27.11.15

the time we tried to escape

Last weekend, The Remix and I decided it was high time we used our gift certificates for a super cool place called Escape Zone, where you're locked inside a theme room, along with up to four other people. You're given 45 minutes to escape the room, by solving a series of puzzles. Sounds fun, right? That's what we thought!

So we invited my baby brother (who'd given us the gift certificates), along with one of his friends, and made a reservation for 6:30pm.

Naturally, I was so excited that I spent some time on Saturday morning, doing a theme mani.



Later that afternoon, while The Remix and I drove down to Toronto, we began to get nervous. What if we didn't escape? What if it was way harder than we thought it'd be? What if we couldn't even solve one of the puzzles, let alone all of them?

For being a fun night out, it was starting to get stressful.

That stress increased about an hour before our reservation, with both my baby brother and his buddy, echoing the same concerns. We'd chosen an intermediate room, but having zero experience escaping from any room at all, we were worried that we'd overestimated our sleuthing skills.

Arriving at Escape, we noticed a long hallway, filled with tiny pictures of previous teams. There had to be a few thousand. It was crazy! Many of the photos had smiling people, delighted with themselves and holding up signs that said things like: "Smartest ever!" "Nailed it!" And other celebratory exclamations.

But there were also quite a few pictures with bummed-out faces and far less enthusiastic signs like: "Weak Sauce," and "Maybe if I'd had 15 more hours."

Oh God, we muttered to ourselves. We really don't want to be in a sad face picture.

A staff member told us that no electronics were allowed in the room, so we locked our stuff up before being brought into the room we'd chosen, the Music Studio.

Without divulging anything specific, I've put together a gif-tastic representation of our time at Escape, which could best be described as 45 Minutes of The Most Intense Contrasting Emotions of My Life.

As the clock in the room began at 45:00 and counted down, I will keep to the same format.


45:00 - We're locked in the room, brimming with optimistic confidence and a can-do attitude: WE WILL ESCAPE!

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOx1MKWWUw


35:00 - After ten minutes, we're confused as to how we're so dumb because we're still stuck on the first clue.

me watching Khloe vs. Amber Rose on Twitter


32:00 - First call for a clue.

(During each 45-minute session, you can call the front desk for two clues. Needless to say, the gal who came to deliver our first clue was concerned that we'd already burned through 12+ minutes on the very first clue. We know this because when she asked us where we'd gotten to and I responded with "Uh, nowhere," she blinked three times in disbelief.)

30:00 - Our first celebration, thanks to the hint from the desk gal.

looking at your selfies


25:00 - Collective, mounting nervousness, because the second puzzle stopped us dead in our tracks for way longer than it should have.

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOx1MIo_yN


20:00 - Our second Celebration, after we figured it out, all by ourselves. TAKE THAT, ROOM!



15:00 - Utter despair because we'd spent another five whole minutes on the next puzzle and were convinced it was actually a trick and we'd be stuck in the room forever and ever.

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOx19hxNKa


14:30 - Second Call for Help

Thank goodness for the help button because we would've NEVER figured that particular puzzle on our own. For reals. Only a freaking genius could have put those two elements together (and clearly, we weren't geniuses, haha!).

13:00 - Third Celebration, after solving the fourth puzzle all on our own.

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOx1ffSxOE


10:00 - Fourth Celebration! Including a group high-five because we'd managed to solve two puzzles in a row, leading us to consider filling out MENSA applications upon our escape. 

When I remember it’s Friday and not Thursday.


5:00 - Complete Panic because we only have five minutes left and we can't figure out what we're doing wrong because we're 99.9% sure we solved the puzzle, but we're still stuck in the room. WHAT THE HELL, ROOM?!

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOxe_kzzqhttp://tmblr.co/ZjsrOxe_kzzq
http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOxe_kzzqhttp://tmblr.co/ZjsrOxe_kzzq


1:30 - Our scrambled, victorious emergence from first room, cheering because WE RULE EVERYTHING AND ARE THE SMARTEST EVER OF LIFE!!


0:00 - Time runs out but we're still in the second room. The external door is locked. Confusion abounds.



+1:00 - Staff member enters room, unimpressed with the celebratory cheers he must have heard pre-our discovery of still-locked door.


