Author: Robert Maisano (Page 1 of 6)

‘Picaroon Coast’ is now on Amazon

The second book, Picaroon Coast, in the Grigsby series, launches today on Amazon. The Grigsby series began as a simple Instagram post but grew into now two books, with a third releasing this Winter. I’m really excited to share this with you. Pick up a copy today in paperback or Kindle.

One more thing, it would mean the world if you posted a review on Amazon, this greatly improves the visibility of the book. Thank you!

Grigsby is on Amazon

Today the first novella from the Grigsby series, Finding Bunny, went live on Amazon. It’s been a childhood dream to publish a book and I’m so excited to see it available in paperback and Kindle.

Thank you so much for the support and early feedback on the series. If you’d like to help please leave an honest review of the book on Amazon and spread the word to friends. 🙂

The Eye Opener

The curtain fell, pulpy and white. Then all went black. The pain spread from my eye to the back of my skull, which now lay on the warm sidewalk. 

My mouth was open set to scream but I didn’t make a sound. The agony seized every vein and muscle in my jaw and throat. My tongue, dry, felt like a dish towel. Then I tasted the bitter tang of adrenaline. This helped me process what happened.

I opened the eye that didn’t have the white pulpy curtain in front of it and saw the broken tools next to me. I saw what struck me: a chunk of metal that jettisoned off of a tool I was using. It bounced off of my eye so fast that it scratched my brow open.

A yellow cab dumped me outside the entrance to Bellevue Hospital. 

“Will I lose the eye?” I asked the attending physician.

She said nothing. 

“Will I lose the eye?” I repeated, now sobbing, the tears stung against the wound. 

Possibly. We’ll know more soon.” She said, then I heard her footsteps shuffling outside the room. 

This statement changed everything. 

I should note I didn’t end up losing it. I was blind in my right eye for about a week and had of month recovery. This experience that happened last summer changed me. It gave me a new perspective on the ephemeral nature of life. 

The fact that I could be partially blind was terrifying. I know people who’ve lost digits and limbs, but I never thought it could happen to me

As I sat there on the crinkling paper of the examination table, I envisioned my life without an eye. Sure Halloween would be easier and I could tap the glass eye with my pen in cafes to confuse people, but there’s no upside.

The weeks that followed were tough because I couldn’t read. Using one eye gave me terrible headaches. The book I was reading at the time was 11/22/63, the opening line now made sense: “Life turns on a dime.” This is when I decided to stop hiding. For years I’ve quietly written stories in the margins of lecture notes and pitch-decks during boring meetings. Goals and aspirations shifted and waned as I grew. But the thought of being a writer remained paramount. I kept saying I’ll write something worth reading some day, but those days turned into years.

After the injury, a fire burned inside of me to keep making and share what I make. I’ve published articles before but nothing from the genre of fiction or satire. A place for pure creativity and focus. I’m happy to say that a year after the injury, I’ve written a novel. It’s in the final editing stages now and will be ready by Fall.

In the immediate, I’m excited to share a new project tomorrow. I’ll be launching Grigsby, a series following a character I’m developing for a book. The content is short and satirical. 

All I care about is making positive content that you’ll enjoy and share with someone. The world is a crazy place and I want to leave my mark on it while I can see the whole damn thing.


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Exploring Yosemite

“How many people have they killed?” I asked.

“None here, yet.” The woman answered.

“But they have been known to break into cars?” I asked.

The woman nodded. The bags under here eyes had flakes of concealer bunching up and her hair was tied in a greasy ponytail. She looked more than tired, she looked exhausted. I figured she was at the end of her shift, it was 40 minutes from midnight.

“Just remove all the food and toiletries from your car and put it in the bear safe locker near your tent.” The woman said sliding me my Yosemite parking permit.

