Tripio The Novel

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

     “Who would read a novel about Starbucks?” I asked the facilitator of my “Author Development” class. Her answer would be important to me. After all, I had just written one. She looked my way and made eye contact for a moment. She then looked out above my head towards the wall behind me in order to give herself a second to think.

    I have been getting a bunch of good info and intel in this class. Just to clarify a bit, this wasn’t a class on developing oneself as an actual writer. This class was directed towards creating a brand and finding an audience for one’s work. The facilitator, Darice of , has been successful in building her own brand and business based upon a book she released some years ago. Granted, her title was non-fiction and Tripio is a work of fiction, set at a Starbucks in Chicago in the summer of 1992. However, the book market globally is worth $145 billion dollars. With that in mind I took this three class course hoping I could get something from her wisdom. And maybe even some of that money.

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    During the first two classes, I discovered that there are a lot of people out there who want to help get your book published. A quick click or two reveals zillions of podcasts, books on selling books, websites, seminars,  and blogs offering a dizzying variety of solutions on how to get your book placed in the right genre, at the right time, in the right place at the right price with the right cover. I wrote Tripio with none of that in mind. I was also discovering that it would have been wiser to find a genre, a category, a searchable title, a clickable cover, a banner-ed headline for that cover and lots more before taking a book to market. Possibly before even writing said book. I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do.

    Fortunately for me, Darice had spent considerable time and trouble navigating this 145 billion dollar ocean so I was all ears awaiting her response to my question. She returned her gaze from the wall to look me in the eyes to answer “Coffee drinkers.”

    Eureka!  Starbucks is a coffee company isn’t it?  I had forgotten that even in my own book, the protagonist, Jay, responds to the want ad from Starbucks because.” About the only real qualification I have is that I’m a coffee lover.” During this course, I was beginning to feel that it would have been easier to write the novel everyone else was telling me I should be writing. Easier to market, to categorize, to sell. Darice’s response was a lifeline thrown to me treading water in a vast ocean of advice, websites and SEO.

  In Tripio Jay does get the job at Starbucks partly because he loves coffee. I started Tripio partly because I love to write. Something worth reading must have come out of that combination, right? As I mentioned earlier, this was not a class on developing oneself as a writer. Darice knew her brand building. I did get lots out of the classes. However, In my case, I was relieved I did things backward. I have since come to think that once one starts chasing all this wonderful advice and data, before one sits down to write their novel, that vast, unpredictable ocean can take that work down to it’s depths- never to be seen again.

“May I help who’s next?”

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My view from store #204

In Tripio, the protagonist Jay works at a Starbucks store located near Lincoln Park on the corner of Clark, Diversey and Broadway. In the novel Tripio, for the sake of brevity and authenticity, I refer to it simply as store #204. It was already beat up and worn out when Jay arrives there as the new Lead Clerk. But the store had character. At this point I feel I have to remind everyone that this is an era of Starbucks that most have not experienced. Store #204 was not a cookie cutter, wi-fi ready, module of a Starbucks. I’m fairly sure it was taken over, and not built by and for, the Starbucks we all know today. I think this is a vital point as it emphasizes the unique viewpoint of Tripio. I lived this location. I did not select it because it was a trendy, popular, click bait spot into which to set a novel. So there. Since his co-workers were mostly aspiring to make a living at one art form or another, Jay, as an aspiring writer, felt he fit right in at this inclusive, artsy coffee store at the intersection of three busy streets. There are several passages in the book when Jay states that he feels “at home” at #204. He finds comfort settling back in there for a shift after returning to the city from a trip downstate: “ I had spent too much time here not to treat #204 as a home away from home”

So, it was no shock that I had a strong desire to go back and revisit store #204 once I had committed to writing Tripio. I also wanted to look again on the Days Inn that stood diagonally and across the street from #204. There were many, many nights I closed #204 and had to get back to open for a morning shift. If I closed, I locked that door after midnight. If I opened the next morning, it was re-opened at 5:30 or 6 a.m. The Days Inn stood just across the street on those nights, calling me, tempting me. A shower and bed was just minutes away. My apartment was a long bus ride up Clark. It could take almost an hour before a shower and bed there. I would then have to make the return trip on almost no sleep. All that could be fixed by a night at the Days Inn. But no money, no way. Of course, those mornings I fell back on my tripios on ice to get me up and running.

