Darcy McClain series

Book Research

Moonrise Over Taos

Main Character

Darcy McClain is a former FBI agent-turned-private investigator. Although her former position with the FBI plays a minor role in my thriller series, I still researched the subject in detail. I started at the library, poring over nonfiction material. Then I conducted research on the FBI’s website. I was also fortunate to interview several agents at writers’ conferences. There is an FBI agent named Jack in Clonx, and I will definitely contact the FBI field office in Dallas to learn more about how local agents work as I flesh out Jack’s character. As for private detectives, Darcy is licensed in the state of California. Years ago, prior to writing my thriller series, I attended several courses at the Screen Actors Guild in Los Angeles, along with a friend who happened to be a retired LAPD detective. He gave me some unique insights into the daily lives of officers and detectives that work street crime. I’ve used his information as a foundation for Darcy’s experiences.


Nothing compensates for writing about a giant schnauzer like owning one, but I do not advocate buying or adopting a giant unless you have owned one before or if you are well educated on the breed. Please do your homework prior to even considering a giant schnauzer. I’ve been asked to “include more of the dog” in my series. I intend to do just that. In Clonx, Bullet plays a major role as a scent detection dog. How will I do my nose work research? I’ll begin with online sites and books dedicated to the subject, and then I will attend nose work classes. In addition, I plan to consult with fellow giant schnauzer owners who are active in the nose work field, as well as confer with a friend whose lifework has been search and rescue. The greatest reward that comes from all of this research is knowledge, on so many subjects.

Secondary Characters

I was once asked what I disliked the most about research. I don’t like researching topics such as child abuse. It ruins my day and drags me down emotionally, but I stuck with it, doing so in small doses, until I felt I had an understanding of Paco’s hatred toward his abusers and his need for revenge. After several self-edits of Gadgets, I gave the book to a fellow writer to read. She had “some insights into child abuse,” she informed me, but never went into detail and I did not pursue the subject with her. My research and her editorial comments proved invaluable. As for Charlene, her character is based on a combination of research, personal observations, and direct interaction with teenagers.


I rely on firsthand experience. Brainwash and Gadgets are set in New Mexico because I love the state and have traveled extensively throughout the area, and we own a vacation home there. The setting for Genocide is California. I lived in the southern part of the state for over sixteen years. Clonx is set in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, where I’ve been a resident for more than twenty-five years. I plan to set several novels in certain locations abroad, places I’ve lived in or have visited on many occasions. While online research might be a good place to start when scouting out settings, nothing substitutes for walking in the footsteps of your characters. Google Maps is a great tool, but it covers only the visual. For instance, after I wrote my first draft of Blind Revenge, I spent a week in Palm Springs, California, where the novel is set. I ran the exact route my main character ran every morning. In my first draft of the manuscript, I made no mention of the pungent smell of manure that permeated the desert air as I neared the horse stables that bordered the drainage culvert. Nor did I write about the distant hum of vehicle traffic from the main thoroughfare. Some things Google just can’t capture.

Technical Material

While doing scientific research for a particular thriller, I am not only delving into one specific topic but am also constantly on the lookout for the next technological advancement that will appear in the book. So my research efforts are ongoing. I read a lot of nonfiction, most technical in nature, subscribe to several science magazines, conduct extensive online searches, interview experts on the technical subject matter I have chosen for a book, and I draw upon personal experience, as I did in Gadgets. While working for CooperVision Surgical, an ophthalmic company, I held the position of product manager for their laser line.

Firearms and Knives

I learned to shoot at a fairly young age and was taught, early on, about the responsibility and safety issues of gun ownership. But writers who aren’t inclined to own a firearm should visit a gun store and ask questions, talk to weapons experts, and interview police officers and/or FBI agents. Many writers’ conferences and writers’ workshops host speakers and panel discussions by various law enforcement agencies. Attend those courses and ask questions. Another resource is The Writer’s Guide to Weapons, by Benjamin Sobieck.