Why?

Because we'd only made it halfway. HALFWAY, PEOPLE.

http://tmblr.co/ZjsrOx10SeINm

In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have jinxed us by painting a theme mani with a locked lock. We'd been doomed from the start. Haha!

The staff member spent about five minutes explaining the rest of the second room, and we just stood there, shaking our heads. This room was bananas crazy, guys. BANANA CRAZY. We could've had double the time and we still wouldn't have figured it out.

Our sad-face picture. Whomp, whomp.

So I'll leave you with this thought: if you're going to Escape for the first time, pick the easiest room, and if you HAVE to do a theme mani, make sure it represents you actually escaping. Trust me, you'll thank me afterwards. Haha!









16.11.15

book review and interview: lowcountry bordello

Today, I'm delighted to be a part of Susan M. Boyer's virtual book tour, for her latest instalment in the Liz Talbot Mystery Series: LOWCOUNTRY BORDELLO! This post is a little on the long side, but that's because I've got a review AND an interview!


I know, it's a lot of excitement for a Monday morning. Haha!


The Synopsis:

The Charleston streets are dressed for the holidays in sophisticated Southern style: topiaries adorned with red ribbons, garland entwined with white lights, and poinsettias potted in gold planters. The high class bordello in a stately historic home is certainly no exception. When Private Investigator Liz Talbot’s dear friend Olivia swears she saw a dead body in the parlor of this bordello, one Olivia accidentally co-owns, Liz promptly comes to her aid.
With her wedding back home on Stella Maris less than a week away, Liz must juggle one elderly madam, two ex and future in-laws, three ghosts in the bordello, four giddy bridesmaids, five lovely courtesans, six suspicious patrons…and a partridge in a pear tree as she tries to keep her bridesmaid out of jail and live to walk down the aisle.
__
The fourth in the Liz Talbot mystery series, LOWCOUNTRY BORDELLO has Liz poking around an unexpected location. Namely, a bordello (as I’m sure you savvy readers already picked up, ha!). But Liz has more than her case to juggle, because she’s getting married! Not that she seems to care much for the actual wedding, but that's what I like about Liz. 

I mean, it’s not like Liz is anti-wedding…okay, she actually kind of is, but her reasonings come from a good place. I like to think it's because this time, she's more excited about the lifetime that comes after the big day, rather than the big day, itself. And frankly, with the wedding planner Liz's mother commandeered, I would've been hiding out in a bed and breakfast too. Under the guise of her case, of course. But to keep it real, what sounds like more fun: getting your wedding dress tailored or figuring out a possible murder? Haha!

Yes, I mean possible murder, as the book starts out with a frantic call to Liz regarding a dead body that may or may not, in fact, exist. And it’s those sorts of details that make the series so strong. Why have a straightforward murder plot, when you can have a murder plot laced with questions regarding whether the murder actually took place? Ha! 
When I saw that the cover had a bra, I was all: MUST DO TRIBUTE MANI. Haha! So that's what I did. The lace bits were tricky, but for the most part, I think the whole thing turned out pretty well!


As I’ve come to expect from the series, there were lots of suspects, so Liz and her partner Nate had to work pretty hard to figure out what really happened. None of the suspects were particularly trustworthy, and I enjoyed Liz’s process of sussing out the truth in the midst of wedding-planning mania.  

I did have one concern with LOWCOUNTRY BORDELLO, though, and that had to do with the overall tone. Throughout the first three books, I got to know Liz as an even-tempered, non-judgemental character, but that wasn’t the case here. Although Liz protested that she “couldn’t care less” that her case took place in a bordello (and I’m still not sure that it was a bordello in the first place), she made more than a handful of snide remarks about the women who lived in the house. Each time, I was irked enough to be pulled from the story, which was both distracting and disappointing. Had those moments not been included, I would have enjoyed this book more. Even so, it was a nice cozy, and I’ll continue to pick up new books in the series.  


Okay, so now that you've read my two cents about LOWCOUNTRY BORDELLO, now it's time for the interview!