As summer 2017 arrived I took the opportunity to drive to Chicago and visit both places. I wanted to confirm the details of #204. After all, it had been 20 plus years since the last time I stepped out it’s doors. My trip to Chicago was also a gift for my daughter. She was headed to college in the fall and we went together as a going away present. That is why I did no research on whether #204 still existed. I was going anyway.

Not surprisingly #204 was no more. If it is true that you can’t go home again, at least you have a shot if it still standing. Standing on the sidewalk out front though, I could visualize where #204 stood in the new collection of storefronts that had taken over the whole building that housed and surrounded #204. I could still hear the thud of the filter basket hitting the bar across the dump bucket positioned on either end of the espresso bar. I could hear the grinders clicking on and the shriek of the hot steaming wand entering the cold milk. I could still hear my own voice calling out drinks I had made on the elevated espresso bar. I remembered the trick the baristas had of making an snow ball in the winter and throwing it at the dumpster in back to scare off rats before dumping the trash.

As I think it over now, perhaps not having a physical confirmation of #204 made me work harder to recreate #204 in Tripio. I had to work to rebuild store #204, and I did. It was all in my mind, waiting to be accessed. Look for proof when you read Tripio in the scene where Jay dusts off an “order here” sign that hung unnoticed by almost every customer and most partners who had ever entered #204. Also, not sure why I didn’t put in the rat anecdote somewhere in Tripio. Oh well.

My daughter and I spent the day walking all over Lincoln Park and saw other sights. She put up with my reminiscing throughout. Best of all I finally got to stay at that Days Inn. Now it is called The Versey but the ghost of my Days Inn was still hovering around.

There are 20,000 Starbucks around the globe now. Thousands of folks start of their days with a trip “to my Starbucks”. Fair enough. But, “my Starbucks” is long closed. I would have loved to step inside one more time that day with my daughter in Chicago. So I could order a drink from the young man who worked there over two decades ago. But that vision passed that day. It came and went as writing Tripio and writing about writing Tripio kept those days near the top of my thoughts. I will never be able to set foot inside the brick and mortar store #204 again. But I don’t mind all that much since store #204 is always opened for business in the pages of Tripio.

“May I help who’s next?”

I posted this over a year ago. It received no visitors. As I looked it over I realized this trip was over three years ago. It struck me that I have been working on the Tripio, starting the blog, writing Back outta the World and everything that goes with all of it, most every day for several years before that. So, I have decided to take break in July. When this post is scheduled I will be on vacation from work and renewing my mind for more of this journey.

    “Are you mad at Starbucks?”

      I was caught off guard for a second. That was the first question my editor asked me after reading an excerpt from Tripio. I simply replied that Tripio is my novel and that my story could not have taken place without Starbucks as a major part of it. He then asked quite reasonably,  “Why are you calling Starbucks the “Cosmodemonic Coffee Company”?

    I had not thought about it all that much when writing Tripio. I think because it is how I referred to Starbucks throughout the journals I kept during the early 1990s when I worked at Starbucks in Chicago. At the time there were fewer than 100 Starbucks. Not talking about Chicago here, but the planet. Since those journals were the source material for Tripio and it was incredibly obvious that I could only be referring to Starbucks when I subbed Cosmodemonic. I saw no urgency in making a change.

I’m not Howard Schultz

      My editor was fine with that but was more interested in the “Why?’ So, I went on. In Tripio, the Jay character and his new lover Kati both had read lots of Henry Miller by the time their romance starts. In his early writing days Henry Miller worked for Western Union and referred to it as the Cosmodemonic Telephone and Telegraph Company. In Tripio, Jay and Kati simply use Cosmodemonic as a nickname more out of homage to Henry Miller than anything to do with Starbucks. But my editor was not swayed and had me insert a clarification and explanation of sorts, as early in Tripio as I could. I did so.

    Wait, there’s more. Since Tripio is at least part memoir and there are many passages where Jay is taking notes or reviewing his SotMs, he also substitutes Cosmodemonic for Starbucks, “to keep work out of my mind as I take notes and go about my off hours”. This reasoning also goes deep into the struggle the protagonist Jay faces in Tripio. Jay moved to Chicago to “test his metal as a writer, not to find a career” and is actively questioning whether he has what it takes to actually succeed as a novelist. Jay’s other option is climbing the ladder at this fast growing coffee company he has been working for over two years. Jay sees that the company is going to be a success yet is not sure he want to be part of that type of success. In using the word Cosmodemonic in his personal journals Jay is identifying himself more as a writer, like Henry Miller and not as a cog in the growing Starbucks empire.

