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The Sirens of Suspense




Brenda Chapman grew up in Terrace Bay, Ontario, a small town on the North Shore of Lake Superior. She graduated from Lakehead University, majoring in English literature, and earned a Bachelor of Education degree from Queen’s University. After teaching special education for fifteen years, she became a senior communications advisor in the federal government. Chapman served two terms as President of Capital Crime Writers. She lives in Ottawa Ontario.


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When I am not typing at my keyboard, killing off characters and planting clues for my protagonists to uncover, I can be found at my local curling club, heaving forty-four pound granite rocks at a target some 150 feet away. The sport of curling has always been a part of my life. Both my parents curled and their parents before them. In fact, my grandfather curled at a club in Moncton, New Brunswick that did not allow women to step inside. My husband took up the sport soon after we were married and our daughters are both competitive curlers.

Curling is essentially a combination of physical precision and strategy, often likened to chess on ice. Two teams of four players per team alternate throwing sixteen curling stones, also called rocks, down a sheet of ice toward a bulls-eye target, called the house. The two sets of rocks have different colored handles to differentiate them, the same way other games use colors—think shuffleboard or checkers. The skip, or team leader, stands at the opposite end of the sheet and decides where the stone should go—a guard outside the house, a draw into the circles or a take out of an opponent’s rock. Once each team has thrown its eight rocks, the end is over and the rock closest to the center of the bulls eye wins. If more rocks from the same team are closer to the center than the other team’s rocks, well they count too.

An end is repeated eight to ten times within a game, which usually taking between two and three hours to play. Happily, in my social curling leagues, we play just eight ends. The rules are numerous but easy to master, and the level of competition varies, but the basics of the game always remain: handshakes before and after the game, courtesy and fair play during the match, and camaraderie afterwards with the winning team buying the first round of drinks.

For an author who works alone in a room with a computer and imagination for company, two evenings a week at the local club keep me grounded and in shape, both physically and mentally. In one league, I throw our team's third and fourth stones of the end, and spend the rest of the time sweeping my teammates' rocks with a curling broom—the sweeping helps keeps the rocks from over curling and takes them a greater distance. This is an amazingly good aerobics work out. In the second league, I am the skip, which means that I decide the strategy and throw the last two stones, with the difference between winning or losing often resting on my shoulders.

Many of my fellow curlers have suggested over a beer that I should consider setting one of my murder mysteries in a curling club. Opportunities exist certainly. A broom to the back of the head, a hard shove from behind into the ice, a curling stone launched with a solid backhand…all crimes waiting to be put to paper. While an intriguing idea to muse over, so far I've been content to keep my writing and curling worlds separated, the poison out of the beer mugs and my teammates not feeling the need to keep checking over their shoulders.



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