Then there's the concept I have taken to thinking of as The Idea - the one that has been brewing at the back of my brain for months, but has detractors larger and more significant than all those above combined. The origin is a rewrite of plotline(s) I used in a fandom setting - original characters in another author's world, for those unfamiliar.
Now, I feel that my storylines were departure enough that I am free of concerns about copying - but to work this requires constructing a world where some elements serve similar purposes. I'm concerned that it may look like a "coat of paint," but on the other hand, I have thought extensively about what I would do and I think I've come up with something unique, not at all inspired by the original, and that adds some interesting tweaks to plot. It also takes the mood and twists it from something fairly utopian into something dark and borderline amoral … perfect for the storyline.
Even after this, however, I feel that this is less unique in macro elements than - at the very least - ideas #1 and #3 above. There are certainly a lot of pieces I feel that are unusual, but they appear on the smaller level. Maybe the main large detail that I don't think you see too often is the overarching plotline pivots around the romance between the main villain and a protagonist's sister. (Note that I don't say the plotline *is* the romance, but rather develops from consequences thereof.)
Huge detractor the next is the level of complexity. First of all, looking what I have, I already know I have a trilogy. Book one can be made more or less independent, but I can also tell that I would need to finish all three before I could reasonably edit and submit the first one. That leaves me potentially writing two books that would never see the light of day. *Huge* problem.
Obviously, I also worry about the confusion created by the complexity, especially as I know myself - whatever I've planned, the actual product will be more labyrinthine than my original intentions. On the other hand, I not only have the plotline already, I know I will need to do a detailed outline to keep everything moving in the right direction … so I think I can cap the exponential increase.
And oh, the characters. The main huge attractor is these are people I developed over the course of months and years, I know them incredibly well, and I'd love to spend the time with them.
It would be simpler if this were a marketing question: which concept would sell better? That would definitely knock The Idea out of the running. It would be simpler if I absolutely adored one concept so much that I knew that was what I had to write. It would be simpler if there weren't confounding factors like my concerns about getting stuck in the same ruts. (Politics. Greco-Roman. I'm sure there's another one in there somewhere.)
It ain't simple!