    Last but not least, I just checked an on-line dictionary site and found that no definition for the word “Cosmodemonic” exists.  Since Henry Miller is no longer alive, I can’t ask him for his permission to use the word. Too bad, because I would also liked to have asked him what he thought about the Cosmodemonic Coffee Company.

                                          “May I help who’s next?”

“Barc Shif!”

-attributed to Fishy Man

I saw it today. It happened at a chance meeting with the artist who is doing the cover art for my first novel, Tripio. I loved it of course. What I saw was a mock up for the cover of my novel. My name on the cover. It looked like a real book from a bookstore or online page. My name as the author of a novel.

After this serendipitous meeting, I spent a good deal of the rest of the day going about my blue collar job. From time to time I tried to recall when I first I dreamed of being a writer. My oldest surviving effort is a cartoon entitled “Fishy Man”, a fish that resembled a carp and who changed into a superhero after saying the magic words, “Barc Shif”. The phrase was intended to be crab fish spelled backwards. It’s not. But I was nine years old and so hiring an editor has not yet occurred to me.

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Fishy Man never made a splash, so to speak, but the desire, wish, hope, dream of being a writer stayed with me. I can’t exactly pinpoint a summer day moment at the kitchen table where I was drawing Fishy Man, and looking up to my mom and saying, “I’m going to write novels!”. If I claimed that I did, this would be a totally different type of fish story.

As I got older I ditched Fishy Man for The Beats and wondered through my post college years into parenthood, stopping for four years to work at Starbucks in Chicago. During those years, I wrote novels and kept journals as time presented itself. Parenthood suddenly became all the time I had for the next twenty years but I did continue journaling. The day on the job that brought me to the chance meeting with the cover artist was a typical day in my life now as a single parent of four grown kids.

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Now headed home from the work day, I wondered if not for the 20 years of raising kids, of watching them create every day, would I have forgotten my childhood creation of Fishy Man? Fishy Man, who was born in the moment of pure creation from it’s own sake. Fishy Man, who was swimming free of intent, the desire to impress, the condition he be edited and monetized. Fishy Man, who couldn’t spell, but whose superpower was to create for his own sake, to follow his imagination, to become Fishy Man just for the fun of just being able to do it with no strings (or hooks) attached!

I don’t know for sure of course. I just hope the some of Fishy Man’s superpower made it into Tripio and all my other writing. Because one thing I have realized since that day at my kitchen table is that hanging onto that moment of pure fun creating is a lot more difficult these days. Maybe when I sit down next time to write a post or work on Back outta the World and it is not happening, all I will need to do will be to take a moment to recall my day at the kitchen table and utter those magic works….”Barc Shif!”

“May I help who’s next?”

This was not the topic I was going to write about today. Especially since this happened over a year ago in real life. At some point, yes, I was going to let you know how my request for a blurb from Starbucks Founder, CEO and my old boss Howard Schultz, went. A yes, no, or maybe. However, I discovered while I was looking for his contact info that he has beaten me to the punch and written his own book Some of his book covers the early days of Starbucks, much like Tripio. It was due out before mine. Howard’s book “weaves two parallel narratives,” not three, like Tripio. So, my book is 33% better, as anyone can plainly see. By all means, buy both and compare. In fact, I think it would make Howard’s book nearly as interesting as Tripio. Because, in it’s historical fiction way, Tripio is holding up a mirror to Howard’s book.

I have attached my thought on Howard’s book to this post below. Even if this post originated almost a year ago, I still see it’s point as valid. That is: Howard Schultz and I were meant to have their books come out as companion pieces. Of course: “There are no accidents” (Deepak Chopra)

Of course, Howard has a team of experts helping him sell his book. I’ve got my mouth and this blog helping me sell mine. This post was generated almost a year ago as nothing more than a commercial designed to generate interest in selling Tripio to anyone who wants a copy, or two, or 20. Seriously though, this blog, and I do mean this part, is meant to help someone find their own unique voice on their own unique journey to creating their own unique novel. You might be asking yourself, “Who is this guy and what the f*** does he know?” But, I know what worked for me and I hope that some of what I share will help you in any way you chose to apply it.