*bangs gong*

To put a face to the name, here is the lovely Ms. Boyer, herself, along with a small bio:



Susan M. Boyer is the author of the USA TODAY bestselling Liz Talbot mystery series. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, won the 2012 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, and garnered several other award nominations, including the Macavity. Lowcountry Boneyard, the third Liz Talbot mystery, was a Spring 2015 Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick. Lowcountry Bordello, the fourth book in the series, was released November 3, 2015. Susan loves beaches, Southern food, and small towns where everyone knows everyone, and everyone has crazy relatives. You’ll find all of the above in her novels.
Susan lives in Greenville, SC, with her husband and an inordinate number of houseplants.

Hi Susan! I’m such a fan of the Liz Talbot series, so thank you very much for agreeing to a little Q and A on my blog. I’m thrilled to have you! Thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here! And thank you for reading—I’m so happy you enjoy spending time with Liz. 

1. Every writer’s process is different. Some are pantsers, some are plotters, and some are drinkers. Kidding! Sort of. I think it’s common knowledge that Hemingway was a bit of a drinker, but I digress. As you’ve now written four Liz Talbot mysteries, has your writing process changed? I started out as a plotter, and I’m still a plotter, but I have refined the process quite a bit. I use a spreadsheet, with one line for each chapter of the book, and the plot point that’s delivered in that chapter. Once I start writing, I often change things—my characters may take me in a different direction. I can always modify the spreadsheet.

2. Your descriptions of private investigator work are always incredibly detailed.  That level of background detail on suspects, locations, and other information related to the case, disguise the relevant information until the very end, when I say: “Oh yeah! That’s from that one scene that I thought was about kissing but it was actually a plot hint!” How do you organize all of those thoughts? And have you ever described a peripheral character who ended up standing out, demanding a larger role because of their vivid descriptions? Thank you! I researched how to be a private investigator like I wanted to be one. I actually did. As a child I wanted to be Nancy Drew. I digress—apologies! The spreadsheet is the key to organizing my thoughts, for sure. Absolutely, once my characters are developed, they have minds of their own.

3. One of the characteristics of Liz that I like most is that she’s not an “accidental” private investigator. There aren’t a series of too-convenient coincidences that lead her towards the truth. That girl works for her leads, in a delightfully old-school way. Yes, she uses technology, but she also understands the personal touch. It reminds me of the mysteries I used to steal from my dad’s pile by his bed, so I’m wondering if you were at all inspired by other, traditional mysteries. Thank you! Liz will appreciate that you recognize I make her work hard for the money. Have you seen what she charges? She needs to work hard. I’ve loved mysteries for as long as I can remember, staring with Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon. I graduated to Agatha Christie and many others. I’ve read most of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series. I’m a huge Sue Grafton fan, and I love Robert B. Parker’s books. 

4. I have a few friends who have recently become published authors themselves (shout-out to Scott!). The after-publication responsibilities of balancing writing, promotion, marketing, and social media seems like a never-ending struggle. How do you manage all the moving pieces required for author life? It’s a constant balancing act, and truthfully, I don’t have the act down cold just yet. I just try every day to do the best I can, then try not to fret too much about what I haven’t finished at the end of the day.

5. What does your perfect writing day look like, and where would you be? Would there be snacks? (Haha! Of course there would be snacks. I’m really asking what kind of snacks you’d have.) A pair of kittens playing at your feet? Would you be lounging in a blue velvet wingback chair? Dictating to a hunky assistant who’s continually too hot to wear a shirt, has a vocabulary that rivals a thesaurus, and is at the ready to give you a high-five after inspiration strikes?* I would be in a cottage by the ocean on a quiet stretch of beach, with my office overlooking the waves. I like to write with my laptop on a lap-desk from a chaise or recliner. I’d need good coffee in the morning, then iced peach tea until around three when I switch to decaf. Having easy meals in the refrigerator would be heaven. Nothing fancy, just grab and go. And something salty—popcorn would be great—and Lindor milk chocolate truffles. 

*If you have an assistant like that, could I borrow him sometime? ;)

6. In LOWCOUNTRY BORDELLO, Liz curls up with a Harlan Coben novel. I am a super fan of Harlan Coben, so I’m dying to know if you had a specific book in mind. THE STRANGER? HOLD ME? Oooo! Was it BACKSPIN? I freaking love the Myron Bolitar mysteries. I LOVE Harlan Coben novels! I had the one in mind that I was personally reading at the time, which would’ve been Six Years, I think. My favorite (I think) is Tell No One.

