Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Jumping Genes and an Excerpt from COLD HORIZON

By Kristy McCaffrey

Jumping genes, or transposons, are small pieces of DNA that have the unusual ability to copy and insert themselves in random places within a genome. These genes—long known as junk DNA—were thought to be nothing more than genomic parasites, but research is beginning to show their importance in evolution.

Most cells in our body contain DNA, a molecule composed of a double helix that carries the genetic instructions required for life. (Mature red blood cells are the only ones that lack DNA, having gotten rid of it to pack themselves full of more hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein). For cells to access the information contained in DNA, they must transcribe it onto a related molecule called RNA. Despite that the same DNA is in almost every cell, not every cell is expressed in the same way, otherwise we would be one giant blob of undifferentiated matter.

Jumping genes were first discovered by geneticist Barbara McClintock in the 1940s. At the time, most scientists dismissed them, but McClintock suggested they might play a regulatory role by determining which genes are turned on and when.

Barbara McClintock

Transposons have been found to jump across plants, animals and fungi as well. The process is known as horizontal transfer, as opposed to the normal parent-offspring transfer, and has had an enormous impact on mammalian evolution. For example, 25% of the genome of cows and sheep is derived from jumping genes.

One such jumping gene is called LINE1, abundant in almost all genomes of mammals. It’s repeated half a million times in the human genome, making up nearly a fifth of the DNA in every cell. Studies of mouse embryos have shown that LINE1 is especially active during early development of the organism, suggesting that the segment might play a key role in coordinating the formation of cells. Researchers believe that LINE1 RNA particles act as a molecular “glue,” switching off the two-cell stage of early development and jump-starting it to the next phase.

There are many different types of jumping genes, including some that drive the evolution of genomes, thereby creating more genetic diversity in a species.

In my book COLD HORIZON, Lindsey Coulson is a chemist who studies jumping genes.

Two years ago, Lindsey Coulson lost her sister on K2, the second highest mountain on earth. Searching for answers, she sets out to climb the Savage Mountain. Mountaineer and freelance writer Ty Galloway has assembled a small team to conquer K2 and welcomes the esteemed climber. But K2 is a force unto itself, as is Lindsey. Both will test his limits. Both will test his heart.

“Blending romance, suspense, adventure, and action, it really was a great thrill ride of a book and one that I gladly recommend.” ~ Jamie, The Romance Studio

Excerpt from Cold Horizon

Lindsey scooped more snow into the pan and set it atop the stove. Ty was all business with her, giving no indication that they were more than friends. A few times she had to stop herself from touching him, or leaning into him, or standing too close. Not that there was any big reason to keep it a secret. Still, she was tempted to kiss Galloway in full view of Fiske if only to get the jerk off her case.

“Ty, you still planning to go to the South Pole?” Beck asked.

“Maybe. It depends on my schedule.” He drank from his water bottle, flinching from the hot liquid.

“You wanna go?”

“I’m interested. Let me know when/if you settle on a date. Maybe you should come too, Lindsey.”

“Why’s that?” she asked.

“It’s the last great frontier. A real feather in any explorer’s cap.”

“I thought space was the last frontier,” Packer said from his spot just outside their circle.

Beck ripped open the wrapper on a candy bar. “We’re nearly in space on this mountain.”

Packer laughed. “That’s for damned sure.”

Fiske took a bite of a power bar. “Mountains are more difficult,” he said around the food in his mouth. “The South Pole is just dragging a sled for miles.”

“It’s all about the mind, Fiske.” Beck broke off a piece of chocolate and popped it in his mouth. 
“Seeing if you have the mental capacity to do it.”

Was it Lindsey’s imagination, or did Beck’s voice hold a hint of sarcasm?

If Fiske noticed, he gave no indication, and said, “I think it a waste of time. Climbing has better goals. Will you climb while you are there?”

Ty shook his head. “No. It would be a trek across ice.”

Beck’s attention shifted to her. “So, what do you think?”

If for no other reason than to irritate Fiske, she answered, “I’ve always wanted to visit Antarctica.”

Ty gave her a sidelong glance, a wicked gleam in his eyes. “Then you should come.”

She smiled and looked away before she did a happy jig over the open invitation.

Packer moved to stand beside her and said, “But please, by all that’s holy, don’t go near any strange creatures and try to study their DNA. We all know what happened in ‘The Thing.’”

“Because that was a completely true story,” Ditch said in a dry tone.

“Did you know that the dot on an ‘i’ is called a tittle?” Packer chuckled.

“Do you get whiplash?”

“From what?”

“Your ADD,” Ditch said.