Author Pat Krapf's ResearchIn Brainwash, Darcy and Ed Clark, a forensic scientist, investigate a crime scene in an arroyo (a steep-sided gully cut by running water in an arid or semiarid region) on Darcy’s land in Taos. As a starting point, I read Forensics: A Guide for Writers by D.P. Lyle, M.D., as well as Police Procedure & Investigations: A Guide for Writers by Lee Lofland. Both books are part of a Howdunit Series published by Writer’s Digest Books. Another good source was sitting in on panel discussions and listening to qualified speakers at writers’ conventions who gave workshops and talks on CSI work. Fascinated by the topic, I spent months researching anything CSI related, most of the information gleaned from material I found online or from books I had purchased on the subject. Only then was I ready to break down the information that applied to the scenes in Brainwash. As for types of crime scene searches, I researched overlapping zone searches, strip searches, spiral searches, and grid searches. I opted for a grid search as the most thorough technique for hunting for evidence in the arroyo. I did some in-depth reading on lifting shoe prints, dusting for fingerprints, collecting evidence, and how best to protect that evidence from contamination until it could be analyzed by a test laboratory. Because I anticipate that Darcy will be involved in future CSI work, my research is ongoing. Another valuable site has been the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and last month I read Marilyn T. Miller’s book, Crime Scene Investigation Laboratory Manual. Ms. Miller is a former crime scene investigator and forensic scientist. And lately, I finished digesting the Texas Law Enforcement Explorer Training Guide. In closing, true firsthand knowledge can’t be beat, but acquiring it isn’t always practical, and today via certain social media sites and other online resources, there is a wealth of information at your disposal. All you have to do is seek it out.

Glossary/Photo Blogs

I plan to devote several blogs to a glossary. I will give a detailed description of each term and include a photo for easy identification. I also plan to do a series of photo blogs showing the exact locations I chose for scenes in my novels, such as the Brainwash crime scene in the arroyo on Darcy’s land in Taos.

Until then, Happy New Year and best wishes for 2016!


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Let’s Talk Writing


Let's Talk Writing with Author Pat Krapf

After several edits, Genocide, book three in the Darcy McClain and Bullet thriller series, is with Caroline, one of my editors, for what I hope is the last round. The book has passed through three pairs of eyes: Caroline’s, Arlene’s (my other editor), and my own. Discussing book edits brings to mind a blog post Arlene wrote in July of this year. Like Arlene, I have also experienced sleepless nights and anguish worrying about potential mistakes in my books, and like many authors, I have done my best to avoid errors. A brief excerpt from Arlene’s article follows:

When editors make mistakes . . .

Genocide by Author Pat KrapfEditors make mistakes? What? How dare I go on record to state such a thing! Right off, let’s get one thing clear: editorial errors are inevitable. If that surprises you, it shouldn’t—we’re only human, after all (I know that’s hard to believe). While many editors are perfectionists, most of us also know perfection is impossible to achieve. Let me tell you from firsthand experience that the quest for perfection in a world where perfection doesn’t exist is an issue that causes many of us a great deal of anguish and even sleepless nights. It’s one of the hazards of the job. Can a book be error free?

Read her entire post, “When editors make (or miss) mistakes…”

While Caroline edits Genocide, I am taking a short break from novel writing before I begin the first of many revisions to book four in my series, Clonx. It is currently in draft form. The thriller is set largely in Texas, but some chapters are set in New Mexico, where Darcy and Rio return to settle some personal matters. The scientific subject of the novel is cloning. In Clonx, Darcy is in Texas for Vicky’s wedding. While on her daily run, Bullet discovers a trash bag submerged in a creek. Inside are the pulverized remains of renowned geneticist Dr. Catherine “Cate” Lord, who has been under fire from Zyclon, a bioethics advocacy group diametrically opposed to her research on human cloning. Although the evidence points to Zyclon as the prime suspect in her murder, Darcy soon discovers Cate had many enemies and any one of them had good reason to kill her.

To kick off my writing series, I’ll answer questions I’ve received from readers. Some have already been addressed in past blog posts, which I will link to, but I am happy to respond again and/or give more detailed answers as some readers have requested. Five questions I have repeatedly been asked are general in nature, so let’s start there.

Are you related to Patrick Krapf? Have you seen him on YouTube? Why do you have such loud music on your website?

