Pat Krapf

FAQ Answered: Part 1


At this stage in my blog posts, I’ll explain for subscribers and book readers why I’ve taken you on this long journey from the US to Mexico, back to the US, and then to Africa after a four-year stint in the Caribbean. Not to mention why I’ve introduced you to my shadow of almost fifteen years: my giant schnauzer Shotz, who was the impetus for Bullet in the Darcy McClain thriller series. I’ve provided this background to acquaint readers with me, and to show in detail how these events shaped my main character, Darcy McClain, and the series as a whole.

Darcy is indeed my alter ego, but she is far more adventurous and daring than I, and life is less dangerous when I’m living through her eyes. And like me, she is a globetrotter, which will soon become evident as the series moves overseas (in book five) to exotic European settings like Croatia and Hungary.

But let’s backtrack for a moment to answer a few questions often asked about the series.

1) How did you come to write a series? In an earlier blog post (Corporate Years, Blind Revenge & Genocide), I wrote about my very first novel titled Blind Revenge. I have not released this book but will do so, retitle it, and fold it into the series. It was meant to be a standalone, but the main character in Blind Revenge so closely resembled Darcy that I decided a series was a good idea.

2) What is the timeline of the series? I’ve tied each novel’s time frame to Charlene, Darcy’s younger sister, and her growth. For example, in Brainwash, Charlene was in her second year at Stanford and therefore a college sophomore. In Gadgets, which precedes Brainwash, Charlene is a freshman at Stanford. By the third book, Genocide, Charlene is a junior.

3) How did the name for your main character come about? I toyed with several names but finally settled on Darcy McClain while reading John Grisham’s book The Pelican Brief. I was quite fond of the name Darby, but felt it was a bit too tame for the daredevil main character I had in mind. So, I dropped the b and added a c, making her Darcy. As for her last name, my favorite movie at the time was Die Hard, and I could certainly identify with the Bruce Willis character. Therefore, I took the name McLane but failed to check the spelling. I later decided that McClain served as well as McLane and did not bother to correct the spelling.

4) What is the theme of your novels? The general premise for all of the DM thrillers is the same. A wrong has been committed, usually a murder, and Darcy feels compelled for one reason or another to right that wrong.

5) Why did you create Charlene? I created Charlene, who is twenty years younger than Darcy and a deadbeat, to heighten the conflict in the series. Through this sister-to-sister discord, the reader gets a better understanding of what makes Darcy tick. As the series progresses, Darcy’s innermost thoughts and reactions surface as the longstanding rift between the two sisters finally reaches a crucial point. By seeing how Darcy deals with her sister and the frustrations that arise from their relationship, we come to know her as a person.

6) Why did you create Bullet? Bullet came about by intent, but I hadn’t originally planned he would stay. While writing Gadgets, I intended to portray my antagonist Paco as a pet abuser, a mean person whom the reader would come to hate. But soon two problems arose. One, I found it difficult, if not downright impossible, to write these abuse scenes, especially every time I looked at Shotz, who spent most of her days planted at my feet or staring at me as I typed away on my keyboard. I couldn’t imagine harming her in the slightest way. Two, I began to read Gadgets at the DFW Writers Workshop, and a resounding majority of the members echoed my sentiments. “Surely, you aren’t going to kill the dog?” they asked. No, no intentions whatsoever of killing the dog. By Chapter 10, the unanimous comment was: “You are going to keep the dog in the entire series, aren’t you?” No, I’d had no intentions of doing so. But the more I dwelled on these comments, the more I realized that keeping Bullet in the series made good sense, so I went back to Chapter 1 and made Paco the antithesis of most villains: a man who loved his dog and would do anything for his canine companion. This change steered the plot in an entirely different direction, and for the better, in my opinion.

7) What challenges have you faced while writing your series? Writing any series certainly presents its own set of challenges, but here’s one specific to mine.

I started writing seriously in 1985 (Blind Revenge), intending to fulfill a promise I had made to myself at age eight—that one day I would write a mystery. After dozens of rejections, I set Blind Revenge aside and in 1987 started writing Genocide, in which I first included Darcy McClain. At the time, I did not own a dog and had no intentions of adding a canine sidekick to the series, so Genocide was written without even a mention of a dog.

