As mentioned here this was my first year doing Yuletide. I enjoyed the process and am really happy with the story I wrote. Now that the reveal is over, I'd like to say a little more about the process.
My Yuletide Sign Up
These are the requests I made for my gift:
Request 1: 28 Days Later, any characters, a story that takes place after the movie is over.
Request 2: Armistead Maupin - Tales of the City series, any characters, no specific request
Request 3: Herman Melville - Moby Dick, any characters, a slash story
Request 4: Little Miss Sunshine, any characters, no specific request
I volunteered to write in the following fandoms:
Louisa May Alcott - Little Women series (any)
Mark Twain - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (any)
National Treasure (movie) (any)
P G Wodehouse - Jeeves and Wooster series (any)
Prince of Egypt (any)
Robert A Heinlein - Double Star (any)
Robert A Heinlein - Have Space Suit Will Travel (any)
Robert A Heinlein - Stranger in a Strange Land (any)
Robert A Heinlein - The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (any)
Sarah Waters - Fingersmith (any)
Shakespeare - Hamlet (any)
Spider-Man (movie) (any)
The Philadelphia Story (any)
Vertigo (movie) (any)
The "any" in parentheses meant any characters. I went into a panic immediately after sending that, with a bunch of "ZOMG! Did I really say I could write that?" feelings. Panic increased when I reread the FAQ and realized I might get only one match and therefore not have a choice as to what I'd write.
I calmed down when I got my assignment. I did, indeed, have only one match: Sarah Waters's lesbian historical novel set in Victorian England, Fingersmith. I think she's a wonderful writer and this is my favorite of her books. I like historical fiction when the reader feels completely immersed in the milieu, plunged into a different time and place, and that's what Waters accomplishes expertly in this lovely book. I'd read it some years back and was happy to reimmerse myself.
I wanted to write a story I could be proud of in general but more specifically, I wanted to give a gift my recipient would enjoy. I don't know her at all and she has a friends only journal, so I could not glean much knowledge of her tastes and preferences from it. The specific request she made (not required, but I wanted to oblige, if I could) was "Maud/Sue" (the two main characters) and "moar femmeslash." Femmeslash, like slash, can mean a number of things, but I took this in the context of the book (which has only one - very discreetly written - sex scene) to mean that she wanted a story in which those two characters have sex. I felt I could oblige.
Preparing to Write
The first thing I did was reread the book. I feel that with fanfic of a novel, I'd want to match the author's style and the tone of the book. Also, it has a very complex plot with a lot of unexpected twists. I remembered the general sweep of the plot, but not the specifics and, of course, didn't want to get anything wrong. So I read it again all the way through, not taking notes or planning the fic, just experiencing it at first. Then, after doing that, I did a second pass, taking some notes on characters, situations, and language and bookmarking places that I might use in writing my yuletide gift.
Fingersmith tells a very complicated story, with lots of plot twists. Each time the reader thinks s/he knows what's going on, it turns out not to be the case. The book is told alternately from the POV of seventeen-year-old Sue Trinder and Maud Lilly. Sue is a part of London's demimondaine society, raised by Mrs. Sucksby, a baby farmer who operates a fencing operation out of her home, along with some other illegal activities. Sue is sent to the country by Mrs. Sucksby as part of a scam engineered by a con artist named Richard Reeves, known as "Gentleman", to cheat the heiress Maud Lilly (about to come into a large amount of money as she, like Sue, is about to turn 18) out of her inheritance and have her locked up in an insane asylum. Sue falls in love with Maud while posing as her lady's maid and she comes to believe that Maud may love her as well. They have one furtive, fleeting episode of sex, but Sue ultimately does betray Maud, only to find out that Maud was plotting with Gentleman the whole time and that it is Sue, not Maud, who is locked up in the asylum.
At that point the narrative switches to Maud's point of view and the reader finds why she went along with Gentleman's scheme and that she does indeed love Sue. Just as with Sue, Maud had great qualms about continuing the scam once her feelings for Sue developed, but just like Sue she goes along with the scheme because she feels powerless to do anything else. And, like Sue, she finds out that she was lied to as well. Both Sue and Maud have been betrayed by Gentleman and by Mrs. Sucksby. No one - nothing - is what it seems to be.