Since Howard’s team doesn’t need my help, I”ll talk more about Tripio. It could be said that there are three endings to Tripio, since there are three story lines. The story line I call “the Starbucks growth narrative” is intertwined and alongside the other two plot lines of Tripio. The reason I call our books companion pieces is that Howard’s book covers subjects like employee stock options and healthcare for nearly all employees. These are also the things I write about in Tripio because I experienced both first hand. It is a barista-in-the-trenches look at what Howard covers in his book, as the man giving the orders. So, to have both perspectives will make each book, when read, a deeper and more meaningful experience.  So, buy both and compare. I have read both and like Tripio better. But, I may be biased.

“May I help who’s next?”

My thoughts on From the Ground Up

               Reading From the Ground Up was a very personal experience for me. You see, my life has been greatly affected by Howard Schultz every day since working for Starbucks from 1990- 1994. I say everyday because if I had stayed at Starbucks, based on the number of options granted to me at the time, I would be a millionaire as of last year, that being the 25th anniversary of the Starbucks IPO. I think about that every day. Howard’s decision to provide healthcare for nearly all Starbucks employees helped me pay for the birth of my two oldest children, whom I also think about everyday.

        The above is part of what informs my own historical fiction novel, Tripio, which takes places at a Chicago Starbucks in 1992 and features a scene where I actually meet Howard on stage to receive a Bean Stock Bravo award. I am not trying to sell my own book here, simply attempting to put this review in context.

       And that to me means, to some degree, visualizing Howard as president, which this book clearly wants the reader to do.

     To this day, the Starbucks of the early 90s was the most inclusive, empowering and energizing workplace I have experienced. I don’t think most people would describe today’s White House and, by extension this country in those terms.

      The book itself covers milestones in Howard’s life chapter by chapter, in mostly chronological order. Howard gives example after example of listening to and including the people around him in order to get things done. His background is authentically humble. He is straightforward in admitting his and Starbuck’s mistakes and faults. The book overall gave me the impression of someone who can understand and relate to most of the country because he does share the pains he experienced relating to not having had enough money growing up.

       I felt that From the Ground Up further humanized Howard for me, likely another goal of its writing. I could relate to his own upbringing as a son of a working class father. I saw a lot familiar to me in Howard’s post college lack of guidance and direction. I understood what he was trying to say when he devotes a small section to writing that he wished that he and his father had been more able to talk when his father was alive.

    I think Howard’s’ book succeeds in that he is able to get me, the reader, to become energized by his vision for America. Of course, in my case, I may not be completely objective since Howard, at one time, gave me a shot at becoming a millionaire. 

I stepped out of my car at the parking lot of the grocery store. A quick Wednesday run, not the big haul. Of course, I reached for my mask before physically getting out of the vehicle.

I shut the car door and that somehow cued the music to the soundtrack for the Pandemic. All around me were people headed in or out of the store in masks, clothe or paper, plain or designer. I was used to this now. We all are. This is our life now, the norm, the routine. Bring your mask wherever you go. I put mine on and looked around to locate the source of the music. Who was providing the soundtrack to the Pandemic? It had instantly put me at ease. Then, I saw that a man had set up on the far side of the entrance from where I had parked. He was playing a violin hooked up to an amp. I was soothed, taken away from the normal existence in this Pandemic and placed as an extra in a movie. The violin was powerful enough to cover all the parking lot and strong enough for us all to hear it. For me, the music contained and captured all of us.

Yes, I was in the soundtrack for a movie about the Pandemic. I was grateful for the parking lot violinist and dropped a couple dollars in his case on the way in to the store. Through his music, he had taken me out of the Pandemic by putting me into a movie about it.

The violinist was gone by the time I had finished my quick shop. I wasn’t surprised because his violin case was nearly full of bills when my singles fell onto the pile. My fellow extras in the movie were appreciative as I was.

I began to wonder who will star in this particular movie I had just placed myself in as an extra? How many movies will there be about the Pandemic? Who will make them? I know that the stars will have to look good wearing a mask, that is for sure. My mind took me to the possibility that I could write the novel the movie would be based on. Why not? They would need a book first, right? I need to get home to get some of this stuff in the freezer first, then I can start on it.