Midway through Gadgets, I decided my villain needed a canine companion, so I created Bullet and modeled him after my fearless girl, Shotz. By Brainwash, Darcy had inherited Bullet and I had the challenge of working him into Genocide, a story not meant to include a dog. I vacillated for months about adding Bullet to the book, but after persistent urging from my editor Caroline, and in allegiance to my readers, I caved and added him to the plot. Although he plays a bit part in Genocide, he will play a greater role in future DM thrillers.

8) How do you come up with ideas for new books? Stay tuned to next Friday’s blog (11/28/14), when I will answer this question in detail.



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Shotz: Surgery #3


By late September, Shotz was healing well from her dual surgeries, but she still had one more medical surprise for us. In early October 2001, we drove up to our vacation home in Taos, New Mexico, to check on the house and to winterize it.

On a prior trip we had ordered bar stools for the kitchen, and they were ready to be picked up in Santa Fe. We would’ve loved to have taken Shotz with us, but there was not enough room in the hatch area of my SUV for both her and the stools. In preparation for the drive down, we crated her. And since she was a master escape artist, we secured the crate door with a clasp at the top and one at the bottom, the kind you see on the end of a dog leash. We would’ve preferred her to have the run of the house, but the last time we left her uncrated she destroyed most of the blinds, along with half of the window screens. They weren’t even repairable as she had chewed the metal frames into numerous bite-size pieces and left the mesh in piles throughout the house.

Twenty minutes after we arrived in Santa Fe, we had loaded the stools and were on our way back to Taos. The moment we opened the door into the house I knew something wasn’t right. Even when crated, she would greet us with a bark, but the house lay silent. I rushed into the master bedroom and stopped in midstride, surprised by the scene before me.

She had rocked her crate onto its side and had wedged one corner of it into the drywall. The bedspread had been yanked off the bed, and she had pulled about a quarter of it into her crate and shredded it, the down feathers everywhere. But neither the drywall damage nor the torn bedspread concerned me as much as the sight of her mangled wire crate. We had to cut the door open with wire cutters to free her. I felt terrible that she was so stressed about being left behind that she had caused this kind of destruction. I vowed then to never crate her again.

Extricated, Shotz appeared physically drained and immediately settled onto the bed for a nap while I began cleaning up. Halfway through vacuuming pile after pile of down feathers, I stopped to run my hand over the rug, puzzled by the sound of gravel being sucked into the vacuum cleaner. Then my heart sank when I saw something white lying on the carpet.

I hoped I was wrong, but when I gently pried open Shotz’s mouth I was upset to see the truth. In her attempt to escape from her crate she had chipped several teeth and fractured her canines. How badly, I wasn’t sure, except for one of her upper cuspids, which she had fractured at a sharp angle. The crack ran from the tip of the tooth, and from what I could see, up and under the gum line.

When we returned home to Texas, our vet recommended against extracting any of Shotz’s canines. The roots, he informed us, are usually twice as deep as the tooth is long, and extracting these teeth can cause serious nerve damage or even loss of eyesight. I took his advice after I did some research of my own on the potential side effects of tooth extractions in dogs.

The ultimate decision was an easy one. I would never do anything to jeopardize her vision, so with a referral from our vet I made an appointment to see an oral surgeon in Dallas to get her opinion and to hear her recommendations.

The dental vet informed me that Shotz had chipped at least eight teeth in addition to having minor fractures to two of her canines. These didn’t need any work. However, the third canine, the one I already knew was badly fractured, would require either extraction or a root canal. It had cracked about a sixteenth of an inch into the gum line and could become abscessed at some point. So I opted for the root canal.

After she recovered from her oral surgery, I informed Shotz that she had maxed out her credit card and therefore couldn’t pay for another medical procedure. She groaned, but fortunately she had no additional mishaps and went on to live a long, healthy life.

We said our final goodbyes to Shotz on June 16, 2009, one of the most heartbreaking days of my life. It took until now, 2014, to find the emotional strength to write about her.



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Shotz: Surgery #1

Shotz at the Veterinarian

Saturday, December 2, 2000: The day dawned cold and gray. Shotz loved winter; the cool weather invigorated her. She ripped around the backyard at top speed, happy to have so much room to run free. All morning we had asked her, “Well, what do you want for your sixth birthday?” If she could have answered, I’m sure she would’ve included a swim, even though the thermometer read barely twenty degrees.

Bundled up, my husband and I set to work to clean gutters, the channels overflowing with autumn leaves, cedar debris, and hickory nuts, some ready to sprout. After the morning cleanup, we had plans to take Shotz on a long walk along the trails at Bear Creek in Keller.

