Tripio The Novel

How I wrote my novel, and how I can help you write yours

    Yesterday my daughter spent some time on the internet trying to find an English version of a French Starbucks documentary she had seen on a flight home for the holidays. It was called “Starbucks Unfiltered” and she could find the French version, but nothing with English subtitles. A little bit later, as we watched some football, she and I saw a commercial for Starbucks. In my job I go to approximately two dozen workplaces a day. There I see every shape, size and design of Starbucks coffee travel mugs. I see Starbucks mugs that don’t travel. I see lots of Starbucks coffee drinks in hands, in trash cans and recycling bins. I was even recently offered an extra Starbucks drink bought for a person who wasn’t going to make the meeting. I opened the lid first and saw there was milk or cream already added and politely had to turn it down. The next day in a medical office I overheard the staff discussing their coffee preferences vis a vis Starbucks. Their opinions were moons of coffee orbiting around the coffee planet Starbucks. In other words, Starbucks is now coffee and vice versa.

   My question this morning over my cup of coffee (not telling whose) is, “When did this happen”?

                          [[File:Where names are written.jpg|thumb|Where names are written]]

    At the end of my tenure at Starbucks in the mid 1990s I recall once seeing a Starbucks commercial on a TV screen in a Chicago bar. I was having some beers, the bar was loud and I could not hear the audio but I think the commercial showed a monkey using a French Press coffee brewer. Maybe I was also doing some shots. Anyway the point is, that pretty much after I left that bar on Broadway in Lakeview, I tuned out Starbucks. I had to. I was starting to raise a family and very soon free time would be a thing of the past.

   There is no mention of Starbucks TV commercials or anything of the like in Tripio. Jay’s observations of the growth of the company he works for is for more anecdotal and less scientific. In Tripio Jay notices “a Cosmodemonic cup in the trash at the bus stop or crushed along the curb” as an indicator that his place of employment is doing more and more business. Mostly Jay lives the “word of mouth” growth of Starbucks via the intensely busy Saturday and Sunday morning shifts at the various stores he was working.

    Over two decades after leaving that bar in Chicago and seeing my kids become young adults I again have found some free time. If I choose to use some of that time to meet a friend at my nearest Starbucks, I always take in the lines and the mise en scene. I think that it is never nearly as busy as when Jay (me, duh) worked there. But when I leave my local Starbucks I leave with good memories of the days when I was behind the counter. And on the way to car, I always toss my empty cup on the cup for old times’ sake.


                         “May I help who is next?”

    I just opened a folder that was steps away from where I now sit. I wanted to find a business card in order to use an email address I knew was there. I opened that folder and discovered the long lost Christmas Card Howard Schultz sent me. I was unable to move for a moment. If you have been reading these posts you will recall that the misplacing of that very card caused previous mental anguish. I got over it. I let it go. I put the mental anguish into a post. And I waited for the card to reappear when I was ready for it to.

     It has been a year or so since I decided to not look for anything I lost. I decided then that I would not waste the time. I decided that when I lost something it was because I was not thinking with calm intention at that moment. Or I was trying to multitask, which is not possible (it is a false proposition creating by corporate America to justify paying someone one salary for doing two or three jobs). If the item stayed lost, then I no longer needed it. But most of the time, the item in question returns when I needed it to, now when I wanted it to.

   I badly wanted to use the Howard card for post #34. When I could not locate it to place it in that post I searched places most I thought likely to find it, to no avail. It  pissed me off. In my younger days I would have been mad enough to destroy something. However, on that day I was able to move on and create post #34 without the actual card.

  As for this morning, the moment just before I stood up to look for the business card I was looking at this screen and the words “Blog 58”. No title, just a blank document. I was trying to decide what to write this morning. No urgency. As of this morning, blog number five, also about Howard, was published. So, I was not stressed as far as keeping up with content production. I have also just started Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I have already felt the desire to post about what I have found interesting and relevant in her book. But, a lot of it can found in my own voice in my own previous posts. BTW Elizabeth, I am rocking. Those competing thought streams were not yet producing blog #58.

