It’s summertime and for many that means fun outside with friends and family. If you know me, you know I love to dance, and that means I like listening to good music. When writing my book, I used several pop culture references along the way, and that made me think of some of my favorite songs.
Last week, I said I had one more surprise up my sleeve, and here it is: The Quantum Contingent has a playlist. The handcrafted Spotify playlist has one song for each chapter. Each song connects to the chapter of the book in a unique way. Some connect in obvious ways, others in more subtle ways and others in more elaborate, detailed ways. In at least ten of the chapters, the title of the song appears in the chapter. Of course, it’s pretty easy to get a one-word song title in a chapter (like Birthday, by Katy Perry or Africa by Toto). Also, based on the number of Taylor Swift songs I included in the playlist, you'll be able to infer I'm a fan.
So, I encourage you to head on over to Spotify and listen to The Quantum Contingent playlist. Don’t be afraid to break out a few of your favorite dance moves. The songs on the playlist are in the order of the chapters in the book, but I won’t share the chapter titles yet, just the playlist.
I suspect after you read the book, you might have some questions about some of the songs and how they relate... that will have to wait until after the book is out! In the meantime, I just thought I'd share the playlist so you could use it when you are out enjoying yourself this summer!
The blue links above take you to spotify. If you just want to see the list of songs, you can see it here:
(of course the entire list is subject to change!)
I've crossed a key milestone in writing my book, the rough draft manuscript. I'll call it the "alpha" release. I've sent the alpha release to an impartial developmental editor. I've had some wonderful developmental editing from my daughter and wife, but this will be from an impartial third party. After I incorporate her feedback, I'll be at the "beta" stage. (I get the feedback on 7/31) If you'd like to be a "beta" reader, you'd need to be willing to not only read the book, but provide constructive feedback on the book. What did you like, what didn't you like? Was there something you didn't understand? Was a section that was boring? Was there a section that was great? I plan to send beta copies out to volunteers in September. If you are interested, use the form to provide your email and preferred format. I will also ask beta readers to submit a review on Amazon when the time comes!
Now I need to learn about amazon keyword advertising and recruit my creative son to do a book cover design for me. After that, I'll get those final beta reader tweaks in place, do a final proof edit and submit for publishing. Learning how to do a good launch will probably be the most difficult part of the process. Print, e-book, local book stores, Amazon, Barnes and Noble... there are several nuances to work through to make this a good launch.
I do have one more surprise up my sleeve. Come back next week to learn about one unique aspect of my book.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with an excerpt from my book and the pictures that inspired it. You'll recognize one picture from the cover of my website.
Until next time,
Looking upriver, he could see the famous Lucerne-Chapel bridge in the distance. He hastened down the intricate wrought-iron railing to the fifth table and waited for his contact. The river water reflected the bright noon sunlight. He dropped a pebble in the water and could see it drift slowly all the way to the bottom of the clean, mountain fed river.
The church across the river had green patina on its copper covered steeples. It reminded him of the many greenbacks he hoped to earn for his loyalty to the ‘Contingent’.
This week's blog is a photo blog of two locations in The Quantum Contingent. Both are in Africa. The first is Ngorongoro Crater, in Tanzania and the second is The Rock Churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia. The cover photo from "The Journey Blog" is of Ngorongoro Crater on the jeep ride into the canyon at sunrise. The "About the Author" page features a photo of me in front of The Church of St. George. St. George stands a distance from the other churches and is hewn in the shape of a cross from a single block of red stone. These are two very unique and beautiful places. Great places for a spy novel like The Quantum Contingent.
I hope you enjoy the photos and the novel! I sent my "alpha copy" to my developmental editor this week. I'll get that feedback back on July 31st. Now I need to learn about book marketing and advertising! Drop me a comment below if you have any questions!
I happen to share a birthday with one of the most prolific technologists of our times. Elon Musk and I were both born on June 28th. Elon got his start selling a startup called Zip2 to Compaq for $307 million in 1999. From there his online bank X.com merged with another company to form PayPal. PayPal was bought by eBay in 2002 and it was with this windfall that Elon went on to start SpaceX, the rocket company that lands rockets on autonomous drone ships in the ocean. In 2004, he joined Tesla and created the energy and electric vehicle manufacturer that has taken the market by storm. His list of technology ventures goes on and on... OpenAI, Starlink, Neuralink, The Boring Company. He also helped create Solar City which was later acquired by Tesla.
