Tripio The Novel

How I found my mind, brewed some coffee and wrote a novel

I have two chive plants in my herb garden. I have a sage, oregano and thyme which all have returned this spring. And, for you climate change doubters out there, my rosemary plant came back this spring. I have had a rosemary plant every summer for ten years and each winter it has died. This year, I checked it and saw new growth. It has survived the mild winter in the Midwest for the first time ever.

It has occurred to me that my advocacy of the use of “using your mind garden to produce your own unique story” may come down to money. What doesn’t’? I find it works not to outsource your creativity, process, inspiration, validation in order to to write, in order to find your way as a writer. I primarily use my own mind, which is free and always open. It works for me. It may or may not work for you. Although, It may work for me because I have had not a choice but to make it work.

Over the course of my writing, starting just out of college in the mid 80’s until now, I have not been able to spend a ton on money on it. I could have, but my kids needed to eat. So, I think out of pure necessity I had to devise my own belief system, which aligned to life as a whole. I did not have the time or money to take seminars, workshops or fly overseas to retreats. I ain’t pissed. If fact, the years that I am referring to when I was raising a family produced a human being who has something worthwhile to share. I did occasionally get back to writing short stories and always kept a journal, but was nowhere close to being able to plan a couple hours a day “writing”.

How do my chives figure into all that? Well, they are green, like US dollars. The lack of which left me recently without the ability to hire an editor, which had temporarily halted my 5 novels in 5 years plan. A plan that I hope ultimately produces some more green stuff, and I don’t mean chives. For the first time since post college I had time to write but felt stuck due to lack of funds and direction. Then it occurred to me to practice what I preach. I had written a series of short stories called Altonstreet and Philpatrick. Like the herbs in my garden, I could use them for free. So I headed to my garden and got to work.

Once used by Altonstreet

Here is where I brilliantly tie it all together. I wanted to make pesto earlier this week, partly to feed 2 of those adult children I mentioned. I could not afford to pay to go to a weekend writing seminar i.e. buy pine nuts. I had no way to get to Italy and be inspired at the grave of a dead Italian poet, i.e. my basil wasn’t’ ready. So, I found a recipe for pesto using chives and toasted walnuts i.e. I began a short story using my old characters, Altonstreet and Philpatrick. The chives were already in my garden and the walnuts way, way cheaper than pine nuts. I used what was at hand, what my mind garden had ready and waiting.

The pesto with chives and walnuts was quite good. The short story is titled “Altonstreet & Philpatrick receive a letter” and made me laugh out loud a couple time, which is good because that was my intent with the story. So, I took my own advice, fed my mind, body and spirit on the cheap. And this years’ garden is just getting started!

“May I help who’s next?”

Just as a piece of land has to be prepared beforehand if it is to nourish the seed, so the mind of the pupil has to be prepared...”

I was on my front porch drinking coffee, vibing to the start of the weekend and reading “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg when I came across the above quote. The book was of great interest to me in regards to writing. I knew that I used habit to help me write. Not with the pen or at the keyboard. If you read this blog regularly you know if I believe if you start writing at that point it is already too late.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

My example: When I was in the early stages of creating Tripio I was also taking a ninety minute drive three times a week. By this time I had already spent several years trying to understand my mind, how it works and why it was sometimes my worst enemy. I had hacked out a rudimentary understanding of the subconscious mind and would put it to work on these drives. If you don’t mind looking foolish for just a moment, raise your hand if you think that driving is an exercise is habit….OK, put your hand down.

I began to use the habit laden 90 minutes of highway driving to access my subconscious mind, to ask it to deliver the names and events I needed to populate Tripio. As I checked my speedometer, checked the rear and side view mirrors, sped up or slowed down, my subconscious mind delivered what I needed. From there all I had to do was remember what it had provided.

I learned from The Power of Habit that the habit formation and execution takes places in the basal ganglia. I was confirmed, validated. Even though I knew what was taking place, it was nice to know I can use the words “basal ganglia” to anyone I was talking to about my writing process. This bit of gratifying news came near the start of Habit. The above quote was near the end. The quote is from Aristotle, not me. Though I can understand if you are confused. Because, in the quote it sounds like Aristotle is describing the “Mind Garden”that I am going on about in many of my posts. I do not claim to have invented the concept behind “Mind Garden”. I am sure it has been used before. Again though, it validating that I can now refer to Aristotle when I am talking to anyone about how I write.