Three different questions from three different readers, but all associated in one way. No, I am not related to Patrick Krapf that I know of. And if you hear loud music or don’t like the videos on my website, as some blog subscribers have mentioned, you are on the wrong website. I’ve never had music or videos on my site, but I do plan to add book trailers in the near future, so please watch for them.

Genocide by Author Pat KrapfIs the p in your last name silent? 

Speak to Americans and most will tell you yes. But when I asked several German friends, they responded unanimously—no. “You definitely do pronounce the p and the f in Krapf as “pfhh.” If your last name was Kraph, then the p would be silent and it would be pronounced as an f.” There you have it, straight from several Germans. And if you can master the “pfhh,” you have my admiration. I have not succeeded in doing so without spitting on anyone, so I have since refrained and fallen back on the silent p. On an interesting note, after considering this reader’s question and conducting some research on the surname, I discovered the name, which has many variations in spelling, was first recorded in South Holland around Rotterdam before appearing in the Bavarian region of Germany. And citing genealogical websites, the first Krapf migrated to the US in 1748 and settled in Pennsylvania where most Krapfs still reside today. An equal number live in the state of New York.

When you are not writing, what are your favorite ways to relax?

Spending time with Kai, my giant schnauzer, gardening, photography, cooking, and traveling.

What inspired you to write?

A promise I made to myself. At age eight my reading skills sucked, and my third-grade teacher informed my parents I would never get into college unless I improved. So every weekday night while everyone else watched television, I sat in my bedroom with my mother and together we plowed through the Nancy Drew, then the Hardy Boys series. It was a slow start, but five months later you couldn’t pry a book from my hands. I was addicted to reading and told my mother, “I’m going to write a book one of these days.” Granted, it was many years before I fulfilled that dream, but I released the first book in the series, Brainwash, in April 2014, and the second, Gadgets, in 2015. Both are available in print and e-book on Amazon .

Was Brainwash your first novel?

No, my first novel was Blind Revenge, a standalone. Later, I will incorporate it into the Darcy McClain series and retitle it.

Ive seen your title Brainwash as one word and two words. Which is correct?

In terms of the book, either one. The word “brainwash” is one word and the title was intended to be one word, but my cover designer, Fiona Raven, made it two so it would stand out. This allowed us to make the type bigger and bolder, especially “WASH,” which is a shaded yellow in color.

How do you come up with titles?

I focus on short titles—quick recognition and easy memorization—and ones that sum up the essence of the entire book, if possible. For example, Brainwash was the name of the artificial intelligence/nanotechnology program being carried out by Los Alamos National Laboratories. The program was the scientific plot for the novel. In Gadgets, Paco was a gadget geek who loved to own the latest in new technology and had the expertise and knowledge to build his own weapons. A Genocide is the mass murder of a group of people, and this thriller is based on plot to exterminate all gays and lesbians. Someone recently asked me if all of my book titles would begin with B or G. No, that the first four novels I have written do, is a fluke. And as I stated above, Blind Revenge will be retitled when it is released.

How do you find time to write?

I make time. And it helps that writing is an addiction. Often it controls me. I also credit my ingrained self-discipline—a learned trait from my high school days when I was enrolled in correspondence courses from the University of Nebraska Extension Division. I worked to a strict schedule then, and I do today. I set goals, prioritize them, and assign deadlines. This routine works well for me.

Do you get writers block?

I’ve suffered from writer’s block on three occasions. First, as a young writer with little life experience, and therefore little to say. However, I did write poetry occasionally, a few short stories, and I kept a diary throughout my adolescence. My second bout was when I decided to write my first book, Blind Revenge. I began by writing romance, or attempted to. I like romance, but it simply wasn’t the genre for me, and I came to this conclusion when, four weeks later, I was still staring at the same six-paragraph page. The last time I experienced writer’s block was in 2013 after my web designer Lindsay said, “You really should blog on your website.” My first thought: Blog about what? My second thought: Blogging is time-consuming. A week later, I came across an article titled “The Problem With Memoirs” by Neil Genzlinger, staff editor at The New York Times. Many years ago, I toyed with writing a memoir, but always came to the same conclusion as Mr. Genzlinger: “There was a time when you had to earn the right to draft a memoir.” I’m not interested in writing a full-blown memoir, so I’ve settled for writing a blog biography. Spending my formative years overseas was in many ways a unique experience, but the high points can be covered in a series of blogs, emphasizing what is noteworthy and glossing over the ordinary. There are people in this world who have achieved the remarkable or overcome great obstacles; for them a memoir is fitting.