As the novel hurtles towards its startling conclusion developments include: Sue's escape from the asylum, Maud's escape from Mrs. Sucksby's clutches and her recapture, Victorian pornography, infants switched at birth, and a murder and subsequent hanging. The characters throughout are fully realized, complex, fascinating. The plot is believable, albeit complicated and surprising. The book ends with Maud and Sue reunited and declaring - in spite of their mutual betrayal - that they truly love each other. It's an emotionally satisfying ending, but it finishes without reunion sex. So that's part of what I was determined to supply.
In addition to writing in the tone and style of the author, I wanted to include explicit sex and wanted it to be written in a way appropriate to the time and place. Maud by the end of the story is a pornographer, with a suggestion that she writes lesbian-themed pornography. I wanted to use words for sex acts and for parts of the body that Maud would be familiar with, and really was unsure of how someone at the time would describe sex between women. Since the sex in the book itself is so brief and so vaguely described, I needed examples of lesbian-themed pornography to inform the sex scene. So I read this book and used it to help me build a vocabulary for the scene and also used a quote from actual pornography of the time, when Maud reads from "her" work to Sue (who is illiterate).
I found this a very challenging assignment, very different from my usual writing. I enjoyed writing in someone else's style, but I certainly didn't find it easy to do that. I found the sex scene particularly challenging, since it's so different from what I usually write. It has a much more romantic tone than most of my sexually oriented writing. And, of course, the big difference was that I usually write about men and this is about two women.
There's a kind of emotional distance for me in writing m/m slash. I like feeling a bit at a remove from the subject matter. Yes, it's explicit sex, but it's nothing about me. As someone who views sex as a very private activity, writing what is so clearly about somebody else feels easy and comfortable.
I had to go outside my comfort level to write a lesbian sex scene that's realistic, romantic, and (I hope) hot. Of course, it's still not about me - it's about women in another place and time - but it feels more personal and more connected in some ways. It's also interesting to me to see what is similar to other sex scenes I've written. It makes me think about what I find essential or important in writing sex. I think in that way it has been a good learning exercise and will inform my future writing.
I'm pleased with the end result, which I think does sound like it could be an additional chapter in the book. It's behind the cut:
Fingersmith - A New Chapter
Fandom: Sarah Waters - Fingersmith
Written for: saikogrrl in the Yuletide 2008 Challenge
Author's Note: The quote from Maud's erotic story is from actual Victorian pornography. I got it from The Collector's Edition of Victorian Lesbian Erotica edited by Marjorie LaCaritilie.
Fingersmith - A New Chapter
One might think, having finally confessed our mutual affection and attachment, that we would lose ourselves in caresses and at once fulfill our longing and desire. That wasn't how events proceeded with Sue and me. Ours was not an ordinary love and, as such, it did not follow an ordinary course.
We had been mistress and servant; we had been unwitting and unwilling changelings. We had betrayed each other and had been each other's sworn enemies. Yet through it all there was something between us that our circumstances could not extinguish. Something urgent and wanting and needy. Something pure and good and brave. Just thinking about her made my heart race; seeing her finally come to me seemed like a dream come true. And when we'd told each other the truth of what had happened and revealed our hidden feelings, then I wanted nothing more than to kiss her and hold her and do whatever our hearts and our bodies led us to. Yet I held back, and so did Sue.
At the time I could not know what motives lay behind her restraint. I hardly knew my own mind and heart. I knew only that she did not reach out to touch me and neither did my hand reach to her, although I longed to stroke her sweet face and bring my fingers to her full lips.
She asked me what words were on the pages I'd been writing. I read them to her, pointing to them word by word, as if teaching a child to read. The words were, as I told her, all that I wanted to do with her, all that I wished to tell her body with mine. Still all I did was to read. I did not touch, I did not kiss.
I looked up from the page and Sue was looking at me, eyes wide. "To hear such words!" she said, "from a lady."
I felt my face get hot and redden. I looked at the page and what I had just read to Sue:
Then to my further amazement, she made a request. `Kiss it,' she said, pointing to her cunt.
I blushed with shame and also, if truth be told, with lust. For part of my spirit was bruised to hear her words of reproach, or so I thought them then. Still, in reading the words I'd created to be another woman speaking, part of my imagination was engaged in wishing that I might hear Sue make such a request of me. Her mound, her lovely warm wet cunt that I remembered so well. For once I had had the chance to touch her there, but only furtively in the dark. I'd never seen her without clothes; I've never kissed her where I most wanted to. I felt my own cunt grow wet and hot with longing, but I tried to quash the feeling and answer what Sue had said.