I believe writing starts before you pick up the pen or click on your laptop. I have seen, felt and came to know that clearing and preparing the mind and letting the actual writing come to you works for me. Don’t go looking for your writing, it isn’t out there. If that sounds a little weird but you can see some seed of wisdom, I’ll take it. However, if you find yourself thinking about the post, (miracles do happen) or even talking to someone else about it (I’m being serious) then you can say “Aristotle said that”, which will make you look smart. Which we all like. That, in turn, may lead you back to this blog in order to find more ways to make you look smart. I am not saying you need any help looking smart, but I hope that coming back to this blog becomes a habit anyway.

May I help who’s next?”

So much out there. So damn much. Too damn much. If you are reading this post then you have come to it by deciding to pass up millions of other blogs. First let me congratulate you on how wisely your are spending your time.

It isn’t easy to navigate once you click and fire up the internet. Like nearly all bloggers and writers, I am looking for ways to improve what I do. I do have regular blogs that I access for advise. They show up in my mailbox. I try to keep them to a manageable amount. But more keep appearing. They all sound appealing. I could improve my blog, my fiction, and even my mind by reading them. I have, I fact, achieved all three simply by doing what you are doing now.

I am well into the second year of this blog. I am going to publish my second novel this fall. Put some of those keywords into a search engine and the response would make War and Peace look like flash fiction.

So how do you know what works? Of course, you never know. You think, suspect, consider what may work for you and your book or blog. But you never know. That is because that writer of that post sent to your email box doesn’t know either. I say this now because I’m one of them. Earlier today I responded in the comment section of another post. I left sound, confident and useful advise that has worked for me. An hour or more late, I am suffer from “comment box remorse.” I think I just made that condition up. Possibly not. My comment sounded good, and more importantly made me sound like I knew what I was talking about. As of a few hours after posting my confidence is waning, my courage fading, the caffeine wearing off.

Like I said, my comment box response was something that had worked for me on my journey. There is wisdom in it. This particular comment included advice to ignore most the “static” out here in the blog sphere. To look at it from one angle, I am advising the author of the post to ignore my own comment.

What does does mean to you readers of this post? I’m not sure. I don’t know for sure. I think it is an indication I am an the write path though. Even a single senescent in a comment box should mean something, should come at some cost to it’s author, right? Yes, because true giving is giving from need. So it follows that real advice, or “static”, from your heart must produce a feeling of loss, or it’s not worth writing, clicking and posting.

May I help who’s next?

“I’m sittin’ in first class and they can all kiss my ass, ‘cuase I’m goin’ back baby, back outta world.”

 Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band – Back Out Of The World – 1987 album – Amerasia

      In Tripio, the protagonist Jay is writing his first novel. It is a road book. One of Jay’s literary heroes in Tripio is Jack “That’s not writing, that’s typing” Kerouac. It is in character for Jay to have attempted his first novel based on the two month road trip he had taken as part of his aimless post college graduation life. Tripio starts with Jay nearing the end of writing the novel. He is not exactly struggling with the ending of it. After all, it is finite. The book will end with end of the journal he kept for its duration. Jay is confronted more by the fact that he is afraid he doesn’t even know what the book is about.

   In real life, that was also true. Today, I describe “Back Outta the World” as a road trip in which the main character’s mind and body are on two different trips and meet at the end. I only came to that conclusion as I reworked Back outta the World (BotW) prior to starting Tripio. I arrived at that conclusion approximately 20 years after I finished physically writing BotW. You will have to buy and read Tripio to find that section describing how I felt upon finishing BotW . I will tell you that it is one of the few parts of Tripio that remains word for word in the novel, as it was recorded in my journal on that day in my Chicago apartment those many years ago.

         If I am promoting and publishing Tripio as a Starbucks novel, reflecting on it daily now as the story of my early adult life, then I am writing about my writing twice over. In other words there could be no Tripio without BotW. Yet, I was hesitant at first to even name it. Early in the writing of Tripio, I referred to BotW as “my writing” or “the novel” Then, as I began to feel confident and came to see potential in the marketing of Tripio, I made it a point to name and embed BotW into Tripio. In fact, I had too. In order for Tripio to “work” (you be the judge), BotW had to be a powerful, named presence in Jay’s mind. It had to be identified so that it could carry it’s third of the book.