   Before the moment I stood up I had yet another thought stream enter my mind, due partly to reading her book last night . That stream carried thoughts of fear. Fear is there always and Big Magic is doing to do a fab job of exploring and explaining that. My thought fear at that moment was “Why did I send Howard Schultz, a man who is worth three billion and who may run for president, an invitation to read my novel when I call his company ‘The Cosmodemonic Coffee company”?

      That fear is gone now as this page is nearly full. It is gone because I remembered that I also sent Howard the excerpt from Tripio that explains that the word Cosmodemonic has no bad intent toward his company. Secondly, the fear left me during the moment I stood staring at the card because I was reminded that I once meant enough to Howard for him to send me a Christmas card.

                                                          ‘May I help who’ next?”


Red apron recipe #1

Ready in hours, days or weeks

   I realize that when we hear the word “recipe” we visualize a list of ingredients. Much the same happens when we hear the words “writing” or “book”. We visualize words on a page. We image an old Dickensian desk lit by a candle. Hunched into that candle light an old bastard scribbles something onto the top piece of a pile of papers.

      But neither the list of ingredients nor the words on a page actually have their start on the page. Or the pen in hand. Or laptop. Just as eating begins in the garden, writing begins in the mind. So, my first Red Apron Recipe begins in the tool shed. The one where you keep the basic tools needed to work the mind garden from which your writing, or any creative endeavor, has the best chance to take root and grow your own unique story.

    In order to prepare your mind to write or create, work must be done. If you want to eat, the same holds true.  

    At least for me. I had lots and lots of work to be done. I was starting with an arid rocky, weedy plot of land. I needed every tool in my shed. Below, are a list of tools  attached to possible uses for them.

Big shovel  yoga

Smaller shovel  meditation

Gloves  walks in the park, neighborhood

Trowel   exercises such as cross training, running      

Compost pile  dreams

Rake    journaling

Buckets, flower pots  sauna, whirlpool, poolside

Weed tool   intentional distractions such as drives in the country                                 

Since I plan on posting only a recipe a month, it will give you time to find your own tools and apply whatever task you see fit to that tool. It is your shed, your garden and will be your recipes. In this coming month if you get into your shed and you use a tool or two, just notice how you feel afterwards. And if you feel like it, then write down whatever has come to mind.

    To submit a query, please use the form below. Please fill out all fields. If an agent wishes to read your submission, he or she will contact you in response to your query, usually within 6-8 weeks.

    Which agent would like to submit to?

    There she is. My agent. She and I actually worked together in the early 1990’s so it may not seem entirely fair for me to call on our old relationship to help me get Tripio published. But, when I asked her directly she didn’t say no. Nor did she send a rejection email. I didn’t even have to tell her “Why I chose her to submit to”. No need for a publication history. No need to create a query letter. And since we already knew each other, I didn’t even have to submit a bio.

   I first thought of looking up her old contact information again when I was close to halfway through the “memoir” version of Tripio. I was beginning to realize that the piece I started was going to be a novel. I was noticing that if I had told anyone what I was writing then, I said I was working on a “Starbucks novel.’ I tried not to look ahead but as the writing continued I knew that the “Starbucks Novel” was how I would have to sell the book. No one would care about an unknown writer who had just finished a novel. Boring. But, someone out there, reading my query with a Starbucks in his or her hand, may just be intrigued by Tripio.

   When the time came, I did find her old contact information. I was told by her gatekeeper that she was closed to queries for at least six months. In a rare show of self-belief and conviction I insisted on at least leaving a message. I told the gatekeeper that I would be remembered because when the two of us worked together at Starbucks there were only 450 employees and it felt like everyone knew each other.