Mask off and back in the car, I ruled that out. Not putting my things in freezer,I did that. I ruled out writing a novel about the Pandemic. That would have to be after my five novels in five years plan. By then, the Pandemic will be long over and there will he hundreds of novels in line in front of mine. The Pandemic will be long over. That was a comforting thought to carry home with me. It has to come to an end, right? All things do. World Wars, Plagues, Invasions, the Iron Age. An even more comforting thought was that books have preceded and followed those events. Books have survived and outlasted all events and times. The Pandemic will be no exception.

Once home, my freezer items in my freezer, I remained grateful for the music the violist provided that got me through another trip to the grocery store. One trip, one day at a time. That is all we can do for now. It may take some time but one day, we can head to the grocery store and to work and everywhere else, mask free. With any luck we can make these decisions with a little more appreciation. That in mind, we may even chose to go out to our local coffee place and read a novel about this Pandemic.

May I help who’s next?”

“Set thy heart upon the work but never on its reward”

-my nieghbor, the HVAC guy

I had to ask my neighbor across the street to look at my AC unit last Saturday. I had cut my grass about a hour earlier. Once out of the shower and ready to start writing, I noticed I was still warm. My body temp had cooled down after the work outside but my house had not. Luckily for me, I could ask my neighbor across the street, an HVAC guy, to have a quick look before hitting the panic button.

He said he’d be over in a few minutes. I was thankful. We’ve been neighbors for over 20 years so what were a few minutes? I would use that time to get back to today’s post. Except I had no idea what it was. I am in the process of reading The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Maybe the post could be something like “There is only one thing worse than not having air-conditioning, and that is having air-conditioning that doesn’t work.” That had possibilities, but not quite.

I felt a bit guilty about asking my neighbor to look at my AC of his off day. He does this kind of work all week. But, I had already asked for the favor so there was no going back. I started thinking about why we work. From there I decided to direct my thoughts to my work. Not my real job. But the work I trying to do at this laptop. I considered why I do this work of writing. Certainly not for a paycheck. Not for the $2.36 I usually get from Amazon every month. Back in my day at Starbucks that would have been enough to buy you a short coffee and a scone. I could certainly be using my time for something more valuable, right?

The knock on my front door took me away from my laptop. I wasn’t feeling it anyway. My neighbor and I headed downstairs to look at the furnace, electrical box and all that is down there that I never pay attention to. We exchanged pleasantries and such as he diagnosed the situation. Strange. All seemed fine. So, we headed upstairs and outside to look at the unit’s fan and control box there. I was edging into panic mode. If he couldn’t find the problem quickly, I thought, it had to be bad. Bad means money. My $2.36 from Amazon won’t buy a lot of new AC units.

I stood outside proudly taking in my freshly cut lawn as my neighbor examined the AC unit tucked behind the house. I was thinking that work produced this sense of pride in seeing my lawn looking so nice. It was similar to the sense of pride I get when I see my copies of Tripio, gathering dust in a box under my writing table. The work that went into the lawn and the book are not debatable. It took work to do both. The relative value of both to someone else is where the subjectively comes in. And not in the time, effort and discipline required to do the work. That’s where the true reward is in all of this. I know what the work took out of me. The price on the cover of any book can not possibly reflect that. Yet that is part of the deal. No one else should know, or even care what it costs one to write a novel, a poem, a paragraph. None of my other neighbors came pounding on my door to demand I write Tripio.

Looks like you cut a wire when you were mowing the lawn.” My neighbor informed me. Well ,so much for my pride. At least when it comes to lawn maintenance.

He took some electrical tape from his tool kit and went quickly to work. He fixed it in about a minute. He was happy to help me out. Plus the smile on his face told me he was pleased with himself. A job well done on his part. I offered to pay him and his response was the quote above. (Not really but it makes a good post).

“May I help who’s next?”

I just reviewed my checking account. This is never a moral boosting exercise, so I most often do this on Fridays when the end of the work week momentum combats the buzzkill prompted by the figures.