I thought of that gruesome scene from The Revenant and shuddered. “Thank you.” I took the slip and walked out into the smokey night. Somewhere in the forest, a campfire burned. The smell of pinewood and cold air stirred around us as we walked in the pitch of night. I walked back to my car with my girlfriend, Ashley Rose.

“You think there will be bears?” I asked nervously.

“No. I want to go to sleep.” She said.

I thought my concern was overblown but every 10 feet signs are warning you about bears. There were no bears at camp, just a chipmunk, and a few deer. As the temperatures dropped to near freezing I was lulled asleep by the perpetual hum of Yosemite Falls. Our plan was to hike to the top of those falls in the morning. 3,000 feet of elevation gain, not bad for a day hike.

Since we arrived in Yosemite Valley at night I didn’t see anything passed my headlights. When I climbed out of my sleeping bag I looked up and saw the towering granite walls surrounding us. The grayish white cliffs looked like molars from a monster’s mouth, all broken and jagged. Cataracts glistened from all sides. The historic amount of rain that hit the West Coast in the winter was responsible for this. A seasoned climber told me it was the best the falls have been in 50 years.

Onyx ravens circled the camp and cackled. None of them had three eyes. They picked at a woman’s bag and unzipped one of the pockets and picked out her Clifbar. I swatted it away.

The air is different here. It’s exactly what you’d think a dense forest smells like, piney, tilled earth.

We drank coffee that tasted like chalk and headed for Camp 4 where the trailhead for Upper Yosemite Falls starts. Camp 4 is the famous dirtbag campsite where all of the legendary rock climbers and mountaineers spent time. From Yvon Chouinard to Royal Robbins to Tommy Caldwell to Alex Honnold. It smelled of Douglas firs, bacon, and cigarettes. Most of the climbers were awake, they piled multicolor ropes onto Patagonia packs and were refilling water bottles. They were quiet. They reminded me of monks, dedicated to a way of life. 

One crew was getting ready to climb near El Capitan. This would be akin to climbing the height of the Empire State Building. These guys and girls have nerves of steel.

The hike began with a relentless amount of switchbacks. I forced myself not to stop until we were over the switchbacks, I didn’t want to diminish our water supply in the beginning of the hike.

The path soon became submerged. The water falling from the cliffs had streamed down the paths to the point where we found ourselves leaping from rock to rock to stay somewhat dry. 

View of Half Dome from Columbia Rock

After we traversed another torrenting stream I rounded the corner of the trail and saw something strange. Something you ordinarily wouldn’t find on a 12-mile hike in Yosemite. A twenty-something-year-old girl in vans, leggings, a tank top, holding a canvas tote bag filled with cookies and a bottle of ice tea. She seemed to have just left Coachella and was commuting back to Brooklyn via Yosemite. She was wringing out one of her socks and eating an Oreo. 

I noticed the falls were getting louder, like a rolling series of thunderclaps. Ashley Rose, who hiked on ahead, called for me. Hustling up the granite and mud path I made it to an overlook and saw the falls.

Had to black and white the shot in honor of Ansel Adams. 🙂

Hours later, we made it to the top of the falls. We found a place where the snow had melted away and set our packs down to rest. Using my belt as a tether system, I set up my camera rig to my pack so it wouldn’t fall off the cliff as I photographed the valley below.

I wanted to get a better view of the falls below and found a path that led us to a somewhat terrifying path along the cliff face. My mouth was dry and my hands were clammy as I balanced my 35lbs pack on a narrow cliff lip. To add to the stress, a lone woman, who looked like she lived in the mountains, was trying to start a conversation with me. Not wanting to be impolite, I nodded and agreed to all the crazy stuff she was saying, as I carefully stepped down the face. It was worth it.

Afterward, we made our way back down to the base of the falls. As the midday sun burned away the humidity we passed by hikers who had late starts. At certain switchbacks on the trail you can see the falls, I noticed the sun was falling to the perfect angle. Hopping off the trail I climbed as high as I could to get a proper shot, never before have I wanted a drone so bad. Still, though, the shot came out right.