"I am not a lady," I told her, eyes downcast. "It is you who were born to be a lady."
"But it's you as was taught to be one. Not raised coarse and common like me."
I shook my head sadly. "I was never taught to be a lady. I was taught to be a servant to my uncle's... research. It is all I know. These words you hear from me, they are the words of my trade." I took her hand and looked into her eyes. "I make my living by these words, by inflaming the passions of gentleman who like to imagine ladies doing such things."
"And do ladies do such things?" I was grateful that I was sitting down for I'm sure I could not have stood at that moment. The lively interest on her face as she asked me made me weak in the knees.
I steadied myself and answered, "I do not know. I have lived my life within the confines of these walls and these books and my uncle's discipline, but for the short time I dwelled with Mrs. Sucksby and the shorter time I was out in the world. And nothing I saw outside these walls has led me to think well of the world. I retreated here. I am glad to be rid of my uncle's discipline - I do not miss him. I am glad to have something I am good at to make my living by. It's a tawdry living and they are coarse words I write; I can see that. But they seem not coarse to me when I write them, Sue. I don't think of the gentleman who read them, using one hand to turn the pages and the other to take their solitary pleasure. I think only of you."
We looked in each other's eyes, and I wanted so to touch her right then. To kiss her mouth, open now in shock and wonder. I imagined my tongue slipping between those full lips, exploring inside her mouth, as my hand touched her breast, feeling the nipple harden. It was what the heroines of my stories did and I wished to have what they had. Yet still I held back.
"Your journey has been long," I said. "You must be tired and hungry, and dusty from the road. Go upstairs and wash and I will have supper sent up to you."
"Oh you mustn't!" she cried. "Mrs. Inker will despise me for being above myself."
"Then I'll bring the tray myself."
"A lady?" she said again, and then seeing my expression, added, "Well surely to Mrs. Inker you are a lady. She can't be happy with you carrying a tray."
"She's not, but I do much fetching and carrying here, for there is no one else to do it with just William Inker and his wife in residence and the girl who comes twice a week. But I have promised Mrs. Inker that the girl may come daily to help her now that my endeavors" - and here I gestured towards the pages I'd been writing - "have begun earning well. Perhaps, eventually, I will earn enough to engage more servants in residence." And then, finally, I took her hand and added, "For I have not felt right in spending the inheritance money available to me, knowing that much of it is rightly yours." Sue looked down at my hand, touching hers, and then up at my face.
Her eyes were moist but I knew not with what emotion. "I could be your maid once again," she said. "If you'll have me."
"Oh no. I wish nothing more than to have you - as my friend, my companion, the love of my life. I wish to have you in my bed as well," I added, my words bold but my heart pounding with trepidation. "But never again as my servant." I took my hand from hers. "Go," I said. "There is a fire in my sitting room. You know the way. I will speak to Mrs. Inker to see what we have about the house that could be supper for us and will join you in a little while." She nodded and left.
When I brought the tray up she had washed and changed and was sitting on the settee, but she rose to meet me. She looked beautiful in the firelight, her hair lustrous, her skin glowing. She took the tray from my hands, our fingers brushing against each other briefly, and placed it on the table. "Let's eat," she said. "I've been thinking."
"What have you been thinking about, Sue?" I asked, sitting down with her, helping myself to one of the sandwiches Mrs. Inker had prepared.
"I've been thinking you should hire more servants. If you haven't spent the money because you think of it as mine, well I'm here now and I want it spent. I want the house to run well and smoothly. If it's my money, then let's put it to use. For us."
I smiled at her. "That's a fine idea. Does it mean then... that you will stay with me?"
"I want nothing else in the world," she replied with such simple vehemence that it took my breath away. "But," she added, "I think I really must be your maid. After all, all of them hereabouts know I was here in service. I can't come back as your friend, acting like I don't know my place. When we're alone we can be friends, and even sweethearts," turning towards her food at that last part, "but we can't let the servants know that."
"I have a better idea. We will tell them the truth, or a portion of it, a version of it."
"Oh no! I can't bear for the servants, the village, to think that you are so low, that such as Mrs. Sucksby was your mother. I loved her for her kind and loving care of me - and, God help me, with all I know of how she betrayed us both, I still do - but she was a villain and a thief. Let no one think you are like her."