    I believe it worked out. As for the marketing the books as companions, that remains to be seen. Tripio has to find it’s market first. Either way, I will find a path to publishing BotW later this year. That would be the least Tripio could do for BotW since Tripio would not have come to be without it.

“May I help who’s next?”

A look back on the one year anniversary of this post

        It is school day morning and my teenage son just asked if he could stay home  today because he couldn’t get to sleep last night. He was asleep at dinner time and I tried to wake him up. I had made a good dinner, creating something we would both like. I mention my son because he is a motivation in the more practical aspects of the attempt  to direct-publish Tripio.

      Simply put, I would like to make a little money from it. I need some income to continue to feed him, even if he sleeps through dinner.

    Having said that, I did not initially create Tripio as a revenue stream, even if that is what it may become. A year later, it is a revenue drip. In order to achieve said revenue I have had to do many things that I had not envisioned when I decided to direct publish Tripio. One of those things was marketing the book. Marketing is a word which can be defined, I suppose, almost anyway you want it to be. I define it partly as the process of acquiring positive blurbs to be placed on the front and back covers of Tripio. I did receive great blurbs from two Starbucks legends, Howard Behar and Kevin Knox.

  That process has gone surprisingly well so far. Based on that, I am beginning to ponder a price point for the sale of Tripio. One which is now higher than originally planned. I am considering lowering the price to spur a bump in the sales of Tripio. It is currently as low as it’s ever been.

   It is worth repeating that I do have hopes for monetary gain from the publishing and selling of Tripio. The current pandemic can’t be helping this goal. As an example, the previously mentioned son is at home from school doing e-learning and e-eating. This has been most obvious in the weekly grocery bill, whose amount has risen way faster than income generated from sales of Tripio.


The original post ended here. A year of posts later and I feel I have learned so much about blogging. One lesson is reflected in the headline to which I added “doesn’t matter”. I do have several more posts on Tripio that explore more existential, creative and benign reasons for self-publishing Tripio. What I want from these posts is to share my experiences with all of you in a concise, entertaining and useful way. That sentiment reflects what I now want from Tripio. I maybe am a year richer in wisdom, if not in the wallet.

“May I help who’s next?”

 I feel like I’ve hit a wall. Not creatively. That doesn’t really happen to me. As I say repeatedly, I do most of my writing away from this keyboard. In fact, I have spent the last two days “writing”the next story for my Altonstreet & Philpatrick series. These stories are in line to be novelized in a couple years, after my coming of age novel, Ironjaws. This is all part of my glorious 5 year plan, which I just posted.  A good deal of the 5 year plan content has been written. But not all of it. I take comfort in knowing that what I will need is already there. I know where to find it. Not in the pen or in the keyboard or in the advice of others. It will be there when I need it. I will find it there when the time comes: Waiting for me in my mind, which is free and never closed.

      That being said,  I had a temporary derailment. A crisis of confidence over whether to keep all this going. This. What I am doing now. Getting up at quarter till 5, turning on the radio to classical station on low volume and writing. Why am I doing this? To what end? For approval? For sales of Tripio? Is it a hobby?  Is my writing the equivalent of art on the walls of a hospital or local coffee house? I suppose all these questions were triggered by me finishing Back outta the World. A day or two of quiet, personal celebration followed. I then began to search for an editor. Three responses and three strikes. All strikes due to reasons as random as the separate paths of falling leaves.

    I feel like I should clarify that I do not feel as if the Pandemic is primarily responsible for the stasis. In fact, I believe I am doing a damn good job of living through it, giving it  the time and attention it requires but not attaching extra worry and mental energy to it. To go further, I believe I have directed that mental energy that could be anxiety and worry to better places.

   That being said,  I was told in the search for editors  that “I can’t write fiction”. Fair enough. But In that opinion, comment, analysis I found the reason I go on writing. I write because I have to.  I simply have to write. Oh, don’t hear it as anything grand, like I was born to write or the like. I ain’t’ that pretentious.  In writing I have simply discovered a great way to use the time given me time between 5-7 am. I cannot sleep in. In these early morning hours, I have tried hating myself, my past and my future. I have tried crouching in the shower clutching  a mug of coffee and praying that a new man would step out of the shower when that mug is done. I don’t like that quite as much.

I write because it is part of something bigger. It is part of my mind exercise routine I’ve been doing nearly every morning for years now   I write also because I care about what I am writing about. It is now a constant in my life. I value my writing and it, in turn, keeps my mind, body and soul going in positive, productive directions. I can’t control other people’s opinions. I can only control that I care about what I am writing. Which in the end, is the only writing worth doing. 