In the meantime, she was having a blast tearing through piles of leaves, scattering them everywhere, dragging logs off our woodpile, and dumping them on our back porch.

Years ago, we had terraced our side yard with railroad ties, and there I had planted my vegetable garden. But the only crop thriving in the rows that day was weeds. Once the gutters had been cleaned, weeding was next on our to-do list—but after we three celebrated Shotz’s birthday.

As she had numerous times, Shotz came flying around the corner of the house at record speed, made a U-turn at the pedestrian gate, and started back across this narrow section of lawn. As she reached the halfway point, she jumped onto the first tier of railroad ties, and from there onto the next until she reached the top tier. She leaped across the walkway that separated these two sections. When she landed, she let out an earsplitting cry that cut to my soul, then crumpled into a heap onto the grass.

My husband raced over to help her up, but she stood almost immediately, limped a few feet, then trotted off at a slow but deliberate pace, whining as she disappeared among the shrubs. He ran after her while I checked the area, trying to figure out why she had fallen, but saw nothing except a patch of ice atop one railroad tie. My main concern was to find her and see why she was limping.

I found Dave sitting next to her on the ground. She tried to stand but sat again, all the time whimpering softly. We hoped she had suffered only a bad sprain but later admitted we thought she might’ve broken the leg. However, neither one of us wanted to face that truth.

Dave was covered in mud and dirt from cleaning the gutters, so I agreed to take Shotz to the emergency clinic, less than a ten-minute drive from our house. She could walk, but as soon as we saw her dragging her right leg, Dave picked her up and carried her to our SUV while I went for my keys and wallet.

After waiting for what seemed like hours, the vet at the emergency clinic informed me that Shotz had torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and needed surgery. I could hardly believe what he was saying. He mentioned we’d need a referral from our personal veterinarian, since an orthopedic surgeon would have to do the procedure. I felt terrible for her.

Our vet referred us to Dr. Robert Barstad at the Dallas Veterinarian Surgical Center (DVSC) in McKinney. The center also had a satellite office in Southlake, which was right on the border with Keller and in the same building as the emergency clinic. The center, emergency clinic, and our veterinarian’s office were located next door to each other, which made the office visits convenient.

Then the wait began. We made an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Barstad (through our vet), but he couldn’t see Shotz until December 8. In the meantime, our vet prescribed a painkiller for her. The wait seemed worse for us than her; she managed to keep moving on three legs, occasionally hopping using the fourth, but she tired easily and wasn’t interested in play.

After the December 8 orthopedic examination, we did receive some positive news: Shotz had no signs of hip dysplasia and her overall health was excellent.

On December 13 I dropped her off at the surgical center in Southlake and cried all the way home, praying all would go well with the operation and her recuperation. A half hour or so into the surgery, Dr. Barstad called with unfortunate news: Shotz had not torn her ACL but had a “complete tear of her posterior cruciate ligament.”

Because of the PCL injury, Dr. Barstad suggested a modification of your typical tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), an experimental procedure he felt would benefit her in the long term. However, he cautioned that the De Angelis repair had a poorer prognosis than a TPLO repair or an ACL procedure. I trusted him, so I gave him the okay to perform a reverse De Angelis repair.

In his December 14 notes to our vet, Dr. Barstad wrote: “80 # test monofilament nylon was placed through a tunnel in the fibular head, wound through the straight patellar tendon just distal to the patella, then down to a tunnel on the caudal/medial edge of the proximal tibial plateau. The simple loop configuration was tied in a taut position, advancing the tibia in an anterior direction. The gracilis muscle was freed and advanced forward onto the patella with tension pulling the tibia anterior. It was sutured at the patella with a reverse fascial band that we dissected free from the lateral retinaculum. These two dynamic advancement flaps provided additional cranial thrust when sutured to the straight patellar tendon. A routine closure was performed, and the leg was placed in a padded wrap.”

He also wrote: “I have seen fewer than 20 of these injuries in my career, and the majority of them [the patients] were hit by cars with the blow of the bumper being focused right on the kneecap. ‘Shotz’ evidently self-inflicted that type of force hitting the railroad tie. The reverse De Angelis repair will improve her function and stabilize the knee, but these dogs never do as well as ACL repairs. If we take it slow and start to swim at the 21-day point, hopefully we will achieve satisfactory function of the leg and hopefully consistent usage by 8-9 weeks.”

After the surgery, we followed Dr. Barstad’s recommendations for Shotz’s recovery to the letter, and all went well until February 24, 2001.



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