   Wouldn’t you know it, she called me back the next day. I didn’t have to wait 6-8 weeks. We hit it off again just like old times. I told her I was a lot older now but felt great. And she replied that she has gotten a little less willing “to show some skin” like she did when I first met her. I asked about the old guard. She said she doesn’t see much of them anymore but she was sure they’d love to read Tripio. It was her idea that I send blurb requests to Howard Behar and Kevin Knox. And she was right, they have both said yes.

    We caught up for a few more minutes but she had to go. A lot of Starbucks are still opening around the world and she couldn’t talk too long. She also said that Howard was writing his own book and wished me luck on mine. I hung up, regretting that I had not given her my contact information so we could stay in touch. Wait a minute- no I don’t! She had hung up without asking for a percentage.

                               “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 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. Even after Jay is working at Starbucks he often goes to favorite coffee house that “sat on an alley under the El tracks”. 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 at 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 confirms this. If you are reading this blog with a cup of coffee nearby, then drink up! If you are doing so at your local Starbucks then that’s even better. Better because I hope you will appreciate both your own coffee and your Starbucks for having read this post.

                                           “May I help who’s next?”


A couple evenings ago my son, who is a Purdue grad and data analyst, and I sat down in his room and could have published Tripio.  I like to refer to my son as my “tech support” for the job of self-publishing Tripio. He is way more proficient and comfortable doing anything on the computer than I am. Fortune bade him to move back home at just the right time because without him, I would have had to pay someone to do a lot of what is required to put a manuscript out on Amazon or any other self-publisher. Or, I would tried to stagger through the process myself. I shudder to think of the outbursts of spitting rage my laptop would have received if that path were the one taken.

   I say “could have’ published because it was there to do. I decided to direct publish for a lot of reasons, one of which was that I had come to learn how easy it was. Easy if you had half the competency of my tech support. I consider myself behind the curve on using social media, my phone or even this laptop, which I use primarily as a word processor. So it would have been extraordinarily difficult for me to fold flap A into slot C and publish a book. Hard for me, but easy for most everyone else. I’m thinking possibly that it is way too easy.

                          [[File:Toy building set (AM 1999.104.20-1).jpg|Toy building set (AM 1999.104.20-1)]]

  I was taken aback at just how easy. Tripio could have been published two days ago. A dream of mine achieved. I would have two days under my belt as a published author by now. I assume that is why the self-publishing method is looked down on in some circles. Hey, I am new to this whole scene, so when I assume something, I mean assume. I did take an informative “Basics of Self-Publishing” class at the Indiana Writers Center. What I learned was confirmation of what I had experienced  when sending queries to agents in New York. Not that I sent a lot, mind you. I guess I sent around 10 or so. I just didn’t feel like I fit in doing that. I do not fancy myself a “literary literary” type at all. And the whole process had the feel of a job search on Indeed or Monster (are they still around?). I have had enough of that kind of subjective dart board nonsense to last a lifetime.

   And, it quite simply felt wrong to hand over the energy of Tripio to someone else. I have grown to have tons of faith in myself in the last several years so why release Tripio to someone now? “Because it has always been done that way” is just not good enough. Plus, what I have received from the creation of Tripio is so personal and powerful that I don’t see any upside to having some agent or publisher deem it worthy. What it has done for me cannot be measured by anyone or by any method they may use.

   But, that is the same reason that I can’t just publish Tripio half ass, like my tech support and I could have done a couple nights ago. It means too much to me. In fact, it means so much that I did have to make myself let Tripio go. I started to let go of  my ownership of Tripio one day after meditating. I had to begin to untether myself emotionally from Tripio and its creative process.

       That release of Tripio is not the same thing as clicking the “publish your novel” button. I wrote this post months ago. Tripio is published now on Kindle and in paperback. That remains the easy part.

                                             “May I help who’s next?”


Your buddy Howard is thinking about running for president. Could be good for the book

   Above is the text I received this morning. The text was from an old friend who appears in Tripio as my “older brother”.  I have been advised to get reviews of Tripio for the Amazon page. So, I have been. And the “older brother” from Tripio now has the manuscript in his hands and is hopefully enjoying the living hell out of reading it.

