I spent about five years writing my Endhaven novels. (Huzzah. Find them at Amazon.) They were great learning exercises, helping my general writing ability swell greatly during the series. At this point, though, I feel that I need to move onto something else, because my writing skills were stuck as well. Those books had a particular voice and a particular mode of storytelling, one which did not stretch me sufficiently any more. As much as I would like to write another work set in Endhaven, I also recognize that I must follow some different choices if I am to develop.
First, I am moving my fantasy writing to a more modern time period. I chose the 1920's for a variety of reasons, but I mostly chose it because that time is now fading from human memory. That means that it's ripe for fantasy. The thing about the 20's is that it doesn't have steampunk getting in my way, and just as important, dieselpunk is is not encompassing enough to fill in the era. I have room to innovate while never getting cornered by my reader's expectations.
Secondly, motion pictures are widely available from the 20's. I can see their storytelling style. I can see how sets look, how streets looks, and how America looked. This is all source material. In addition, I have access to the artifacts of the day. I can touch cars and their descendants. In many ways, the 20's are just like today, except less uptight (which is saying a whole lot).
Third, I knew people who were teenagers and young adults during those years. I saw how they acted and interacted, especially my grandparents. That culture, although foreign seeming, is part of my native culture.
Most importantly, I get to have my entire cultural lexicon to play with. I get to draw from my own experiences. I get to use the wealth of my own cultural knowledge. I even get the benefit of there being different expectations about how people should act in those times, which greatly affects the plots and occurrences in my writing.
I can't tell you that I am writing the most amazing book in the world, but I can tell you that I am writing a book significantly deeper and more human that my last books. The prose challenges are more difficult and the rewards are sweeter. I am proud of my writing in a way that I've not been before. I feel like I am running the edge of excellence, pushing for those last few psychological barriers to fall.