As you can imagine, these technologies fit well in a spy novel. I've worked in self-driving cars, rocket ships, hyperloops, solar power, the LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite network Starlink and more. I've worked hard to make the novel accurate, including descriptions of these and many other technologies, but in an attainable way. Please note that the novel is not at all like my blog. I will go into some of the technologies I use in the novel in detail in this blog, but the novel is meant to be more like a Mission Impossible movie. There is technology in the MI movies, but it's not meant to take away from the fun and excitement of the film.
These amazing thing about these technologies is they are all very real technologies. The SpaceX Starship is taller than the Saturn V that launched the Apollo astronauts to the moon. It has successfully launched itself about 6 miles into the sky and then after free falling back toward earth, fired its thrusters to right itself and land an upright landing, ready to refuel and launch again. Reusability of rockets is significant because it dramatically lowers the cost of space travel. In the past, every rocket was a one-time use vehicle. On August 18th, 2020, SpaceX set a record by using the first stage of a falcon rocket for the sixth time.
SpaceX is enabling another Elon company, Starlink. Starlink is now operational in parts of the world, beaming down high-speed internet access to remote parts of the world using satellites that SpaceX launched into a "low earth orbit". Since they are much closer to the ground, you can achieve high quality, high speed internet with Starlink's satellite network. This is unlike earlier satellite networks that were slow because the satellites were so far up in the sky!
SpaceX's dragon capsule has an "autopilot" for docking. The first manned crew mission on Dragon docked autonomously to the International Space station. Of course, it's not just landing pads in the ocean and space capsules orbiting the earth that are working on autopilot. Tesla's neural network for self-driving cars is getting smarter and smarter, with a goal of someday allowing full-self driving cars on any road, Today, Tesla's autopilot system remains a driver assistance program and is not fully autonomous. However, as a Tesla owner, I can attest that the autopilot capabilities are amazingly good and significantly reduce driver fatigue on long drives. Tesla's ability to seamlessly update the software on their cars to add vehicle enhancements and improvements to autopilot is one of the clear advantages they have over the traditional legacy automakers. Here's an image of how Tesla's autopilot 'sees' the world.
Tesla's approach is to use pure vision, enabling a car to see with 8 cameras and a series of ultrasonic sensors for close in maneuvering. The images are processed by a highly trained neural network operating on specialized computer on-board the vehicle. Tesla can also pull scenes down from their fleet of vehicles to train the neural network. Before it is used by production cars, new versions of the neural network run in "shadow mode" along side the current production neural network to test them in the real world situations. This enables Tesla's autopilot to continue to improve at a rapid pace.
Anyway, it is sufficient to say, if you like reading about some of the different technologies Elon Musk has engaged in, then you'll want to read The Quantum Contingent. I promise to highlight many of the technologies throughout the thriller, but if you want to talk details, you'll probably need to do that here on the blog. The novel is a thriller, not a tech manual!
Thanks for listening, let me know if there are any topics you'd like me to highlight in the blog.
Drones seem to be a spy's best friend. They are portable, stealthy and getting more powerful every day. They are already in use in many fields including agriculture, real estate, military and law enforcement applications, and delivery. (I do look forward to my first drone delivery) Drones don't have to be small either. The US Air Force is working on Skyborg. (yes, really) Skyborg is an ambitious autonomous program for UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). So, you can only imagine the scenarios that come to the mind of a spy novelist when you think of fleets of autonomous UAV's traveling on autonomous "ghost ships." One of the interesting things about The Quantum Contingent is that it's not set that far in the future. The technological leap to accomplish what is discussed in The Quantum Contingent is closer than you might think. That's why there is a technology tab at the top of this website. I plan to continue to update that tab with additional links that address some of the technologies in the novel.
If you think about where we were 15 years ago, with no real smartphones, no ubiquitous GPS, no Netflix, no Facial recognition tech... you can see that we've come a long way. In some cases there were negative consequences of the technology advancement. I did a TedX talk on AI and the importance of having "seatbelts" on new technology. We need to think ahead to the possible negative outcomes and prepare for them BEFORE the first big accident. Sometimes humanity isn't that good at planning ahead. Ironically, novelists are quite good at spelling out dystopian technological futures. (as my daughter has often reminded me) Perhaps we need to get the technologists and the novelists together when we talk about how to manage the advancement of technology! I'm very pro-technology, but I'm also very pro-humanity, so let's make sure we advance our civilization in a good way.
On a more light hearted note, I've included a shot from my personal drone for your enjoyment! Talk to you soon. Next time we'll talk all about Elon Musk technologies! There are quite a few, and most find their way into the novel.
Greg's blog will cover some of the things he learned as well as some of the tech and locations he used in his new novel, The Quantum Contingent.