Rainbow FTW

Shortly after we completed the hike we celebrated with surprisingly good pizza. Being from New York City I’m usually suspicious of anything made outside the five boroughs, but the melted mozzarella, sweet tomatoes, and spicy sausage went well with the local beer that tasted bitter and cold.

The following morning we got up before dawn to capture the valley’s glory before it was overrun by people and the amber light had faded. Stubborn clouds arrived when we did and were blocking the rising sun. Improvising, I found areas nestled in the forest that I could shoot.

Straight out of Game of Thrones

From there we headed to Mirror Lake because the mosquitos hadn’t hatched yet. El Capitan stood gallantly in the distance like a frozen chunk of the moon.

El Capitan reflected in Mirror Lake

Trying to photograph the beauty of Yosemite is challenging because every angle is awe-inspiring. Focusing on the right places to shoot made me forget about the possibility of bears.

The Manfrotto tripod is my favorite piece of gear

Tilly Hats are great investments

In September Ashley Rose and I are returning here to climb Half Dome with a group of friends. If you ever have the opportunity to come to Yosemite, take it, it’s something that can only be experienced in person. I hope this story helped illustrate the grandness of it all.

I’ll be writing more stories here and photo essays. Let me know what you think of it (hi@robertmaisano.com). Lastly, if you enjoyed this, please share it to the world.

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. 

John Muir

Stories From Museum Klein

In my last post, A Return To Fiction: Part Deux, I said that I’ll be writing more fiction in the coming months. Recently I’ve been working on a collection of short stories. They’ll be compiled into a series with the working title of Stories from Museum Klein. If you ever enjoyed an episode of Fringe or Stephen King’s supernatural stories, you’ll like this.

There is an art component to each story and they’re all loosely connected. I’ll be debuting them individually and also publishing them on InstagramFacebook, and in a Medium series.

Below are two early drafts of the artwork. Clearly some bad shit goes down in the burning barn.

I’m excited to launch the series soon. In the meantime, it would mean a lot to signup for my private email list. 🙂

Return To Fiction: Part Deux

Last week I wrote about my return to reading fiction. A year ago I decided to read fiction more aggressively because it’s a healthy way to de-stress and provides tactics which can help you deal with problems more effectively. Since I launched this site I’ve worked hard on writing articles that showcase interesting content from thought leaders, hidden cafes around the world, and my analyses of issues in marketing and tech. I’ve done this because I wanted a hub for all of the topics I’m interested in to exist. What I’ve neglected to showcase are my fiction stories.

Since I was little I’ve written stories in yellowed notebooks, the back pages of boring math textbooks and on my computer. 99% of them remained hidden, kept away from the world. Fear ordered them away. I recognized how foolish it is to let fear control you. It does no one any good. Just as I think it’s important to share interesting articles on the aforementioned topics, I feel it’s vital to showcase my fiction work. (Read this to see why fiction is important.) If you enjoy mysterious thrillers and grounded sci-fi then you’ll appreciate my future posts.

I promise to deliver only the best stories. The lengths will vary, some you can read in a single Uber ride (flash fiction <1,000 words) others will be short stories (2,000–8000 words). Stories above 10,000 words certainly are possible. If you’re a fan of Medium, you can find them on my Monthly Dispatch publication.

One more thing, if you’re an artist or graphic designer I’d love to collaborate. Some of the short stories will warrant header images. Let me know if you’re interested in working together.

A Return to Fiction

Introducing: From The Library

A year ago I returned to reading fiction. Like many anxious twenty-somethings trying to prove their worth in the “professional world” I persistently sought an edge. The way I did this, like many of my peers, was devouring business books. Reading stacks of books from the titans like Warren Buffet and Jim Collins, to the equally influential Silicon Valley squad from the likes of Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin. All of whom make remarkable work that is actionable and useful.

