Tripio The Novel

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

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?

    I did not experience much writer’s block during the creation of Tripio. I believe that one big reason for that was I started preparing for the writing of it years ahead of time. No, I did fly to Italy for a week long writer’s retreat by the grave of a dead writer. I did not have the time nor the money to attend lots of classes, conferences or seminars.

I did begin a process of self-examination and evaluation that had nothing to do with writing. I had to clean my mind, body and soul. It sucked. It was a loss. The point of this post is to help you find your own voice, not to lay out the details of why I had to start my own journey. That will come later.


  For today I want to emphasize that I believe you can and will discover your own path to reveal your authentic, creative self and unblock the limitless mental energy we all possess and share. My own process was called growing my “Mind Garden”(see post #1). If you skipped reading it for now just know that your own creative voice can be utilized in many ways, not just in writing. One good example for me is how I helped raise four children not having a clue what the hell I was doing when I first started. I was able to find examples and inspiration from countless sources and that allowed me to grow into the job. I helped raise them on the fly, by the seat of my pants, creating “dad” day by day until it became second nature.

     I use that example of finding my unique voice because my creative parenting was neither intentional nor conscious. It goes to the point of writing in this way: I had no choice but to let “dad” come out of me. I felt like I had no attachments to how my parenting should look. It was with this same clean slate that I started Tripio . I had no plan for it. I did not have a genre selected. Or a projected word count. I did note in my SotM (Sketchbook of the Mind) around the time I started Tripio that is was a “novella for now”. Then, off I went. I am not saying it was easy. There is nothing easy about parenting or writing. In fact both require great effort, sacrifice and focused attention and intention. In retrospect, I believe I applied the skill developed as a parent to the writing of Tripio.

   Tripio started as just a type of creative energy. I was done raising young kids so that remaining energy had to go somewhere. Like my clueless entry into parenting, I started Tripio not seeing an clear end result in sight. I believe that this allowed me to keep my ego’s hands off Tripio and let the “novella for now” become Tripio.

Of course, there were several versions, two full blown passes with an editor and a million other details before Tripio was complete. It is not easy finding it, but we all have creative energy inside us. Plus, we have skills from other parts of our lives that can be applied to writing. And, you don’t have to have four kids to find yours. Just sayin’


                                                “May I help who’s next?”

Yesterday morning at this time my backside was here. I was revising, rewriting, reworking -you name it- my second novel, “Back outta the World”. This morning, I am using that very same backside to sit in the same chair and use the same keyboard. However that exact backside now proudly supports a novelist. Since you can’t ask my backside what all of this means, I will explain.

It means that “Back outta the World” feels finished to me, it’s creator. It is not at all the same type of feeling that came to me when I “finished” it the first time. That scene is brilliantly recounted in my first novel, Tripio.

Since I am posting about the here and now all I can say is that it feels great. I have achieved something that can not be taken away. That is the one statement that can apply to completing both Tripio and now Back outta the World. In fact the lyrics to the classic song, “They can’t take that away from me” are now running through my mind. For the record, ha ha, I love Fred Astaire’s version.

Where was I? Oh yes, on my backside. Sorry – can’t you tell I am in a good mood? Which brings me to the actual topic today: I am now a novelist. I have written two novels. No matter that I started BotW around 25 years ago. No matter that I finished it several times before. Not to worry that I started and finished, had edited and published Tripio in the meantime. The completing of Back outta the World cannot be diminished. Plus the two novels are creatively connected.

Today I want to share with you fellow creators out there this: it is worth to do all the work one must do to finish your novel, poem, story or whatever your writing may be called. It can’t be beat. I spent all yesterday in quiet, personal celebration. That is part of it. I have learned that no one else cares all that much what a writer’s emotional experience is or what was the cost was in time, effort and even money. No one else cares, nor should they, about what left undone while we labored on our creations. Just as well to keep those things between me and my backside. Celebrate and honor that moment when you have finished your personal journey with your novel. That moment is yours to keep forever. Yes, it is true that no else will really want to hear what it took to get your novel done. Then again you get have your own quiet, personal celebration when it is done at last. It is equally true that they can’t take that away.

“May I help who’s next?”

     “Who would read a novel about Starbucks?”,  I asked the facilitator of my “Author Development” class. 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 isn’t a class on developing oneself as an actual writer. This class is directed towards creating a brand and finding an audience for one’s work. The facilitator, Darice 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 contemporary historical 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 my head, I felt I could get something from her wisdom. Like some of that money.

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     I have discovered that there are a lot of people out there 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. My joke response to it all is that people will do anything to get their book sold- except write a good one.

    Darice has 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?  My mind had been taking a swim in the 145 billion dollar ocean. 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.”

     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? I’m not sure though. It is pretty easy to go unnoticed in a 145 billion dollar ocean.

“May I help who’s next?”

   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.  

   I speak from experience. 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 is a list of tools needed to begin work in your mind garden. I have attached possible uses for them. I call them my “Red Apron Recipes”

  • 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 etc-  sauna, whirlpool
  • Weed tool-  intentional distractions such as drives in the country                                 

It is your shed, your garden and will be your recipes and writing. In the coming days if you get into your shed and you use a tool or two, just notice how you feel afterwards. Pay attention to your thoughts during and afterwards. If you feel like it, write down whatever has come to mind. It takes time and practice. So try it again.

These tools worked for me over and over. They feel worn and good in my hands. And for me, at least, when it comes to the actually writing, that part that is supposed to so damn difficult, I practically tip toe through the tulips. Good luck!

          “May I help who’s next?