 [[File:’Man Reading’ by John Singer Sargent, Reading Public Museum.jpg|’Man Reading’ by John Singer Sargent, Reading Public Museum]]

  Since Tripio is partially about Starbucks and Howard Schultz, I feel obligated to comment on how I think he will perform as president. Except, I don’t really know, so I won’t. All I know for sure is that the one time I met him in person he handed me a Bean Stock Bravo award. The meeting is recounted in Tripio, “HS called some partners to the stage for recognition. I was one of them. He called my name about halfway through the presentation (he mispronounced the last name, and I politely corrected him), handed me a Cosmo Bravo award and shook my hand.”

   I reflect upon the historic meeting now and will not let Howard mispronouncing my name influence whether I will vote for him if he runs for president. I will rise above that. But I do want Howard to run for president for my sake.

  I say that only half kidding because I suspect there is a lot of truth in lot of truth what my friend texted me. In fact I did text him back replying, “My thoughts exactly.”

    Odd thing just occurred to me as I write this post. It feels right to use just Howard in referring to possible presidential candidate Howard Schultz. In my four years at Starbucks, everyone referred to Howard as Howard. It seemed to fit him to use his first name only. The other bigshot in the hierarchy at the time was Howard Behar. In Tripio I use HS and HB to make the distinction. But in those days it was not uncommon to have one of them visit Chicago. After all when Tripio takes places there were only 125 Starbucks stores and 500 employees. But everyone could tell which Howard was coming to visit by the slight change in tone when one said “Howard is coming to town.” Both meant lots of extra cleaning in case they showed up at your store. But the Howard in Howard Schultz visiting had a little more excitement or buzz in the pronouncement. Not of fear, but of anticipation.

    Like I said, I have no idea how that recollection relates to Howard as president. I just felt obligated to share it. Also, I am sure Howard has practiced pronouncing names since we last met.

                                             “May I help who’s next?”


        At this point in the journey of Tripio, a lot has been happening. A lot of good things have taken place, so much so that last night I voiced a desire to possibly move the publication date of Tripio up a month or so. I chose April 11th because in Tripio, the child that Kati and Jay are expecting has been assigned a due date of April 11th.  I will wait and see on the final decision for a new release date of Tripio.

                            “Nothing in human judgment is final”   attributed to FDR

    A lot of positive things are happening around Tripio: the wonderful blurbs from Starbucks legends, the inspired first mock cover, the classes at the Indiana Writers Centers seemingly appearing just when I need them, my tech support moving back home at the right time to help me launch this blog.  All those events listed are simply events following energy. That is, good energy following good energy.

   Events following energy is a cornerstone wisdom that I have believed in since way before I started working on Tripio. I had to understand it first in order to understand myself in order to put myself into a place to be able to create Tripio. For clarification, find and read Daniel Pond’s Chakras for Beginners.

         I can’t even recall when I bought it or how it came to me years ago, during the time I call “early recovery”. Finding that book can be called milestone on my journey.

    From this book, I found so many wisdoms that I have come to use in my day to day life. I know I would not have come to create Tripio without having read Chakras. It is one of the books that I can honestly say helped change my life. Or as C.S. Lewis puts it in Experiment in Criticism,I have become what I was not before”, upon reading Chakras.

    The single most powerful wisdom practice I have followed since first putting down that book has consistently been “Events follow Energy”. The events I listed above are not random actions of an outside world that happened to crash into my life. For most of my life I would have seen those, and all events in my life as such. I would have concluded that “Life happens” Now I understand that it doesn’t. We create our lives with our thoughts and concomitant actions. Good events follow good energy. Bad events follow bad energy. I know, I followed some of them right into rehab. I have since worked daily by to create better daily energies. Those energies continue to bring better events. A very short list appears above.

                                                        “May I help who’s next?”