Their books and articles helped me grow but something was missing. Then it simply dawned on me: I missed reading fiction. I grew up reading the works of Kerouac, Poe, Thompson, Hemingway, Steinbeck and King. Creased paperbacks warped the shelves they lived on in my bedroom.

One day walking through the streets of New York City I was listening to Neil Strauss in an interview say something to the effect of “…non-fiction is good but humans learn by metaphor thus making fiction the better avenue to learn from…” this was the permission slip I needed. I walked into Strand Bookstore and purchased a copy of Stephen King’s 11/22/63, an epic tale of time travel and the JFK assassination. From there I haven’t stopped. Admittedly I’ll sneak in the occasional non-fiction book but I feel they fall more under the reference category nowadays.

I noticed (almost immediately) that my daily stress levels decreased from reading fiction.

Reading is a healthy escapism that Netflix or YouTube can’t offer because reading is an active form of escapism as opposed to what TV demands— passive staring at a bright screen, slouched, usually with ruffles in hand. The aforementioned author Tim Ferriss claims reading fiction in the evening helps turn off the problem-solving part of our brain. I agree and will add that it just feels good to get lost in a story.

As for what to read…

Introducing “From The Library

I’ve been keeping a list and making notes on every book I read. My goal here is to share these thoughts both here or on my site. More people should read fiction because in a time where negativity and overreaction to the news is rampant, story, is what helps us escape in the most healthy manner and these stories provide us lessons with how to deal with real life problems.

Below are the first two books in the series, enjoy.

Blood Meridian | Cormac McCarthy

If Ernest Hemingway had an LCD induced nightmare and he told Quinten Tarantino about it, we’d have the plot for Blood Meridian.

It’s a gruesome story about a runaway boy who falls in with scalp hunters. The poetic narrative rivals any writer that’s alive today and the characters stay with you long after the novel is finished, especially the Judge.

I’ll note that they are huge parts of the text that made little sense. Don’t get discouraged, read through it. The ending is worth it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane | Neil Gaiman

This was my first Neil Gaiman novel. A perfectly nostalgic story to an age that’s seldom written about.

In the Fantasy/SF genre, I’ve always leaned further into the SF realm. This story opened me up to the appeal of fantastical elements.

If you’re seeking a short book, this is the one. One downside to reading this on a plane is that Gaiman’s description of food will make you very hungry.


I ❤️ This Conference Call, You Should Too

Conference calls are tough. Depending on your industry there is usually a good reason for having one, but whether or not something productive comes out of it is another story. Most of the time it’s two to four people talking over each other while the rest of the listeners listen, hopefully on mute.

The other day something interesting happened. I was commuting to work and dialed into a call we were having with our team in Asia. It was a typical call, lot’s of corporate speak: synergy, disintermediate, vis-a-vis, and circle back were said. When the call ended I excitedly opened my podcast app and listened to a show where three people spoke on the phone and I listened intensely. The sound quality was poor because the guests had all phoned in and that’s when it hit me — I was on another conference call.

I began to think, what makes this different?

Granted typical conference calls I have don’t include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Neil Gaiman or Seth Godin, but if you strip away everything you’re just listening to people talking. I began to think why people listen to podcasts. I’ve broken it down into three categories:

  1. To Learn
  2. To Escape
  3. To be told a good story

The reason I’m constantly listening to podcasts is because I can learn something passively. This medium may be one of the oldest forms but it’s enhanced because of its newfound portability. If your grandpappy wanted to listen to an interesting program on his commute, he’d have to lug a little red wagon with a 100lbs wooden radio attached to 300ft of electrical cord. Not easy. Now you have thought leaders at your fingertips.

