Not a soul went unprompted, of that you can bet.
Assignments were matched by the coders with care
In hopes that rare fandoms would have more fic to share.
The writers were wired and ignored their beds
While visions of hippos danced in their heads.
Then into each inbox there came a great glomp
Email from the Yulemods, proclaiming new prompts.
"Now, Downton! Now, Dexter! Now, Luther and Haven!
On, Oglaf! On, Outcasts! On, Lost Girl and Tangled!
To the keyboard you go, to Word, Write or Die
Now review the requests, and let plot bunnies fly!"
But upon further reading, some authors' hearts sank
For beyond the fandoms, details were left blank.
Some names with no notes, others prompts spread too thin
With no nod as to preference of slash, het, or gen.
Hippos halted their dance, bunnies started to shiver
Writers once filled with joy felt their confidence wither.
And then, with a link, there came something better
Thoughts on canon and character, in a “Dear Author” letter!
Dear Author of Automatic Awesome,
Why yes, I do have issues. But for good reason – 'tis the season for yuletide! Over the years, participating in this challenge has become, hands-down, the most fun both reading and writing that I have all year. I've written fics that were great fun (and greatly challenging) and received stories I will adore forever and always, and I don't doubt that this year will be no different. So thank you, dear author, for volunteering for story-spinning services in one of my much-loved fandoms.
If it weren't already obvious from my poor attempt at Yuletide poetry, I'm a big fan of the Yuleletter tradition – as a writer, having additional insight into the reasons why my recipient love a particular character or aspect of canon makes my job that much easier and more enjoyable. While I can't say the same for every author, I prefer to err on the side of caution (as in, hopefully preventing someone from hyperventilating in a fit of "OH SHIT, BEARS" panic, as I would) and provide a letter of overly-long clarity and squee for my own author. For reference, my previous letters can be found here, there, and everywhere, while everything otherwise related to the challenge (recs, reveal posts, etc.) can be found under the Yuletide tag. If you'd prefer to fly by the seat of your pants on prompts, or already know what you're going to write, or just aren’t a big fan of deer that is teal, please feel free to skip the following fandom vomit entirely, and just know this: I have a significant (read: major, massive) incest squick. Go in peace. Otherwise, without further ado (or stanzas), let's get this show on the road!
In general, I love strong characterization and internal conflict. I'm a big fan of symbolism and metaphor, of UST and found families and things left unsaid, of between-the-lines fic and non-linear storytelling, and I enjoy touches of meta and pop culture references. The plot-heavy is always welcome, but I love introspective, slice-of-life looks at character just as much (and anyone who strikes the perfect balance of both gets my unending love and devotion). I live for interesting interaction unfolding between characters, especially if they feign a contentious relationship when they'd really lie down in front of a train for each other.
I love a good crossover. In addition to the fandoms I've requested, a few of my television favorites are Fringe, Firefly, Chuck, Psych, Everwood, The Walking Dead, Community, Revenge, Leverage, and The Big Bang Theory, though Six Feet Under is probably my favorite show of all time. I'm also a big fan of The Hunger Games trilogy, J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books, Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan Mysteries, and anything Jennifer Crusie or Richard North Patterson. My go-to characters tend to be the broken boy soldiers (Oliver Queen, Charles Gunn, Dean Winchester, Derek Reese, Ronon Dex), the unapologetic bastards with hidden depths (Nolan Ross, James Lester, Shane Walsh), the snarky sidekicks with hearts of gold (Kyle Valenti, Topher Brink, Hoban Washburne, every Judy Greer character in history), and the strong and oft-overlooked women who save the day and never take the credit (Chloe Sullivan, Miranda Bailey, Astrid Farnsworth, Kaylee Frye). Over the years I've grown to read more gen than anything, but if you're itching to ship, I'm A-okay with canon pairings in anything I requested, and preferred UC pairings are otherwise noted.
As dislikes go, I'm not a big fan of truly AU fic (without any canon point of origin whatsoever). I'm an angst lover at heart, so unabashed fluff is kind of my kryptonite (though I'm totally down with conflict and turbulence that leads to open, hopeful or happy endings!). I hate to see characters of color marginalized – relegated to background action and passing mentions, or serving no purpose but backing up the hero. Sex is more than welcome when it's rooted in character, but it works best for me in the abstract and as part of a larger story – I don't really care for porn-for-porn's-sake. And having any of my pretty boys in pain be emotionally overwrought or overly verbose will take me right out of a story. My only major squick is incest (though things like non-con, bloodplay, watersports, and other kinks aren’t up my alley, either).