Lindsey looked over her shoulder at Packer. “That movie wasn’t really that farfetched. The alien functioned like a virus, infecting its host and taking over. Viruses like to jump around, and we humans are ripe for the picking because we like to take a lot of risks. We eat things we probably shouldn’t, and we poke around in places where maybe we should stay away.”

Packer’s eyes widened. “Like here?”

Lindsey smiled. “We do like to push those boundaries. It’s evolution, baby.”

Copyright © 2019 K. McCaffrey LLC

COLD HORIZON is available in ebook and print.

Kindle | Nook | Apple | Kobo | Google Play | Print

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Win a print copy of Blue Sage

Don't miss my August website giveaway - a print copy of my long novella Blue Sage, a contemporary western romance.

Braden Delaney has taken over the family cattle business after the death of his father, but faced with difficult financial decisions, he contemplates selling a portion of the massive Delaney ranch holdings known as Whisper Rock, a place of unusual occurrences. Archaeologist Audrey Driggs arrives in the remote wilderness of Northern Arizona looking for clues to a life-altering experience from her childhood. Together, they’ll uncover a long-lost secret.

Click here and enter today.

Blue Sage can be found at these eBook vendors.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Book Reviews: FATHOMLESS and ABYSS by Greig Beck

Reviews by Kristy McCaffrey

If you're in the mood for a techno-thriller à la Jaws after getting your shark fix from Shark Week, then check out these two books by Greig Beck. I've included the Amazon link but his work is also available at other ebook retailers.

Greig Beck

A fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller starring none other than a giant shark, FATHOMLESS is the perfect escapist read. Evolutionary Biologist Cate Granger is in search of answers to her grandfather’s disappearance years before and heads to Alaska in search of an underground sea. She and her team find more than they bargained for, and it should come as no surprise that the shark escapes back into the "real" world. This is Jaws and The Meg and Sharknado all rolled up in one, and I had a blast reading it. I did wish that the shark wasn’t so demonized, but there’s no disputing this is a trademark of the genre. Grab some popcorn and sit back for an entertaining ride.

Greig Beck

This sequel to FATHOMLESS follows the same characters—biologists Cate Granger and Jack Monroe, as well as many others—and their discovery of more Megalodon sharks lurking in the ocean depths. This time around the action takes place in the abyssal zone of the ocean, nearly 20,000 feet down. You’ll experience the terror of being trapped in a submersible while a frightening menace watches from the inky depths, and be glad that you’re on land. Cate and Jack aren’t as well-drawn as I would’ve liked, but the plot is inventive while remaining firmly anchored in scientific fact. This is escapist horror-movie fare, and I loved it!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Deep Blue: Réunion Island Correction

My apologies. If you purchased Deep Blue: Réunion Island at the end of July, you may have noticed that Alec confessed something to Grace that he'd already shared in Deep Blue: Australia. Sometimes discrepancies slip through despite my rigorous editorial process. I'm happy to say that as of August 1, all Deep Blue: Réunion Island files have been updated to maintain consistency from the previous novella. If you purchased the book before that date from Amazon and would like to have the updated version, you'll need to contact Amazon customer service and have them push the new file onto your device. Unfortunately, it won't automatically update. I'm not sure how it works on the other eBook platforms (Apple, Nook, Kobo, and Google Play). If you're purchasing the book after August 1, then you should receive the updated file and can ignore this notice.

Thank you to everyone! My readers are awesome (and forgiving). I'm working on another Deep Blue novella, which I hope to have out this fall. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

New Deep Blue Novella Releases

By Kristy McCaffrey

When shark researcher Grace Mann accompanies her boyfriend, underwater filmmaker Alec Galloway, to Western Australia for a commercial shoot with great whites, she envisions relaxing days in the sun and smoldering nights between the sheets. But as Alec’s mood becomes increasingly distant, Grace worries the chemistry they shared—so effortless in the beginning—was starting to fizzle. Is his reticence related to her, or something else? And can she find a way to help him get the footage he needs before his behavior places his life in danger?

Download at your favorite ebook retailer. Click here for more info.

(Please note: This novella was previously accessible only to Kristy's newsletter subscribers, but is now available for purchase. If you would like a free download, sign-up here for the newsletter.)

* * * * *

“Bull shark,” Grace confirmed. “And a big one by the look of it.”

Dr. Grace Mann has joined her boyfriend, underwater filmmaker Alec Galloway, on a trip to the French island of Réunion. Alec and his team—Dan “Double D” Donovan and Stephie Kim—have come to document the capture and relocation of mature bull sharks from the western coastline.

For over ten years, shark attacks have terrorized the people of Réunion, essentially ruining the diving and surfing industry. Angry exchanges between locals who want the sharks culled and a government trying to preserve the ecology of the ocean environment have failed to resolve the issue.