Why You Should Be Listening To Podcasts

It’s imperative that we all start listening to podcasts because never before have we been able to learn things so easily. To not listen would be to squander an opportunity to grow and learn. If you’re not into learning and feel like staring listlessly ahead on your commute, indifferent, like a cow standing in the rain, go ahead. But you’d be happier listening. Below are some of my recommendations:

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

Average Episode Length: 3 – 5 hours

The art Dan Carlin makes is so incredible you’d think he has a multi-million dollar budget and production team. His podcasts are hours long and you can’t help but listen to every breath. I highly recommend starting with The Wrath of the KhansIt’s will be the best $9 you spend all year. Even if you’re not a history buff you should listen to Dan narrate and ask yourself, “When have I ever described something with this much passion?” Link.

The Moment with Brian Koppelman

AVERAGE EPISODE LENGTH: 1 hour

Brian wrote the cult-classic movie Rounders, as well as Ocean’s Thirteen and most recently his show Billions. He interviews people about the pivotal moments that changed their lives. He has great access and can interview people with the skill of a seasoned journalist. Link.

99% Invisible

Average Episode Length: 18 – 32 mins

Roman Mar’s podcast 99% Invisible is for anyone who has the slightest interest in design or would like to pick up interesting facts and stories to regurgitate at cocktail parties. He looks at the things that are invisible to most people and finds the story behind them. 99pi.org

The Tim Ferriss Show

AVERAGE EPISODE LENGTH: 49 – 121 MINS

Tim Ferriss is hilarious, intelligent and always delivers fantastic content that’s actionable and timeless. I highly recommend the Jamie Foxx if you’ve never heard of Tim. Other episodes to listen to are guests such as Kevin Rose, Derek Sivers, and Kevin Kelly. Link.

The James Altucher Show

AVERAGE EPISODE LENGTH: 46 – 90 MINS

James has similar guests to Tim’s show but he’s able to get different stories out of them. He’s a quirky guy who’s probably the most well-read person in the entrepreneurship space. Link.

The Joe Rogan Experience

AVERAGE EPISODE LENGTH: 1 hr – 3hr

Joe Rogan is hilarious and covers a wide breadth of topics and tangents in every one of his 900+ episodes. Saddle your own opinions and just enjoy this guy. Link.

Millennials Don’t Suck Podcast

AVERAGE EPISODE LENGTH: 49 MINS – 1.5 HR

Full disclosure, this is a podcast that I assist in producing. However, the hosts, Matt and Ari, are exceptional at finding unique millennials that defy the stereotype. Some of the guests have never had such in-depth interviews before this. Link.

3 Fiction Podcast That Will Blow Your Mind

There is a tremendous amount of opportunity in the fiction category for podcasting. I’m surprised many budding screenwriters haven’t seized this area yet. Here are 3 incredible podcasts below, I’ll keep the descriptions brief.

Limetown

AVERAGE EPISODE LENGTH: 30 MINS – 38 MINS

Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again. Link.

Life After

AVERAGE EPISODE LENGTH: 22 mins – 30 mins

When you die in the digital age, pieces of you live on forever. In your emails, your social media posts and uploads, in the texts and videos you’ve messaged, and for some – even in their secret online lives few even know about. But what if that digital existence took on a life of its own? Ross, a low level FBI employee, faces that very question as he starts spending his days online talking to his wife Charlie, who died 8 months ago… But what feels like an unbelievable gift starts to bring up some very real moral and ethical predicaments, as Ross discovers LifeAfter, the program that brought his wife – and countless others back to life online. But what is “life” if you can be preserved digitally? And if you live online, where do you spend eternity? lif-e.af

The Message

AVERAGE EPISODE LENGTH: 25 MINS – 30 MINS

The Message is a new podcast following the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 episodes we get an inside ear on how a top team of cryptologists attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message. Link.

One last note, if you are going to start listening you should be using the Downcast Podcast App. Enjoy.

What if Twitter sent you a bill?