                                       “May I help who’s next?”

         In times of  uncertainty it is useful to remember that better days will come. I had created this  light-hearted post about a year ago. Even though it is self-effacing I am holding myself to it and I am happy to see, upon looking it over now, that year one has been a success for the proletariat.  I studied Russian and Soviet history. Hence, I framed my plan in Soviet Russian speak. The wisdom embedded here is that we are free to use whatever device our own tool box gives us in order to get things accomplished. In other words, there is no one size fits all solution for anything in life, especially in a creative process.

The purposes of the Glorious Five-Year Plan, as set forth by responsible officials at Moscow with party approved input by comrade writer Jerry, are the creation of more literary raw materials for development and the introduction of more efficient methods of gaining revenue from said production, including consistent revenue streams on cooperative lines, which in turn will initiate prosperity.

Year one of Glorious 5-Year plan, 2019, will see:

*The publication of Tripio

* The development of the website, 

* The development and heightened visibility of the “red apron” logo via “red apron recipe” 

*The revision of Back outta the World  and concomitant selection of editor for same.

*Write new segment(s) for Altonstreet & Philpatrick

*Begin the process of leveraging the success of Tripio to include audiobook etc.

Year two of Glorious 5-year plan, 2020, will see:

*The publication of Back outta the World

*The revision of Ironjaws and concomitant selection of editor for same.

*Write new segment(s) for Altonstreet & Philpatrick

Year three of Glorious 5 year plan, 2021, will see:

*The publication of Ironjaws

*The completion of Altonstreet and Philpatrick and concomitant selection of editor for same.

*Research commences for Our Ship

Year four of Glorious 5 year plan, 2022 will see:

*The publication of Altonstreet and Philpatrick

*The revision(s) of Our ship and concomitant selection of editor for same.

Year five of Glorious 5 year plan, 2023 will see:

*The publication of Our Ship

Means of production will occur during late fall and winter months. Selling and distribution will occur during the late spring and summer.  There will be neither on April 22nd in order to observe the birthday of Comrade Lenin.

“May I help who’s next?”

A funny thing happened to me yesterday on the way to do my grocery shopping. This was after I went back inside to find my cloth face mask. As I drove off with my mask in the car I was singing aloud to an old Funk Compilation CD that I have been listening to recently. Take a moment now to say a gratitude that this is not a podcast.

 But seriously folks… Just before I left for the store I had checked my sales  graph for Tripio. The arrow was pointed downwards with a vengeance. Hmmm. Was this confirmation that Tripio sucks? Sure, if I let it be. Maybe it was also confirmation that I should keep up my writing. You are curious why I should keep it up exactly when the arrow points down, the arrow that bestows approval and validation on Tripio and  by extension me, is telling me to quit?

 Since you asked,  I was filled with song because my reaction to the arrow was confirmation of what I always claim; that I ain’t in this writing for money, fame and rankings. So, sleep soundly, James Patterson, I’m not coming for you.

 Come to think of it, like James,  I slept in yesterday. To clarify, for me that means 6:30 a.m. That night’s rest had a  significant part in boosting my spirits. I had nothing urgent to pull me out of bed to the keyboard. When I was in the process of revising Back outta the World for the last time I would be pulled out of bed by the need to get it finished. Sometimes that meant my eyes would open as early as 4 a.m. My physical body was pissed, but got over it soon after I had my morning doppio. ( never fear-I have an espresso machine at home). My emotional,spiritual and mental bodies were in charge then. Now with Back outta the World done, I decided to  give myself a break. After some contemplation, I decided to halt the search for an editor and take a break from writing.  Well, I am still blogging and working on a short story or two. My four bodies had come to an agreement and I was able to sleep in.

    So here I was, singing along to “You dropped a bomb on me” on the way to the store yesterday morning. I was happy that my sense of self, my intention for all this writing  had been confirmed. I have said all along that writing is merely one of the results of a well-tended Mind Garden. My singing proved me right yesterday. I am as good as my word. Which is pretty important if you are a writer.

                                                “May I help who’s next?”

     A troubling thing has been happening since I published Tripio. I have been getting asked quite a bit the question: “What is a tripio?” 