As for the fandom-specific…
Captain America: The First Avenger
Requested: Peggy Carter, Howard Stark. On the first anniversary of Captain America's death, the Howling Commandos get rip-roaring drunk. Ten days later, on the anniversary of the day Steve Rogers didn't keep their date, Peggy Carter goes back to the Stork Club. She doesn't dance.
Steve Rogers made the ultimate sacrifice, and Captain America became a legend. But what became of Agent Carter? First, after much external debate and internal struggle, I've decided that I love Cap best. Of the Avengers movieverse bunch, that is. As a film, it narrowly managed to snatch the crown of awesome away from the first Iron Man. Second – and this involved no debate at all – Peggy Carter is, hands down, my favorite Avengers movieverse heroine. She's clever and capable and completely at home in her skin. She's take charge and can-do and calls it like she sees it. And she's a sharpshooter! With a pistol! Do you know how hard that is? In short, she's awesome. And while I find her dynamic with Steve adorable and immensely entertaining (and endearing – the exchange in the car, just before his transformation, may be my favorite scene of the entire movie), I'm less interested in the burgeoning love story than how the movie's events affected Peggy afterward. I'd love to see post-canon fic here, whether it's the slice-of-life proposed above or snapshots of Peggy through the years. I'd also love to see Howard, mourning for Steve in his own money-fueled, guilt-driven, egotistical way, and how his path intersects with Peggy's. In my headcanon, they remain friends and maintain an immense amount of sly respect for one another. Does Howard hold his own vigil, or infringe upon Peggy's? Does his unsuccessful search for Steve have any bearing on the man he becomes later? On the flip side, if you're leaning toward something set during the movie, especially in the context of Peggy's friendship/relationship with Steve, there's a quote I've long loved that seems to capture movieverse Peggy perfectly, and I'd love to read something that invokes its spirit.
“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.” – Anais Nin
Pre-canon Peggy would be awesome, too! (In that case, your story need not involve Howard at all – though, bonus points if it did. So many bonus points.) Why, in this time and place, did she decide to join the military? How did she accomplish rising within those tough ranks? What kind of struggles did she have? Whichever way you go, I'd prefer gen or het for this one. I'm perfectly fine with Steve/Peggy, but please keep in mind that Steve/Howard squicks me (as I'm a Steve/Tony shipper).
Bring It On: Snark, challenging friendship, warm fuzzy memories, bittersweetness. Misguided Peggy/Howard. If you're feeling generous, Colonel Phillips and/or Commando cameos (especially Gabe, Dum Dum, and Morita)!
Do Not Want: Did I mention the Steve/Howard squick? Because it is a real thing.
Requested: Lumen Pierce. The aftermath. She thought she'd find light outside the darkness, but only finds shades of grey.
After the utter brilliance that was the Trinity arc, season five kind of caught me off guard. But I came to love it, and grew intrigued by Lumen as a character, and the effect she had on Dexter. Ultimately, I think he healed more than she did (as much as Dexter can be healed). I'd love to see something set after she leaves, or even something centered on her deciding to leave (the finale scene in the kitchen, when she tells him she's going, guts me every time). After feeling so trapped in her life at home, is it a place she now thinks of as safe? Does she go back to Owen? Does she work up the courage to strike out on her own again, after everything that happened? Alternately, it would be interesting (and kind of chilling) to see the life she was running from before, and what was so stifling that she felt she had to leave it all behind. I did greatly enjoy her arc with Dexter – the act of her finally feeling in control, even if it stemmed from the worst possible situation – and wonder if she ever finds her way back to him, however briefly or awkwardly or badly-timed. At the same time, I wonder… Lumen was (seemingly) the first person to see and accept Dexter for what he truly is, without strings attached. But is that the case? Brian had an agenda. So did Lila, so did Miguel. I imagine it's easy to be accepting when you're in the throes of revenge (in the name of justice). But was Lumen accepting and understanding, or was Dexter a means to an end? (…To answer my own question, I think it's the former, but it'd be a blast to read a story about the latter, wouldn't it?) For a firmer prompt pitch, I'm kind of infatuated with the idea of her sending Dexter postcards.
Bring It On: Angst, introspection, flashbacks, humor, healing, uncertainty, travel and wandering.
Do Not Want: Blatant attack!porn.
