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

Stay in touch with Kristy

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter

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!