Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My New Obsession

So what is my new obsession? Thanks for asking. Lately, I've been on a big escape room kick. Funny enough, I've yet to do one in my own state, but each time I visit a new place, I've been finding a new escape room to try and test my wits. Test my wits? How pretentious does that sound? But I promise that escape rooms are so, so fun. 

The premise is rather simple- you pay to get locked in a room (or a series of rooms), and have to solve a series of puzzles to escape. That's basically what they have in common, and then the creator goes in whatever crazy direction they wish. 

My favorite so far was called Poe's Legacy, created by Exitus Escape Rooms in Salem, OR. Annoyingly, this is the first I haven't successfully completed. But here's a tip- generally the rooms can be booked up to 6-8 people, and while you can bring friends or book the whole room, usually you're trying to escape with strangers. Strangers, you say? Ick, I don't like strangers! I was a little worried about that at first, but believe me, you need all the help you can get. And the more different views and ways of looking at the room, the better. 

Poe's Legacy is the first my boyfriend and I have done alone ... and it was TOUGH. The idea was that there's an eccentric writer, heavily influenced by Poe. He's disappeared for the last few years, but now he wants you to come interview him. Obviously an opportunity you can't miss, so you head off to his murder-mansion to try and find out what he's been up to. Now the point of these games is secrecy and no spoilers, so I don't want to give too much away. But let me just remind you- this guy's favorite person ever is Poe. The author who writes about bricking people up in secret passageways and hiding hearts under floorboards. Get the picture? 

The puzzles were pretty tough in this one, and it's the first room I've done where the players don't get 3 free hints to help them in the room. We got about 2/3 the way through in the allotted 60 minutes, and then time's up. I'm not THAT upset about it ... losing my winning streak. *pouts*

Although a little pricy ($25-35 per person usually), I would strongly encourage everyone to give them a shot. And while I go for the scarier themed rooms, this is also something aimed at families, so not all the rooms are so murdery  (I've seen one about escaping detention). 

It's so fun to put away all the modern distractions of the world  (no cellphones, folks) and only be able to rely on your brain  (and communication with other people) to crack some really tough puzzles. We are so plugged into our electronic devices (I'm typing this on my phone, by the way. I'm just as, if not more, guilty) that when do we really get the chance to actually use our minds? And in a way that really pushes us to think outside of the box?

It is very fulfilling to take on a group of clues and puzzles and give myself a chance to remember that I do have a brain, and it's a good one. I also enjoy the opportunity to work on communicating with my boyfriend (and  strangers) to escape a crazy murderer. You know, the important skills of any relationship. 

So, this is my little advertising campaign for escape rooms. If you have the chance, do it. It's a fun and unique way to spend an hour, and you won't be disappointed. 

And if you are? Just count it as practice for when you encounter crazy authors. *smiles sweetly*

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sunburn in Wales? - now there's Fantasy

Ok, so I'm British and we like to talk about the weather. A lot. This week brought a unique weather phenomenon. Interested?
But being a writer, first let me set the scene.
For the last six years, I've been lucky enough to have the use my aunt's caravan set in a picturesque caravan park nestled between a stream and a pine forest. Can you tell how much I fell in love with this place?

It became a little piece of paradise for us: a perfect base to explore (with various partners in crime) the fantastic delights mid Wales offers; cool accommodation for a cheap family holiday; a bolt-hole for me to escape the responsibilities of job, family, life and last but not least, my very own writing cave.
Cadair Idris

The enchanting countryside sports the captivating Castel-Y-Bere, a ruined castle where I stood above clouds (and Sasha, the family collie fell into the ancient well), the imposing Cadair Idris, conquered many times by all the family, and we only had to call out Mountain Rescue once when a heavy fog settled at the top, obscuring the correct path.

Carry on past Cadair and you drive so close to the edge of the fabulous Tal-y-llyn you can almost touch it. A few miles further will get you to the fabulous Dolgoch falls.Yep, there is a theme to all this: stream, lake, waterfall - Wales boast some of the most picturesque water features you can imagine. The plot thickens here when you hear my nickname for it: Wet, Windy Wales.

Last year, my uncle announced with regret he'd have to sell the van as they were no longer able to visit as often due to illness. He was secretly hoping I'd take the bait and of course I jumped at the chance to pay the rental for a year so we could have one last time visiting all our favourite places to say goodbye. Being in charge of it means a lot of responsibility in the cleaning, lawn-mowing, general maintenance areas, but it also means we can pop down at the drop of a hat, without needing to check no-one else has booked it. So,it's only the first week in May and already I've finished the third visit.

But something truly magical happened last week: for the first time in living memory (mine, at least), it was several degrees hotter in Wales than back in the midlands. Resulting in three things: the stuff of fantasy - sunburn (suncream in Wales? In May? As if!!!), the unprecedented happening of my hubby staying down there on his own when I had to come back for a wee decorating (remodelling) job, and most wonderful of all, said hubby agreeing that if it's possible, we should pay the rental for an additional year. Now that's what I call a result, boyo!

My magical walk alongside Tal-y-llyn