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     This question was first asked me at a class on memoir writing at the Indiana Writers Center. No one in the class with me knew what a tripio was. It hadn’t even occurred to me. I knew what a tripio was since the fall of 1990 when I started at Starbucks. Actually, I had worked at a couple independent, hippy coffee houses even before that, so the word was part of my personal vocabulary so long I assumed everyone knew what one was. Also creating my false sense of security was the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of Starbucks on this earth. Surely, everyone who’s visited a Starbucks has ordered a tripio…right?

     I’ll break the silence and continue. In Tripio, the book, Jay describes his tripio, the drink, as “my crutch, my momentum and my solace”. I’m sure that helped clear things up. If it didn’t, I will define a tripio as three shots of espresso which is usually consumed immediately after it is brewed into pre-warmed cup. It is then often consumed with sugar or whatever one wants to add. In Tripio, the book, Jay always drinks his tripios over lots of ice in a plastic cup. Jay needs the caffeine from the three shots and the ice keeps the drink alive and refreshing as he goes about his work day.

The author


    Of course, I did not choose to title the book Tripio based solely on the fact that the main character drank lots of triple espressos over ice. There are three plot lines that intertwine and collaborate as Tripio goes along. Jay has three life options facing him as he goes about his increasingly complicated days. After reading Tripio, you will be asked to decide if the option he chose was the correct one for him.  Or better yet, you have put yourself in Jay’s place. Even better you recognize a situation in your life that you can compare to Jay’s and consider that situation in new context.

     In order to read Tripio you will first have to buy it. Before you do that, you will examine the cover and see that subtitle includes a partial definition of the word tripio. Which brings me back around to the class I mentioned above. I was helped a great deal in choosing that subtitle by the instructor of that class. Thankfully, he was one other person in the room that day who knew what a tripio was.  And now, I hope you do as well.

                              “May I help who’s next?”


    Was it Thomas Wolfe who said you can’t go home again? I think so. Not sure why he said it. For me it was easy. I jumped in my car and drove two hours east to Dayton, Ohio. I wasn’t trying to prove him wrong or anything. I was trying to find the original want ad Starbucks had placed in the Dayton Daily News. The want-ad I had responded to which set off a series of events that culminated in me getting a job with Starbucks in Chicago in the fall of 1990.

   Around this time last year I was committed to the editing of the “novelized” version of Tripio. I can step back and evaluate Tripio, as it has now become, in three versions : The memoir version, the novelized version, and the edited, converted to past-tense version. As I am currently searching for an editor for Back outta the World, I thought it was a good time to revisit this post. I will only say for now that I feel very fortunate to have worked with the editor I did on Tripio. This wise man suggested a more catchy “hook” for the opening of Tripio. I could see his reasoning right away. Tripio opens deliberately and slowly as Jay is at his writing desk in his apartment, “shirtless and smelling a bit ripe”. Besides writing a little, all he bothered to do was take out the trash. Riveting stuff, eh? I did see my editor’s reasoning but my first reaction was “Where is the patience, people?”


     But in and among those thoughts I knew what I had to make the opening more attention getting. The editor suggested I find a way to hook the reader. I knew where to find the hook I needed. I tried the local bait and tackle shop. Ha, ha. No luck. But I knew my hook was going to be that original want ad. At first I combed the couple journals I had kept from 1990. No luck there. I remembered that the ad included the phrase “must love coffee” so I tried searching the internet using that phase. No luck again. With the hook analogy in mind, I moved the boat to a different spot in the water.  I took a trip to the main library in downtown Indy for help. However,their archives for the Dayton Daily News did not go back far enough. I did find an old ad for Starbucks as it opened in the Los Angeles market. Close, but that wasn’t want I wanted. Not what I, at this point, had to have.

  At the Indy library I was given contact info for the archivist at the Dayton Daily News. Moving the boat yet again, I called him. He suggested I try to search the microfilm in person. I have family who live in Dayton and I could arrange that easily. I motored off. Drove, actually.

   The visit with my family went well. The search for the want ad did not. I again proved Wolfe wrong and went from old home to current home, this time heading west two hours.

  During that drive, with my brain and five senses occupied, my mind took control. It occurred to me that in the summer of 1990 I was thinking of moving from Dayton to Chicago. The Starbucks want ad would have been in the Chicago Tribune! As soon as I docked at home I jumped on the computer and subscribed to a month of the Chicago Tribune archives. Within two minutes I had found the original ad. Success. After switching bait several times, I had hooked my hook.

                                        May I help who’s next?