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Europe 2013: Toledo, Spain – Part 2

Puente de Alcántara, Spain

Last week we visited Alcázar. Picking up from there, we left the castle and made our way to Toledo’s cathedral. The formal name of the French Gothic church is Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo. Construction on the white limestone structure began in 1227 on the site of a former mosque. The opulent, shimmering, gold interior is jaw-dropping: it’s laden with elaborate wrought iron work, lavish wood carvings, 750 five-hundred-year-old stained glass windows, and a spectacular gold high altar, not to mention eighteen El Greco masterpieces.

El Transparente, a Baroque altarpiece

El Transparente, a Baroque altarpiece

All around me tourists uttered the same word: “Wow.” The initial design had five naves and eighty-eight columns and measured 390 feet long by 196 feet wide. Over the centuries additions have been made to the original building. In the fourteenth century San Blas Chapel and a cloister were added, and construction on the towering altar in the main chapel began. It took six years to complete, and many famous sculptors worked on the five-story gold filigree structure. During the fifteenth century vaults were added and another chapel, for a total of seven today. But the most moving and stunning feature in the cathedral was El Transparente, a Baroque altarpiece illuminated by a large skylight cut high in the ambulatory behind the high altar. A second hole cut into the back of the altarpiece itself allows sunlight to strike the tabernacle. The illumination is dazzling when the sun shines from the east, giving the impression that the whole altar is rising to heaven.

Catedral de Toledo, Spain - Large skylight cut high in the ambulatory behind the high altar

Catedral de Toledo, Spain – Large skylight cut high in the ambulatory behind the high altar

We stepped outside to blinding sunlight and made our way through the picturesque narrow streets to Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca, the synagogue of “St. Mary the White,” The 1203 house of worship was designed and decorated by Mudéjar architects. The architectural style was a synthesis of techniques resulting from Muslim and Christian cultures living side by side and emerged during the twelfth century. The dominant characteristics are elaborate tile work, brickwork, wood and plaster carvings, and ornamental metals. To dress up walls and floors, Mudéjar architects used complicated tile patterns. Long after the Muslims were no longer employed as builders in Spain, their distinctive elements continued to be incorporated into Spanish architecture. Inside the synagogue the Moorish influence is obvious in lovely white horseshoe arches, capitals carved with vegetal motifs, and the contrasting dark red floors with decorative tiles. (In architecture, a capital is a “head,” the topmost section of a column or pilaster.) The synagogue has been used as a carpenter’s workshop, a store, a barracks, and a refuge for former prostitutes. Beautifully restored, today it is a museum.

Our next stop was El Tránsito Synagogue, a private family synagogue known for its rich polychrome stucco work, multi-foil arches, and a massive Mudéjar paneled ceiling with Arabic inscriptions intertwined in the floral patterns of the stucco panels. After the expulsion of the Jews from Toledo in 1492, the building was converted into a church.

Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca, Toledo, Spain

Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca, Toledo, Spain

We lunched on tapas at Mesón La Orza before we set out for the El Greco Museum, only to find it closed. We had no information about whether or not it would open that day, so we walked on to the Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes. The structure was built by Catholic monarchs King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I to commemorate their victory over the army of Alfonso V of Portugal in 1476, and they also planned to house their mausoleum there. However, after the reconquest of Granada in 1492, the Catholic monarchs chose to be buried in Capilla Real in Granada. The two-story Gothic monastery with its Plateresque stonework, a larch wood ceiling painted with the motifs and the coats of arms of the monarchs, and the peaceful cloister and garden were definitely worth the visit. I would have liked to linger a bit longer, but we had two more stops to make and had to hurry along to catch a train back to Madrid. But before we left, Dave had to show me something on the exterior of the monastery. Chains hung from on high, the remnants of leg irons worn by the Christians imprisoned by the Muslims. During the reconquest, the prisoners were freed, and the chains were hung on the monastery in 1494 to symbolize the triumph of Christianity.

Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes, Toledo, Spain

Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes, Toledo, Spain

With only two hours left for sightseeing and still much to see, we both agreed we should have considered at least a two-day stay in Toledo and noted this for a future visit. Not rushing but not dawdling either, we headed toward the Puente de San Martín. Constructed in the late fourteenth century to provide access to the old town from the west, the bridge has five arches, heavy fortification with towers, and an impressive span of just over 130 feet. At that time, very few bridges in the world had reached that length. It complements the older Puente de Alcántara, which links the city to the east.

Our next stop was Puerta de Bisagra, the main gate to the old city of Toledo, a majestic stone gate built in the tenth century in the time of the taifa of Toledo. The taifa was a Muslim medieval kingdom located in central Spain in 1035 that endured until the Christian conquest in 1085. The gateway is actually two gates, the old one built by the Moors between the sixth and seventh centuries, and a new gate built in the sixteenth century. After photo snapping and a time check, we pressed on to our next destination.

Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz dates back to 999 and was built as a mosque known as Bab al-Mardum. It is the only surviving mosque of ten that once stood in Toledo. It has a square footprint that measures roughly twenty-six by twenty-nine feet. The facade is brick and decorated with a series of arches. The interior has open brick latticework and an arcade of blind horseshoe arches that support nine ribbed vaults, all of which have a unique geometric design. In 1186 when the mosque was converted into a chapel, a transept and a Mudéjar-style apse were added. The chapel derives its name from legend. When King Alfonso VI rode into Toledo in victory in 1085, he discovered that a candle, which had burned continuously behind the brick masonry for three and a half centuries of Muslim rule, was illuminating a statue of Christ concealed within the brick wall to prevent profanation.

Puente de Alcántara, Toledo, Spain

Puente de Alcántara, Toledo, Spain

Mindful of the time, Dave and I threaded our way through the quaint Toledo streets toward the Puente de Alcántara, an arched stone bridge built between 104 and 106 to span the Tagus River. So far we had avoided getting lost in Toledo, but that soon changed. The street we were on came to an abrupt end, and we had to loop back up the steep incline. Along our way a British couple stopped us to ask for directions. We really couldn’t help them, except to say that this street was not the way to the bridge. They too were in a hurry to reach the train station. “So let’s team up and rally on,” they said, and that’s precisely what we did until we bumped into a local. She gave us excellent directions, but not ones we wanted to hear. We had to hike another steep hill. We crested the rise only to discover that the bridge was nowhere in sight. We still had a ways to go. Eventually, the bridge came into view, and the four of us let out loud sighs. We finally entered the station and queued up. Neither we nor the British couple had purchased return tickets, and we were darn lucky to get the last four seats on the 5:00 p.m. train. The next available departure with any empty seats was at 9:00 p.m.

We arrived back at the Westin in time to shower and change for dinner at Lieu Restaurante for what would be a fabulous meal prepared by chef Daniele Scelza. The restaurant offered two prix fixe menus. I ordered one and Dave the other, along with the wine pairings. The meal began with test-tube cocktails and chorizo madeleines for two—gratis—followed by a transparent tomato ravioli with parmesan cream and basil for me, and for Dave a zucchini carpaccio: paper-thin slices of zucchini with a tangy citrus and herb drizzle. Next, I had an aerated gazpacho and Dave a potato-bacon pie with escargot in a beef sauce. So far everything had been superb, and we couldn’t wait for our mains—Dave had the lamb saddle with creamed sweet potatoes, and I chose black cod with olive oil, basil, tomato confit, and pumpkin puree. By the time dessert arrived, I had run out of superlatives. We shared an order of creamy chocolate with olive oil, brownies, and tiles of red wine granita; and an order of berries, cassis sorbet, and ginger chips, topped with a champagne foam. Both were palate-pleasing delights. A meal to remember, but unfortunately, from what I’ve read on the Internet, the restaurant has permanently closed.


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