Jacqueline Carey – Kushiel's Legacy Series
Joscelin Verreuil, Imriel no Montreve de la Courcel. Father and son, communicating by beating the crap out of each other. Training fic with an underlying issue - Imriel's independence? Melisande's shadow? Their dual natures (Joscelin as the Queen's Champion, versus Imriel as the son of Terre d'Ange's greatest traitor)? Angsty, but understanding (as is the nature of my favorite Casseline).
This remains my yearly holdover. And that's because I will forever want to read it. The most important thing to know here is that I love, worship and adore Joscelin Verreuil. He sort of fascinates me, from a character standpoint. I requested Joscelin and Imriel father/son-dynamic training fic, which is still at the top of the list. Phedre mentioned once that she had already asked a lot of Joscelin in terms of betraying his vows, and that asking for a child would be a step too far. Knowing that, the fact that he's not only raised Imriel, but taken on all that came with him, remains one of my favorite things about Joscelin. My dream fic in this fandom would be set just after the second trilogy, with Joscelin teaching Imriel the terminus - the implications of that really resonate with me. I have a weakness for anything Cassiel-related (training, vows, and Longest Night vigils, for example), and would love to see character exploration from his POV - what was going through his mind while being held prisoner in Skaldia? What happened during the time he thought Phedre was dead? What was his mindset while Melisande had Phedre locked in La Serennissima? I also love Imriel and his Hero's Journey (not to mention Imriel/Sidonie, which totally violates my OMGINCEST squick, but go with it), and I've always been curious about what a meeting between an unearthed Melisande and an adult Imriel would heed. It's come to my attention that authors offering Kushiel's may have done so in the hopes of writing something explicit (in keeping with the fandom, understandably), so I apologize if you were matched on this prompt and are one of those authors. But mostly I'd just love great gen with an awesome warrior priest father and his equally-awesome son.
Bring It On: Insight, history, old demons and battle scars (literal and figurative), meaningful conversations while sparring.
Do Not Want: Imriel/Phedre. Pings my incest squick.
Suzanne Brockmann – Troubleshooters, Inc. Series
Requested: Martell Griffin. After knocking on death's door (and crawling like hell to get there), Martell decides to make some changes.
And here's my second holdover! First off, I love this series. I'm going to plagiarize myself and regurgitate Troubleshooters squee from an entry past: these books are little slices of heaven, trufax. Even though they tend to be marketed as mainstream romance, they're more military suspense with arcs that happen to be romance-heavy. They're dark and plotty and completely without formula, which is about the furthest thing from mainstream romance that I can imagine. Brockmann's cast is a wonder - her characters are three-dimensional and flawed and awesome, and their stories unfold over multiple books. There's no arbitrary conflict for conflict's sake, difficult problems and issues aren't glossed over or ignored because it may reflect badly on the character, and the world is incredibly diverse, but oh-so-believably. They're also, as mjules puts it, full of genderwin, racewin, and queerwin. Not just non-fail, but win. There is win all over the place. The win runs rampant. Force of Nature is probably my favorite book of the whole shebang. I mean, come on - there are essentially four leading men. Two are characters of color, and the other two are gay. It's basically one big love letter to marginalized characters. My Martell love knows no bounds, and since he may never get his own book, I'm going to channel Princess Leia here – help me, Yuletide Author, you're my only hope. So here goes… Once upon a time, the aftermath of a shooting changed Ric Alvarado's life for good, and now it seems his best friend has followed in his footsteps. We know that Martell ends up doing work for Tommy Paoletti out of TSI's Sarasota branch, but how did he get there? I'd love to see the steps from that elevator to the new calling, and everything in between. Or, you know, the important and painful and wildly entertaining things. Did he have some sort of crisis of conscience? Did the lieutenant's visit play any part in this decision? And what's the balance of power like in that office? Love the bonds between Martell and Ric, the instinctive trust between Martell and Annie, the burgeoning epic friendship between Martell and Robin, and the instant thick-as-thieves vibe between Martell and Sam – fic between any or all of them will make me giddy. I'm also a big fan of the Ric/Annie/Martell dynamic, and totally ship them as a happy, healthy, hilarious threesome. With hijinks. Basically, just give me Martell being glorious (as he is), and nobody gets hurt. :)
Bring It On: Bromance, banter, bonding and ties, sarcasm as a smokescreen, team dynamics.
As always, this has been a word from your friendly neighborhood Yuletide recipient. Feel free to ignore (almost) everything - optional details are optional, and certain stories want to be told, to hell with the rest. And whatever you write, have fun! Trust me, it'll show. :)