Those figures tell me “I have just enough“. It has been that way for some time. Since I first suddenly became head of a single income household, in fact. Next month, due to long known consequences, I will no longer see a good amount of money appear among those figures on the second Friday of the month. My mind will then produce a new response upon seeing them, ‘It will be just enough…if”

I am not alone in seeing times tighten financially right now. An important distinction here is that I saw this happening to me. No one saw COVID-19 and all it is bringing with it on the horizon.

Several years ago I made a decision to deal with the end of this revenue stream. I had to create another one to replace it. That was easy enough. I could:

  • try to move up the ladder at my current job
  • find a second job
  • make a sensible career move
  • try to make a second revenue stream from my fiction, from my novels.

That choice is known to those of you reading this post. I decided to spend most of my spare energy and time over the last three years attempting to generate a revenue stream from creating and selling my fiction. So far the stream is not flowing. It is, at best, a revenue drip. A drip from a rusty faucet that is more irritating than useful.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

And make no mistake, I have regretted hearing that drip. There are lots of opportunities from the above list that I could have pursued. I have taken small steps towards some of those opportunities. Yet, I kept coming back to the last one on the list. I reasoned, at times, that the once in a lifetime experience to be given the chance to be a millionaire at Starbucks was, “the most valuable thing I owned.”

Drip. Drip. Drip.


However, along the way something unexpected has happened. Sure, I want-really want– the books to sell. Thankfully however, the writing, journaling, blogging (along with lots of yoga and meditation) has begat something of greater value than can be accounted for in neat columns. One could call it wisdom or peace of mind or simple maturity. Call it what you will. The clarifying ingredient here is that most of the activities I mentioned started a couple years before I even thought of selling books. The selling, and the drip, are results. They are a product of a calmed mind. They are things grown and cultivated from my mind garden. Sure, the stream is not there. Just the drip, drip, drip. Over the years, though, I have gotten used to the drip. It no longer bothers me. I have come to understand that I am the one who can turn off the faucet.

“May I help who’s next?

    It is nearly 7 a.m. on this Sunday morning. I have been up for close to ninety minutes. This is my schedule. I have come to the conclusion that sleeping in is overrated. This is my day off and one hears a lot about how others relish the chance to “sleep in” on their off days. I can’t, even if I try, I can’t. So, I get up and make coffee. Or, I simply warm up the leftovers from the day before and get to work. I always, always, always have a cup of coffee near me when I write.

    This brings me to Stephen Fry. I read once that when he was working on a screenplay for Peter Jackson he could not get going on it to save his skin. It took him awhile to find the reason but it struck him that at the time he was working on the screenplay his was trying to give up smoking. Smoking energized his mind while at the same time the ritual calmed and rewarded him. I feel almost exactly the same about my cups of coffee. This morning, I am wondering if I could have written Tripio without coffee?

  One indisputable answer is no. No coffee, no Starbucks. No Starbucks, no Tripio. Starbucks did not invent coffee of course and I drank plenty of coffee before Starbucks was available. In Tripio, Jay even refers to a coffee house where he was working before he moved to Chicago, the long gone Oregon Street Coffee House in Dayton, Ohio. Even after Jay is working at Starbucks he often goes to favorite coffee house that “sat on an alley under the El tracks”. As you can see, I come by my love of coffee honestly. Hey, I loved coffee before it was trendy and pricey.

   The point here, however, isn’t how cool I am. I was thinking as I started this post that it could be a bad thing that I believe I have to have a cup of coffee within arm’s reach anytime I write. I sometimes know that I will not drink the contents of the mug but that I have to have it close regardless. If I were feeling somehow inadequate about myself for not be able to write without coffee near, I arrived at the conclusion to stop it. One reason is that I am in good company with Stephen Fry. The second is that I would have never responded to the Starbucks want ad if I hadn’t already loved coffee. For proof I refer again to Tripio and Jay thinking to himself as he prepares to answer the want ad for Starbucks, “about the only real qualification I have is that I’m a coffee lover.”

   And I am not alone! The spectacular growth of Starbucks and the interest in a coffee culture it begat, confirms this. If you are reading this blog with a cup of coffee nearby, then drink up! If you are reading this and nodding your head in agreement, then I have done my job with this post.

                                           “May I help who’s next?”