The relocation program is a last-ditch effort to bring a peaceful coexistence between humans and sharks, but Grace’s resolve will be tested as she enters the water with these tenacious predators. Bull sharks didn’t earn their name because they were polite.

Click here to purchase at your favorite ebook vendor.

Excerpt from Deep Blue: Réunion Island
Movement caught her eye, and she barely had a chance to shine the light of her camera toward it when a blunt nose slammed into her, shoving her violently through the water. The beady eye, a black slit against white, watched her, then its gills slid past in a flurry as the fish flicked and turned away, the dislodged camera sinking to the sea floor. Stunned, Grace struggled to keep her regulator in her mouth as the dark abyss swallowed up the equipment in the last bit of light.

She should swim down and retrieve it, but every fiber in her screamed to get out of the water. The shark had every advantage in the dark. Kicking her fins, she headed to the boat. When her head broke the surface, she spit the regulator out.

“Stephie! Get out of the water!”

The men were struggling with the captured shark and their shouts drowned out her voice. Stephie swam closer, struggling to keep her head out of the water, her heavy air tank weighing her down. A fin crested the surface behind her.

Grace ducked under, her mask still on, and pushed Stephie aside, extending her arm and shoving hard when the shark came close. The bull turned and her hand scraped on its rough skin as it bolted away.
Whipping her head above water, Grace sucked in a breath.

“You go,” Grace gasped to Stephie, who was still behind her. “I’ll watch your back.”

Stephie moved quickly to the ladder hanging off the boat, and Grace followed, her gaze continuously scanning the surroundings. A pressure wave pushed into her. She put her face in the water just in time to see a large shadow pass below.

The goddamned shark was beneath her.

Without looking up, she kept moving to where she thought the ladder was. The shadow turned, moving upward, revealing the unmistakable outline of a shark. The aggressive beast was coming straight for her. She readied herself to redirect with her hand, but it would meet her feet first. Did she have enough strength to kick it? Grace really didn’t want it to snag one of her flippers.

Pumping her arms, Grace prayed the boat was behind her.

With the shark almost upon her, she was suddenly yanked from the water. She flew onto the back deck of the boat as the shark slapped the surface with its caudal fin, turned sharply, and splashed her as it spun away.

“What the hell was that?” Alec said in her ear.

With relief, she leaned back into him. “Mother Nature’s perfect creation.”

Copyright © 2019 K. McCaffrey LLC

Pathway Series Reading Order:

Deep Blue
Deep Blue: Australia (A Pathway Novella)
Deep Blue: Réunion Island (A Pathway Novella)
Cold Horizon
Cold Horizon: Telluride (A Pathway Novella)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

Review by Kristy McCaffrey

Blake Crouch

Neuroscientist Helena Smith is trying to create a device that will map memories in the hope of preserving parts of her mother before the woman slides completely into dementia. But Helena’s team accidentally stumbles onto something far more amazing, and terrifying, during her research. Soon pockets of people are experiencing false memories of lives they’ve never lived but are so vivid that it leads many to suicide. This is labeled a ‘syndrome’ and doctors struggle to identify the cause.

Helena’s story parallels that of Barry Sutton, a New York City detective investigating accounts of False Memory Syndrome. He’s also living with the heartbreak of losing his daughter in a car accident eleven years prior. Eventually, Barry and Helena join forces in a wildly inventive plot that will keep you guessing until the end. I don’t want to say too much more because it would spoil the story, but Crouch expertly weaves together the power of human consciousness and the science behind time-travel and multiverses, while challenging the very fabric of reality. The past, present, and future will never look the same again.

Read Recursion at Amazon

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Polish Climber Wanda Rutkiewicz and a Giveaway

By Kristy McCaffrey

Polish climber Wanda Rutkiewicz was the first woman to climb K2—the second highest mountain in the world—in 1986, which she accomplished without the use of supplemental oxygen. Unfortunately, that same summer, thirteen climbers died on K2.

Wanda was born in 1943 in Lithuania, but her family moved to Poland after World War II. As a young woman, she earned an electrical engineering degree from the Wroclaw University of Technology.

Wanda Rutkiewicz

Her first major expedition was to the Pamir Mountains in Central Asia, which she found to be an unpleasant experience due to difficult relationships with the other male climbers. After that, she led her own trips, which included a number of all-female expeditions. She was known for her blunt leadership style.

In 1978, she became the third woman and first Polish climber and first European woman to climb Mount Everest.

