Iceland, Finland, and WorldCon 75

I’m back.

I’ve had three full days in Iceland, four flights, and five days of WorldCon in Helsinki, Finland.

I tasted whale, puffin, and reindeer.

I saw two hot springs, three waterfalls, about 8 geysers. (I fell in love with Iceland’s Gullfoss waterfall. It’s now my favorite place on earth.)

I saw where the North American tectonic plate is pulling away from the Eurasian plate at the site of the Thingvellir. I saw artifacts from 1000 BC, archeological sites, and churches. I climbed a mountain.

I took 73 pages of notes over four workshops and seventeen panels. I spent 21 hours in panels and workshops and very likely 20 hours in queues. I dubbed 478 pictures ‘worth keeping’ and 7 videos (see my facebook and Instagram for most of these).

On the four planes, I read three-and-a-half books, took two one-hour naps, and watched one movie.

My biggest takeaways

  • Iceland was amazing, primitive, and beautiful.
  • Helsinki was welcoming, clean, and easy to navigate.
  • WorldCon was popular, had excellent speakers, and was full of new friends.

Over the next month or so, I’ll be sharing my notes from most of the panels. Some were presentations or workshops that I consider proprietary to the speaker and those I’ll limit my remark on.

My 3 Favorite Writing Epiphanies/Quotes:

  1. If you remember all the things that make listening to a book-reading enjoyable and apply it to your writing? It becomes lyrical! I always thought lyrical just wasn’t a type of writing I could do, but when you consider rhythm, repetition, and pace? Evocative lyrical writing can happen, even to me.
  2. I’m a lay person, but I know a decent amount about weaponry and injuries. One of the panels had an excellent break down of weapons and the injuries that sort of weapon creates that just organized it perfectly for my writer-brain with an ‘if X, then Y’ sort of connection.
  3. When Connie Willis was quoted for killing characters that are too uppity (by not cooperating with her plot), George RR Martin gasped, “Killing your characters? How Horrible!

I’m a Marathoner, Not a Sprinter

Marathons vs Sprints

Motivational speakers like to say that “slow and steady wins the race“. Well…not really. But moderate and steady will help you finish the race.


Back in April of 2014, I started Couch to 5k, a program to help you work your way up to a running a 5k in approximately 30 minutes. It was an 8 week program that took me… 21 weeks. I ran a few 5k races and ended up seeing a foot doctor. So, that was the end of my running career.

One of the things I liked about the program was it worked you up to 5k, starting off walking 5 minutes, running 2 minutes. It didn’t expect you to run a mile right off the bat. The minimal fitness requirement was the ability to walk for 30 minutes. You could repeat each week as many times as you needed. (Or skip weeks if you were “sick”...)

The goal was something that, given enough time, most people can achieve.

I’ve known marathoners of the half-marathon, the full marathon, and the extreme marathons. I’ve known triathletes.

All of those people dedicated most of their non-work hours to training.

Couch-to-5k wasn’t hours and hours of training. It was (at recommended speed), three 35-minute sessions a week. Something that most people can fit into their schedule without dedicating their lives to it.

It gave you an achievable goal, in a reasonable time period, with regular check-ins so you could compare your progress and see how far you’d come.

Morgan after a 5k, covered in colored dust, with both hands held up throwing horns

Morgan covered in colored dust, after a 5k “ColorRun” in 2014.



When I first started my novel, I joined the marathon that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal was to write 50,000 words (200 pages) in the 30 days of November. But, they didn’t just say, “Write 50k and…GO!”

They said, “Hey, to finish on time, all you need is 1,667 words per day.” (6-7 pages).

It was an achievable goal, in a almost-reasonable time period, with daily check-ins so you could compare your progress and see how far you’d come. Plus, giving me a set end date meant I couldn’t slack off or use excuses to stretch out the process. Another thing? I wasn’t doing it alone.

It helped to know that I was a part of something bigger–

  • Even if I never participated in the in-person write-ins
    • (meeting at local coffee shops/libraries with local participants)
  • Even if I never participated in online sprints.
    • (given a fixed number of minutes, write as many words as possible)
  • Even if I barely participated in the forums
    • (where on and off topic tips are given, and encouragement is found)
  • Even if I only updated my numbers and left the rest of the NaNites alone

When it comes to writing, some people are sprinters and some are marathoners.

I saw people updating word counts of 3k, 5k, 7k in a day.


I was happy to stay on target, pounding out my 1,667 words.

I fell behind a few times, but even when I pushed hard, I rarely broke 3,000 words maybe once or twice. I’d slowly make up my losses a paragraph at a time.

I finished writing my 50,000 words on November 30th at 7:45pm.

Then, I celebrated by having a veggie and cheese tray in front of a warm fireplace.


Warm fireplace + veggies and Ranch.

I took December off, then gave myself a 10k a month word count and wrote until I dropped my pencil at the end of story arch in August of 2014.

Come this November, I’ve got a lot more NaNoWriMo friends. And this time I might even try sprinting–for a cause.

The refugees fleeing war in Syria are in dire need of help and on Saturday November 12th, #Scrivathon16 will be taking place to raise money for the UK based Syria Relief. Feel free to donate now, pledge in the comments based on my word count, or share the news if you can’t help yourself. We welcome other writers to join the sprint and raise money themselves.


Travel Pictures: 4th of July


Yellow and brown moth on a door frame.

I flew down to Raleigh with some good friends.


Of course, I managed a little time for working on my CampNaNo word count!

My new friends were outside of town and had a few chickens.


My old and new friends helped me learn how to hold a guitar, how to strum, and where to put my fingers for 3 open chords and 5 complete chords… I’m pretty slow and my fingers are very tender.

We headed into Raleigh for the farmer’s market and the festival downtown. (Plus, Sono for sushi for dinner on the 4th!)

But, there’s no place like home. (Also, nothing like learning the ‘pro-mode’, with the ISO turned all the way up on my camera phone for nighttime photos. That’s my first attempt.)