‘All of spring is found in one bud” Oscar Wilde

This post’s first bud of spring appears way back when I first began contemplating direct-publishing Tripio. To be clear, the idea of publishing Tripio came way after the origin thought of writing it. And way, way, way after I kept the journal entries that became the novel, Tripio. Just two years ago, I did not have a blog, shop Amazon for books and only used Facebook to keep track of my kids. Just to be clear and for context and perspective (however unpopular those are these days), Tripio’s direction was always inward. I mark that staring point with tying on the green apron for the first time, in the fall of 1990.

As for the two years ago, that is when I found myself taking a class at the Indiana Writer’s Center, called Publish your Memoir. Since then the information and advice available on and around publishing Tripio has been staggering. A tactic for dealing with all that information, advice and insider know how is to let most of it pass by you. What you need will come back to you over and over. One item that kept coming back to the top of the pile was the selection of the right category for Tripio. Here is where I feel it is important to refer back to the prehistory of Tripio. If I would have known it was so important, I could have written Tripio with a category in mind and directed it’s plot, characters, it’s very soul into the correct and ultimately profitable category. Ah. Hell. No.

In order to sell on Amazon at all, a book needs a niche, a genre, a category. As far as Amazon is concerned, the category is your book’s sacred ground. Plant your book in the correct category and in just a few weeks a dispatcher at Brinks will call you and set at time for the truck pull into your driveway with money to unload.

I realized the importance of it all, but finding a category for Tripio came and went on the priority pile. I think one reason I couldn’t get closure on this was that there is no simple answer. As you may know, Tripio has three distinct but collaborative story lines so it is a hard novel to grab hold of and define. To me, this a sign of something special and unique. To Amazon, that is a problem. Since I “had” to choose, I placed Tripio in the “historical fiction” category. That just didn’t feel right. I felt like I had picked a major going into college just to keep my parents happy. That choice was made over a year ago. Life went on. But for the past several months, sales have stagnated, which may or not have anything to do with category choice, but one never really knows. It was enough motivation, however, for me to find myself contemplating the right category for Tripio yet again. Category choice had once again found itself near the top of the pile of things to do.

Which brings me to yesterday. For the better part of an hour I considered a category for Tripio as I drove to Elwood, Indiana. All options were in my mind. Was Tripio a romance? Literary fiction? Maybe contemporary historical fiction? I was back to the same thing that had kept me from settling on a category in the first place. In and around those thoughts was the hope there would be coffee shop somewhere in this small town. I love that type of coffee shop. They are usually found in an old bank or pharmacy. They are roomy but carry a sense of gravitas and history, not of transaction. Once my business was done, I asked an Elwood local and soon enough I found myself at the Gypsy Soul.


The gypsy soul is indeed a coffee house. I chose a cappuccino for the ride back from Elwood. But the Gypsy Soul is also part a salon and another part boutique. A “women’s dream” the barista told me as she steamed away at the milk. The cappuccino she made was quite good. I almost bought some hand cream. I regretted that I didn’t have time for manicure.

As I drove home later, I was thinking of the Gypsy Soul. It would make a great coffee shop on it’s own with it’s high ceilings, long wooden bar, and view of Elwood’s old streets. The other elements were there but,for me, Gypsy Soul was a coffee house. My next thought was that Tripio is a coffee book with a coffee title, which mean it belongs in a coffee category, right? In order to stand out yet at the same time feel “right” to me, Tripio belonged in a coffee category. I already knew there was a coffee category but it was for the business end of things, or for making mochas at home. I took my visit to the Gypsy Soul as a sign of good fortune however. If you can’t believe a Gypsy fortune, who are you going to believe? I decided that I would dig deeper into the category selection on Amazon when I made it home.

The Gypsy was right. She told me to keep searching and I would be rewarded. There was a category on Amazon called Coffee Shop Fiction! This is where Tripio belongs. Such a relief. This is a category that would also work for Back outta the World and Altonstreet & Philpatrick, both of which take place in and around actual coffee shops, ( Brazilia in Columbus, Ohio and Oregon Street Coffee House in Dayton respectively). I can rest easy now. The category was not large which also means Tripio will be easy to find among Grounds for Murder and Bikini Baristas. This gives me hope that I will one day “own” the coffee shop fiction category. I can finally cross the category search off my list. I can now tune out the background noise in my head that had been buzzing around for over a year. This means that I can spend more of my valuable time actually writing. Time to get started! But not before I order my copy of Bikini Baristas.

“May I help whose next?”