In the process of attempting to publish Tripio I have tried to research any other books in which Starbucks features prominently. I am curious to see if there is another book out there similar to Tripio. I know most of the business success books written about Starbucks the company. In what seems a million year ago I read “Pour your heart into it” by my old boss, Howard Schultz. Link here…..

      This morning I found a book about Starbucks that I had not heard of.  It is called “How Starbucks Saved my Life” by Michael Gates Gill. I read a bit about this book and it does not appear to be a novel, but more a real life account. It was published in 2007 and I may or may not read it. I am sure over the course of the next several months I will come across other books, novels or not, with a Starbucks tie-in. I may or may not read them.

    It is not so much that I am afraid to compare Michael Gates Gill’s experience at Starbucks to mine. His experience and mine appear to be completely different, as they should be, since we are two completely different people. I would, however, like to hear his descriptions of working the espresso bar at his Starbucks. In Tripio, Jay calls the espresso bar at store #204 “the beating heart of the growing Cosmodemonic empire.” ( Please see post #42, when published, for a more detailed explanation of the use of Cosmodemonic). And for Jay, it is the place where he must prove himself to the customers but more importantly, to his fellow baristas. Because to take the bar on a busy Saturday morning, we are talking 1,000 transactions by noon in those days, and deal with the line was how you earned and kept the respect of your co-workers.

   That is Jay’s experience and so it follows that it was also my experience. And, please don’t think any worse of me for saying this: I don’t really care about anybody else’s experiences at Starbucks. Because, I lived mine. I felt the butterflies in my stomach as I prepared to open on Saturday mornings knowing a three hour line of customers awaited me. This feeling mirrors and parallels what I felt when writing Tripio. I temporarily lost interest in reading other novels. I wanted to tell my own story. I am not sure if I am alone in this. I wonder if many, any, or no other writers felt this way while working on a project of theirs. These observations do not at all mean that I don’t want to share Tripio with as many people as possible.      Maybe it isn’t that complicated after all. Maybe my apprehensions about putting Tripio out in the world really mean I am just a little fearful about sharing my own very personal story. I may just be coming down with a case of butterflies in my stomach, much like Jay did before those busy Saturday mornings over twenty years ago at store #204.  


      I got a speeding ticket earlier this afternoon. It seemed like I was going with the traffic but got singled out. That had put me in a “why does the world hate me?” mind frame. I have also just received a “No” from Bill Kurtis on a request for a blurb for Tripio. On top of all of that, I am a lifelong, die-hard Ohio State Buckeye football fan and Urban Meyer announced his retirement a few days ago. Why does the world hate me, indeed?

              Still considering this on my couch after dinner, I looked over to see my downstairs computer. I was not at all far from where I had parked my backside. With just little effort, I could check my Tripio gmail inbox. Maybe some good news awaits me there? Or, wait! What if there is no news? Or worse, bad news? I was in the thralls of “intermittent reinforcement”, at least as I understand the concept. If I knew one way or the other, I would not be tempted at all. I had only just come upon the term in the Alan Jacobs “Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction”,  I congratulated myself on my new name for not being currently able to do anything constructive. That afterglow didn’t last long however. No longer able to contain myself,  I had to check the Tripio gmail! It is five steps and a click away.

    You read before the words of a changed man. I did in fact receive news. News I consider to be great, in fact. In my email was a response to the first blurb request I had sent for Tripio. It was from Kevin Knox,

who had also agreed to read Tripio. The response I read in my email was a blurb and the first real of Tripio. This review was from someone who had worked with Starbucks during the time Tripio was set. Mr. Knox also appears in the book as the “coffee God.” He had just finished Tripio and found it “a vivid and authentic journey through the heady early days of Starbucks expansion.

    Wow. Damn. It is hard  to say just how great I feel.  But I will try to put it simply and, it will go something like this: Even if the world still hates me, it’s alright because Kevin Knox liked Tripio.


      “May I help who’s next?”