So this is my first year of doing this, since I discovered it a wee late last year. But I've been doing Yuletide for a few years now, as well as writing fic for over a decade, so fingers crossed this shouldn't be that hard, right?
As a reader, I’m pretty open-minded about a lot of things. I read all ratings and most genres, though I’ll admit, fluff tends to be a hard sell for me. I love plot, the plottier the better, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with sex, either, so no worries you can’t go in that direction if you want. What draws me most into stories is strong characterization, original ideas, and solid writing. I don’t like to read the same old/same old, which is one reason why plot is always such a seduction.
I have a real soft spot for outsiders/lonely characters. They get to me almost every single time. Going dark is not a problem at all, whether it’s sexually, via violence, or angst. That’s not to say I go looking for it, but it does work for me a lot of the time. I love a great action scene, banter, and breathless kisses.
Things I dislike…number one has to be character bashing. I hate it. I don’t like vilifying characters for the sake of making others look good. It happens a lot in shippy fics, usually in trying to get rid of a canon partner or because the writer just hates the character. I’d rather the character got written out of the story completely than left in and painted in a poor light. I’m not fond of crossovers, unless I’m explicitly comfortable in the fandoms, and specific tropes like mpreg, gender swaps, tentacles, alpha/omega, and magic sex make me roll my eyes. Also, 95% of the time I backspace out of fics that headhop, so please don’t do that.
About my specific fandoms...
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy was my very first fandom, and I was a hardcore Buffy/Spike shipper for a long time. Spike has my heart. He's the epitome of one of my bulletproof kinks, the bad guy who's really a good guy underneath it all. But the show itself worked for me best as an ensemble. It's funny and witty and the characters felt real because of all their flaws. I've paid zero attention to the post-S7 comics, though. I'm not interested in them as canon at all. Just the show. Unless you go all-human AU. That works for me well in this fandom.
--Buffy/Spike: I love that Spike sees all the flaws in Buffy and loves her for them instead of in spite of them. He's perfectly willing to let her be the alpha in the relationship without diminishing her. Sex works on so many levels with these two, too. Kink is canon, but it's more than possible to have believable vanilla sex, too. I'm not fond of pairing them while Buffy's still in high school, though. The Angel problem bugs me, as well as her being a minor.
--Angel/Spike: I love the banter and the range of emotions these two evoke in each other. Almost anything can be done with them, from hate-fueled passion to respectful partners. Angel is best when he's being provoked and more than a little edgy. Other versions bore me to tears.
--Faith/Spike: They're both firehouses who are willing to break the rules to get what they want. The possibilities are endless.
--Wesley/Willow: I started shipping these two when they started dating in real life, but I love them to pieces as possible partners on the show, too. In this case, for whatever reason, I'm not fussed at all if they hook up while Willow is still in high school. But they're both big geeks who mean well but don't always execute their ideas the best way, or, if you go with later versions, powerful people who have seen the dark side and fight against it every step of the way.
Hunger Games: I'm not really a YA fan, but I read this series because my daughter asked me to and I promptly fell in love with Katniss and Peeta. While the books aren't perfect, I adore these two, for very different reasons. Katniss for her strength and loyalty and all her proud flaws, and Peeta for his strong heart and his selflessness. I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of AUs in this fandom that take place outside of the world created by the books, but if the emotions are real and the writing strong, I can be convinced.
--Katniss/Peeta: I never understood the Gale love. I really didn't. She needs Peeta to soften her edges, and he needs her to believe in and gather strength.
--Effie/Haymitch: I adore Haymitch and all of his wonderful, terrible flaws, so when I discovered people ship him with Effie, I was hooked. She's all about appearances and he is so not, so finding ways to make these two work fascinates me.
Black Sails: Aw, my pirate show. This was a slow start for me, but I am in love with all the layers that they got in the first two seasons. I love that they had the nerve to actually make Thomas the love of Flint's life, and the dichotomy of who Flint was with who he is becoming gives me shivers of delight.
--Flint/Thomas: They broke my heart. Anything with the two of them is good.
--Billy/Flint: I actually started watching in the first place because of Billy, and he's easily my second favorite character. He's a good man, who sometimes doing bad things, torn up from the moral choices he's been given, and yet, he stands by Flint no matter what.
Merlin: While I adore Colin Morgan, my devotion to this show stemmed from my gut reactions to Arthur, for his striving to do the right thing, for his determination to put all his faith in people, for his overwhelming need for acceptance. I much prefer the friendship between Merlin and Arthur than shipping them (though I can and have gone there), because it's the friendship that is at the core of what draws me to the show in the first place. That sense of community and working together.
--Arthur/Gwen: Gwen gets a lot of hate within the fandom but not from me. I identified with her in a lot of ways, but most importantly, she was essentially a good person caught in circumstances often beyond her control. And frankly, I shipped them because I wanted Arthur to be happy. The Arthur I loved on the show loved Gwen, so that's what I wanted to see for him in fic.
--Arthur/Percival: After Arthur, Percival is by far my favorite character on the show. Granted, a lot of that came out of the potential of the character and Tom Hopper, but I love where they ended up taking him. His steadfastness. His good nature. His devotion to protecting those weaker than him. He is everything Arthur could ask for in a partner, while Arthur has enough ego to bolster Percival's up.
--Merlin/Percival: Merlin makes a wonderful counter to Percival in a lot of ways. He has the drive to lead without being an ass about it, he's as kind and gentle as Percival can be but then when his back is to the wall he can be as fierce, and he's loyal to a fault.
--Merlin/Morgana: Aw, my broken babies. Merlin is the only person on the show who can truly understand what is going on inside Morgana's head, the only one who had the potential to reach through her anger and bring her back to the core goodness that she had at the start of the series. These two are so alike, it's a little frightening, and the potential they have to explode, either in light comedy or dark romance, gives me goosebumps.
Mad Men: Few shows are as intelligent or layered as this one. I loved the period details, but I got caught up in all their lives, specifically Peggy's. Her arc throughout the series is just a joy to behold.
--Peggy/Stan: I started shipping Peggy and Stan from that early scene where they stripped down to work. It was funny and real and as much of a putz Stan was before that, that turned everything on its head. I loved how they were such good friends first, how he respected her but didn't put up with her crap, how they would call each other and just listen to the other work. Anything I get for these guys is good, trust me.
I hope all of this helps in some way. Basically, I'm a romantic at heart who knows that the world isn't always a very nice place. We are stronger because of the adversity we overcome together.