Last night I spoke to Chris Sacca, one of the most prominent investors in Venture Capital history, he’s one of the first investors in Twitter (owning a whopping amount), and a shark on ABC’s Shark Tank. Now as impressive as this sentence may sound, I should note we spoke on Twitter. You probably just said, “Oh” and have become less interested because I am no longer truly connected to the Silicon Valley inside circle, this is true. But it’s also true that we spoke. I sent him a message, he read it, took time to think, CC’ed another person, and respond back. Below is the tweet:

He also gave it a ❤️, which is the Twitter equivalent to “You’re welcome.”

I reached out because my girlfriend and I are planning a ski trip to Tahoe. She asked me to do research. I casually told her, “Cool I just ask Chris Sacca.” He mentioned Tahoe in an interview I read and he’s one of the few tech celebrities my girlfriend is familiar with because she heard him on Gimlet Media’s Startup Podcast. She rolled her eyes and wished I would just research the damn area. Nevertheless, I sent out the tweet and sure enough there was a response. She couldn’t believe it. I felt pretty cool, even though Chris and I are far from bffs.

Now, I’ve engaged with noteworthy people on Twitter before, just like the millions of other users, that’s the true value of the platform. Never before in history could you speak to a noteworthy person or even the President and get a response, even if it’s as small as a ❤️. I began to think, “What would I have to pay to get the same access?” Math isn’t my strongest subject but let’s give this a shot.

Sacca is worth $1.21 billion (way to go Chris!) and his firm has $33 million AUM as of last year. His time (the only non-renewable resource for us humans) is incredibly valuable, but what would be his real hourly rate? I’ve calculated this is by researching financiers who have a similar net-worth and run a firm with a comparable AUM at publicly traded companies where their salaries are public. The number I ended up with is $10,000 per hour. That means every 2 hours he earns a Volkswagen. Price this out by minute and you get $167 per minute. So our little Tweet session, if I paid him out-of-pocket, would be ~$334!

This blows my mind because I, like many of the millions of users on Twitter, tweet to dozens of high-profile people all the time and sometimes get responses. From Gary Vaynerchuk to Casey Neistat to Joe Biden (for the record: Joe didn’t take me up on a request to grab ice-cream). Also for the record: I’d like to humbly note that most of my tweets are thought-provoking or seeking real advice. 🙂

Now imagine if Twitter mailed you a bill for all that engagement you’ve had with high-profile people and even friends of yours that work normal wage jobs? What would the cost be? Imagine if you had to pay it? Twitter, who has been riding the struggle bus for 2 years now seeking effective monetization, would become the most profitable companies on Earth. If they could monetize the 200 billion tweets sent each year I’m sure the shareholders would be happy, but of course, you’d have 0 users the following morning. So there’s that.

Thankfully you will never receive a bill from Twitter even though you’re getting all of this free access. It’s an unfortunate paradox that the company is struggling to boom like it’s bigger social brother Facebook. I’ve written before about how Twitter can be an empathy machine, but it looks like Facebook and nascent companies like Magic Leap are going to dominate that space. It’s unfortunate but not sad because that is simply how the system of capitalism works. I don’t know about you but I’m glad I’ll never see a bill of that size for my tweets.


You can follow me at @Robert_Maisano but if you can only follow 1, I recommend the podcast account we’ve set up, @MDSpodcast.

We’re New & Noteworthy!

October was a busy month. The podcast that I produce with hosts Ari Andersen and Matt Little made it to the top charts on iTunes’ New & Noteworthy. This has been a goal of our since last summer when we began planning the podcast’s brand and creative direction. If you haven’t heard an episode yet check us out here: Millennials Don’t Suck Podcast.

millennials don't suck

Our guests thus far have included a rocket scientist, spoken word artist, filmmakers, and political activists to name a few. The podcast was also featured in Business Insider, it’s a great article if you want to learn more about our mission and the hosts.

I’m fired up for the next couple of months as we’re lining up some very interesting guests. If you want to stay updated on new developments with the podcast sign up for our weekly email that offers exclusive content.

Thanks for listening. 🙂

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