"Hear me out. Your name is Susan Lilly. We know that; it is the truth. Mine is not really Maud Lilly, but we needn't tell them that part. You can be a distant connection, a second cousin perhaps. And there was a feud between our grandparents and you were lost to the Lilly family. Your parents died when you were young and, unknowing of your real parentage - see, this part is true - you were raised in low circumstances. But now I have seen the proof - and you know I truly have - of our connection and brought you here to Briar. Where we will live as cousins and companions and dear, dear friends."
"Do you think they will believe it?"
"I know they will. I have one talent, my dear Sue, and that is for telling stories. So will you stay with me?"
And then, finally, we kissed. She cried, "Thank you, Maud. I so wish to!" and threw her arms around my neck, kissing all over my face.
Our lips met, her mouth half open, and I slid my tongue inside. She seemed surprised and I could not tell if she liked me doing that, but then she pressed closer to me, sucking on my tongue and stroking it with hers and I knew she felt what I did. My hand went to her bosom, stroking her breast through her clothing, feeling the nipple stand up hard under my thumb. I untied her bodice as I kissed her, wanting to feel flesh against flesh with no clothing to separate us. She lifted her chest to me and I stopped kissing her mouth, wanting that rosy hard nipple between my lips. I heard soft cries and sighs as I sucked the one teat and rubbed the other. "Oh!" she said. "It is so... I feel so..." but she didn't finish any of her thoughts.
Such kisses and caresses made me only want more. She objected when I let go of her breast but I told her there was something else I wished to do. "What I read to you before," I said, lowering myself to the carpet, so I was kneeling in front of her there on the settee. "Pull up your skirt, Sue," I said. "I want to see you." And she did what I asked of her, and raised her lovely round bottom as I pulled off her under clothing. Sitting there, she was the most beautiful sight, the triangle of hair covering her mound curly and soft. I pressed my hand to her there, and she sighed. "Open your legs, my love," I said and once again she obeyed.
I knelt between her legs and spread her pink lips, kissing her belly and thighs all over. Then I looked at her. Her cunt glistened with the wetness of her wanting. I slipped a finger into the opening, and then another, moving them together, finding the places that gave her pleasure. And I lowered my head to her, licking all over the inside of her lips and then sucking on that red, hard button. She was breathing very hard, sighing and moaning in a lovely luxurious fashion, and I timed my motions to the sounds she was making. The taste of her was intoxicating and I wanted nothing more than to lick her and touch her forever.
The women in my uncle's books always say things like "Fuck me harder" but she said nothing like that. She continued to sigh and to say "Oh" and "Yes" and once, "Please, just like that. Oh Maud!" Her fingers were in my hair and she twisted and pulled a little, without knowing she was doing it, encouraging me with her sounds and her touch.
And then she called my name once more and I felt something different. Her warm wet cunt squeezed my fingers with a rippling motion, in waves of feeling and movement. It went on for a long time. When it stopped, I asked her, "Should I withdraw my fingers now?" She nodded, and when I did she pulled me up to her and we kissed again.
"Can you taste that?" I asked and she nodded. "That is the taste of your love and it's the best thing I have ever tasted." I patted her between the legs.
"I want to please you," she said. "Will you teach me how?"
"We will teach each other many things, Sue Lilly, but you need no teaching to please me. I am well pleased with you right now."
The story can also be read on the Yuletide website at http://yuletidetreasure.org/archive/63/fingersmitha.html.
What I Got
I was excited and surprised to get two stories, in two different fandoms. The main gift one was for 28 Days Later. It's a three-way sex scene among the three main characters. I was a little disappointed as it did not seem in character to me and most of it does not take place after the movie. That said, I do think it was well-written and fun to read.
The other one was brief and written as an extra story by someone during the "Yuletide Treats" writing period at the end. It was a Little Miss Sunshine story and quite cute and funny. I think English is likely the author's second language, which shows in a couple of places, and she also makes the frequent error of assuming (or in this case having her gay character assume) that all gay men are attracted to all other gay men. But she absolutely nailed Olive's voice and I was well pleased with the story.
And, ultimately, I was well pleased with my first yuletide experience. I haven't read many of the stories yet, but intend to read a bunch over the weekend.