Her goal was to become the first woman to summit all fourteen 8000-meter peaks. She reached nine, and possibly ten, although she disappeared in 1992 on Kangchenjunga (the third highest mountain), so her summit was in question. During that climb, her partner, Carlos Carsolio, and Wanda started for the summit at 3:30 a.m. on May 12, 1992, from Camp Four at 7950 meters. After climbing for 12 hours in deep snow, Carlos reached the top. As he was descending, he met Wanda. She decided to remain and bivouac (camp in the open—never recommended at such a high altitude and harsh environment) and she would start for the top the following day. She had no food, no utensils for cooking, and no equipment to bivouac. No one ever saw her again, and her body has never been found.

Wanda Rutkiewicz

Rutkiewicz once said, “I never seek death, but I don’t mind the idea of dying in the mountains. It would be an easy death for me. After all that I’ve experienced, I’m familiar with it. And most of my friends are there in the mountains, waiting for me.”

* * *

Click here for a chance to win an autographed print copy of COLD HORIZON.
(U.S. addresses only. If winner is international, then an ebook will be substituted.)

“Packed with action, adventure, and suspense at every turn!” ~ Ann Charles, USA Today Bestselling Author

“The characters are believable, realistic and unpredictable … a thrilling read!” ~ Vicki, reader

Ambition and courage at the top of the world. Ty Galloway has assembled a small team to conquer K2 and welcomes esteemed climber Lindsey Coulson. But K2 is a force unto itself, as is Lindsey. Both will test his limits. Both will test his heart.

Excerpt from COLD HORIZON
That night, Ty bunked in a tent with Ditch at Camp One, while Lindsey was alone next door. Time to change that.

Ty pulled the hood of his jacket onto his head. “I’m going to ask Lindsey to join us.”

“It would be the neighborly thing to do,” Ditch said as he sorted through packets of freeze-dried food.

“Try to clean up the place, would you?” Ty scooted to the front of the tent and unzipped the doorway, then crawled out into the blustery cold and braced himself against the wind. As night descended, an eerie isolation had encompassed them.

“Lindsey,” Ty yelled. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah, help yourself,” came her muffled response.

He unzipped the opening of her tent and got himself inside as quickly as he could, securing the entrance behind him. He remained in the vestibule, so he wouldn’t get snow from his boots all over her tent. He was also careful not to bump into the burner hanging from the tent ceiling that she was using to melt snow. It was easy to have a mishap in a very flammable tent.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

Sitting atop her sleeping bag, she rubbed her wool-clad feet. “I’m a little tired and sore, but otherwise I feel good.”

“You sound surprised.”

She jammed her fingers into her ponytail and scratched her head. “I guess I was a little worried. You never really know how you’ll do until you’re on the mountain doing it.” She hugged her knees toward her chest.

“Wanna share a candy bar for dinner?” He pulled off his gloves and retrieved the treat from his coat pocket.

“Maybe we should split it three ways. Ditch might be hungry.”

“He’s already eaten. He had half a Pop-Tart.”

Ty unwrapped the candy bar, twisted it in half—exposing peanuts resting in a hardened nougat center—and handed a piece to her.


“You’re welcome to hang out in our spacious accommodations,” Ty said. “Ditch likes to play Hearts, and it’s no fun with two.”

She shut off the stove and donned her mitten to carefully remove the pan filled with hot water. “Well, as you can see, I am quite busy.” Holding her water bottle between her feet, she carefully poured the liquid into it.

“If you join us then at least we’ll have an excuse to say no to Elena.”

Lindsey’s head snapped up. “Did she try to get in your tent?”

Regretting his words, Ty said, “No, sorry. I was just kidding.” But he thought he detected a tinge of jealousy in her voice, and he liked it. He couldn’t tell if the flush on her cheeks was from the cold or from her sudden outburst, but either way she looked too damned enticing.

“All right, I’m heading back,” he said, conceding defeat in his efforts to be neighborly.

“Wait. I’ll go with you. It’s kind of lonely in here by myself.”

“You could invite Elena over for a slumber party.”

“Bite your tongue.”

Once she secured the lid on her water bottle, she reached past him for her boots, bumping into him. A charged atmosphere settled around them as it became impossible for Ty not to touch her in such a confined space.

Ditch had encouraged Ty to dial it back where Lindsey was concerned, and yet at the same time he had cautioned Ty against ending up old and alone.

Ty released a laugh, easing the tension sparking between him and the woman who was affecting him far more than he’d ever anticipated.

“What’s so funny?” Lindsey asked, zipping her jacket.

“I was thinking about a passage from Alice in Wonderland. ‘It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.’”

Lindsey smiled. “‘We’re all mad here,’” she said, quoting another line from Alice with a gleam in her eye.

Ty leaned close. “‘You must be, or you wouldn’t have come....’”

Copyright © 2019 K. McCaffrey LLC

Cold Horizon is now available at:
Kindle | Nook | Apple | Kobo | Google Play