Thanks so much for answering my rambly questions, Susan! And for including me on your tour! My pleasure—thank you!

___

So now that you know all about the Liz Talbot series AND you've met the author, all that's left is to enter for your chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card! Good luck! And don't forget to check out Susan M. Boyer's other books! Links to all her social media accounts are posted below the Rafflecopter giveaway.



Website:              http://www.susanmboyerbooks.com/
Facebook:           https://www.facebook.com/Susanmboyerbooks
Twitter:                https://twitter.com/susanmboyer
Pinterest:             https://www.pinterest.com/susanmboyer/



3.11.15

halloween 2015 round up

I'm a few days late in posting pictures from Halloween, but it's only because I've just recovered from the crazy pants level of fun. Haha! For those who don't know, I decided to hop on a plane and head east for this year's Best Night of the Year, to attend the Pretty in Pink Halloween Party, at the Fredericton Farmer's Market. 

Why?

Because it's simply the best Halloween party ever. Period. End of sentence. 

And this year, just like I'd expected, it was freaking awesome!!

So here are some pics from the night! The good news is that my crew and I are really good at staying in the moment during our super fun times, but the bad news is that means we don't take a lot of pictures after we start drinking. I did manage to remember to whip out my iPhone's awful camera a few times, though, so here are a few of my faves (read: the only pictures I actually took. Haha!). 

Thankfully, I chose a costume that didn't require elaborate make-up this year, but I still had to throw on my hilarious Halloween-prep tank top. Because...well, just say the phrase aloud and you'll see why I'm obsessed with it. Haha!


A pal of ours who's just as pro-Halloween as the rest of us wasn't able to make it, so we printed out a picture of her head and put it on a stick. You know, because a head on a stick is totally a Halloween-y thing to do. Ha!

From the left, we've got quasi-retired Thor (I like to refer to her as Parcheesi Thor, as she probably flew up from her retirement village in Florida, ha!), Jigsaw, the leg lamp from A Christmas Story, head-stick pal, Cat in the Hat, and an adorable preggo scarecrow.

Omg, guys, I loved this costume so hard! And I was nervous about it getting squished in my bag but the hula hoop popped out pretty nicely! Also, it was quite a fitting costume as I am totally "fragile," in terms of my ability to bruise. ;)


One last group photo before we left, which included Parcheesi Batman, Thing 1, and a Dalmatian.  I know that I'm biased, but we made a pretty awesome crew.


At the Market Halloween Party, there were four gals who went balls-to-the-wall with their costumes by becoming rural New Brunswick snow globes!! There are little Styrofoam bits at the bottom of each globe, which the gals would toss up to complete the effect. Obviously, she couldn't do that here because she had a drink, but it was super cool to see them do it, later in the night. And with the four of them wandering around, they kind of resembled a lit-up caterpillar. So great! (Side Note: I love my friend on the right so, so hard. That expression was on her face all night! Haha!)


Another one of my favourites was this gal's Mad Hatter costume. Her hat was HUGE! And you can't see it, but on the other side, there was the card and an enormous feather. Plus, she had a gorgeous tutu and blazer. Well done, Mad Hatter!


As usual, the band was unbelievable and the dance floor was packed for the entire night. Props go to the dude dressed in the inflatable raptor costume. I can't begin to imagine how hot he must have been! Seeing a raptor head rock out to 80s music kind of made my night, so thanks for taking one for the team, sweaty-face raptor!


Again, the angle isn't quite right for you to see how incredible this jellyfish costume was, but rest assured that it was mental. Her head was completely lit up, and was much more bulbous than it seems in this picture. Definitely one of my favourites!

There were a few more costumes which blew my mind, but like I said earlier in this post, I didn't always remember to take a picture. Notable other costumes included Scotty P, who had "no ragrets," from We're The Millers (her entire outfit was on-point, from the bandana to the tattoo), a Maleficent who had hand-made wings made of real feathers, and a Carmen Sandiego, who not only had a red trench coat, but the most perfect red hat. Gah! Everybody looked so good!!

It was definitely a night that ranked a solid 15 out of 10 for fun and I already can't wait for next year. Woot woot for Halloween!!!