By Liz Crowe (Guest Blogger)
There is a “regulation” in Germany—the Reinheitsgebot—that states:
Beer is made up 4 ingredients, and 4 ingredients ONLY:
The Germans invented the lager style of beer, using yeasts they discovered, the create a different sort of beer than had been brewed before. Ale beer was truly an ancient form of sustenance, had been around since Egyptian times and was drunk in leiu of water on many continents.
Since the advent of the “American craft beer movement” in the late ‘90s, that regulation has been thrown out the window in the quest for unique flavors and a sort of one-up-manship among the (now) thousands of brewers seeking an audience of drinkers. Everything from corriandor and orange peels, hot peppers, coffee, and chocolate to cherries, grapes, pumpkin and ginger are now added to a host of “regulation beers” (water/malt/hops/yeast) by breweries large and small.
My favorite example of going off the rez with this is the Peanut Butter and Jelly Beer brewed right here in Michigan at Short’s Brewing near Traverse City.
It’s not a bad thing to add these “adjuncts” (beer jargon for “anything not water/barley/hops/yeast). Some of the create unique, well-rounded and interesting beer drinking experiences. Others are gross but fun to contemplate.
I own a craft brewery, work with brewers and beer drinkers every day. I’ve come to value the process of taking “pure beer” and rounding it out in a cool way with well-balanced and considered ingredients seeking alternatives for the many folks who pass through my Tap Room doors. It’s pretty telling that our best sellers are beers with no adjuncts—just a well blended mix of water, barley, hops and yeast.
But I need a segue to my life as author so….
I’ve also written a few books. And, since I have a degree in English Lit, I’ve read a fair few as well. There is a school of thought in this business that there are only seven or so basic plots: overcoming the monster; rags to riches; the quest; voyage and return; comedy; tragedy; rebirth. If you have some time to ponder such things, you will realize that from the Bible, through Greek plays, Shakespeare and today you can apply one or more of these to most works of literature, including popular fiction.
The fact that there are so many great books to choose from is a testament to the fact that authors take these “basics” and add their own spices, pumpkins, grapes and hot peppers to them to create a huge range of options for readers to consider. My latest release, MAN ON, is the first book in a new series set in the world of professional soccer (my first “adjunct” and a unique one as there are not a ton of these around). In it, you meet two of the players for the original Black Jack Gentlemen fictional Detroit-based expansion soccer team (in a fictional expansion pro soccer league). This is not a league of “starter-outers” or a farm team for the more established Major League Soccer teams. These are men of all ranges of experience from literally all over the world who’ve been convinced, cajoled and paid well to come and form a legit new team that can take on teams of equal or better caliber.
My second “adjunct” to this story: these men are bi-sexual. One of them, Parker Rollings, is a young man just out of college who is struggling with his sexual identity. The other, Nicco Garza is an older player from Spain who lost his super-star status when his ex-wife “outed” him.
So you have the set up for “overcoming the monster” (acceptance of yourself as a homosexual and a pro athlete—not an easy task), “the quest” (trying to create a viable new soccer team, getting a bunch of men who’ve never played together to form a cohesive group) and even “rebirth” (when Parker accepts himself as a bi-sexual man in love with another man who happens to be a teammate).
There could be tragedy of course. These men have both worked so very hard to achieve success as athletes. It is well known that the general public does not accept homosexual men on their “favorite teams” easily. So it could be that they find each other, then make a very hard decision to reject their potential private happiness in order to further the public success of their team.
Taking basic plots and adding the adjuncts of setting, characters, conflicts and resolution truly does resemble the crafting of a great beer. We all hope for more drinkers and readers thanks to our efforts. And, as with craft beer, there is nothing wrong with taking the basics of a plot and adding as many unique additions as possible to craft something interesting—or something fun (or even gross). Just remember, get it edited! We never serve a beer without a lot of sampling and tasting through the process. Yeah, that’s the fun bit.
A city and a sport with something to prove—Meet the men who take that challenge.
The Black Jack Gentlemen—Detroit’s expansion soccer team.
They play hard. And live harder.
The Black Jack Gentlemen
The newest series by Liz Crowe
Book 1: Man On (August 2013)
Book 2: Red Card (August 2013)
Book 3: Shut Out (September 2013)
And Coming Soon…
Book 4: Set Piece
Book 5: Hat Trick
Man On (Black Jack Gentlemen: Book One)
Bad boy of European football, Nicolas Garza is about to hit American shores with a vengeance. Signed by the Detroit Black Jack Gentlemen as lynch pin for their expansion club, Nicco only half believes he’s making the right move. But with a past full of ghosts and rotten behavior chasing him from his homeland, he has no real choice.
Parker Rollings is a college soccer superstar, but his parents’ plans for their only son do not include professional athletics. When the Black Jacks approach him to finalize their roster, Parker leaps at the chance to keep playing, leaving behind medical school, stability and his first and only college sweetheart.
Nicco and Parker face off as bitter rivals for a coveted starting spot at midfield and are forced to channel their negative energy into something positive for the sake of the group—and themselves.
All eyes are on the fledgling team in its debut season. It’s crucial that the Black Jacks prove all the doubters wrong. They must make a good showing in the league and with new fans. But player drama, club dynamics, and misplaced priorities may tear it apart before it even begins.
Barnes and Noble
When he had flipped through his expensive-looking orientation packet the words “team psychologist” had leapt out at him as if connected to a hand that gripped him by the short hairs. Not a new thing, all teams had one. But, sick of his bizarre need for constant physical contact—for fucking, he’d corrected, tired of even glossing over it in his own stupid head—he had been desperate for someone to simply listen. So, he made the call. And in the meantime, had enjoyed the workouts with the trainers, the few times he’d scrimmaged around with some of the other players. They’d all been contracted but not obligated to do anything for a month but “acclimate to their new surroundings.”
Part of that acclimation came with the requisite social networking and attendance at a some high visibility fundraisers—which is where Nicco had hooked up with Terrance who’d been attending as personal assistant to some politician. He’d also been encouraged to look around for a place to live with the assistance of an eager young real estate agent, an adorable, sexy, woman whose name he had forgotten within minutes of banging her brains out in an empty mini-mansion. Par for his course, really. But behavior that made him angrier than ever.
His first session with the psychologist, an earnest, nerdy-looking guy with square glasses and a cleft chin, had been brutal. But Nicco had deflected, and to his credit, the shrink had let him front, and show off like a dumb ass for a full hour.
Then, just as he was getting up to leave, convinced the whole thing had been a total waste, the guy looked up at him, pinning him with eyes so sharp and clear they made Nicco gasp in spite of himself. “Nicco,” he’d said. “When you’re ready to face up to your addiction, I’m here to listen. I know you have a problem with sex. You know you have a problem with sex. I’m glad you made this appointment. Next time, let’s make it more useful, shall we? And for your information, I did not support the concept of putting you out there as poster boy for gay rights or gay athletes.”
The man had removed his glasses, staring Nicco down as if he could see into his very soul. “I am gay. I have been with the same partner, a man I love dearly for six years. I understand, on a certain level, what you’re dealing with. So,” he’d put the glasses back on and glanced down at his tablet computer. “When will I see you next?”
Now, Nicco pulled the card from his pocket and stared at the therapist’s name and phone number. Then ripped it into small pieces as the rest of the new team filed into the room. He noted two German players he’d had run-ins with in World Cup play, a South African player who must have cost the casino owners a pretty penny, at least three Brits, a Welsh guy or maybe Irish, and two South Americans whose dark, intense good looks made him shiver with memory.
A handful of fresh-faced young Americans interspersed in the group made him feel old. And that pissed him off. What was Inez thinking anyway? There were two per position in the room, two strong players for each spot—except his. He sipped his water bottle and glared at the Germans. Nervous tension gnawed at his gut but he kept his face calm. Finally when their temporary coach showed up and flipped the blinds closed, he relaxed.
So everyone in the room has to fight for their spot except me? That works. He dropped his feet to the floor at Rafe’s pointed glance and propped his elbows on the table prepared to ignore the forthcoming pep talk.
He’d already made plans for the night and wanted to rest up before hand. This goofy welcome pep talk would be as good a time as any. Letting his thoughts wander to the nightclub catering to gay men and promising full discretion, he made himself stop obsessing over the failed therapy session.
The door clicked open and all eyes landed on the tall, blond man who walked in, backpack on his shoulder, dressed to play. Nicco’s scalp tingled at the sight of him—strong torso, long legs, firm jaw covered with several days’ worth of fuzz. Good Christ but he was a perfect specimen. Nicco kept his casual stance but startled when the kid’s bright blue eyes and huge white smile landed on him.
He resisted the urge to smile back. Something about the man made Nicco distinctly uncomfortable but horny at the same time. He suddenly wished he’d held onto the shrink’s business card.
“And Parker will be working with you, Nicco.”
Nicco sat up, knocking his water to the floor as Rafe’s words got his immediate attention. What the fuck? He stared at the polite hand the kid stuck in his face then over at Rafe. His throat closed up between the proximity of the impossibly handsome man and realization of the fact that the vision of masculine perfection he’d lusted after for the last few seconds wanted to take his spot on the field.
Oh hell no. He leaned back again and ignored his brain that clamored for him to be nice, to take the kid’s hand. To smile and act like an adult.
Instead, he smirked, ignored him, and turned to face their coach as if suddenly fascinated by what the guy had to say. Parker stood a minute, and Nicco watched his face turn red before he sat in the one empty chair nearest the door.
Rafe passed out new phones, instructed them that they were obliged to “tweet” and “post profile updates” on Facebook at least three times a day. All shit that Nicco already knew. Rafe’s hot young lady assistant issued key cards to the ones who’d just arrived, including the kid Nicco studiously ignored but whose very presence was making the front of his jeans uncomfortable.
He shifted in his seat, trying to get control of himself, a bizarre combination of anger and lust spinning around his brain. The room rose, and Nicco joined them making their way out into the hallway.
A gaggle of kids and parents awaited them, and the team spent about an hour signing soccer balls, slips of paper, jerseys, getting photos for camera phones. Nicco joined in to prove his ability to schmooze like a pro. At one point he caught sight of his new young coach with his arm around a tall, attractive, pregnant woman with coal black hair. Rafe caught his eye and beckoned him over.
“Nicolas Garza, this is Maureen, my wife and her son, Adam.” A dark-skinned teenager next to the stunning woman stuck out a hand. Nicco took it, noting the kid’s own club kit and backpack. He took Maureen’s hand, kissed it, and eyeballed Rafe.
“Well done, young Rafe. What a vision. How did a loser like yourself rate such beauty?”
Maureen frowned but her eyes sparkled. “Spare me, Nicco. I’ve heard all about you.”
“I have no doubt of that lovely lady.” He gave a short bow. “But may I also say, congratulations on the coming joy.”
She smiled at him, and he mirrored her liking her already. He valued women who took no shit from him. He winked at Rafe and made his way back into the teeming throng after nodding at the woman’s son who didn’t look that much younger than his mother’s new husband. But when he turned he immediately locked gazes with the blond American usurper and his throat closed up. The man stared at him wide-eyed and innocent, and Nicco had to grip the back of a chair to keep from saying something utterly stupid.
He’d wager his left nut that young Parker had never been with a man, but the sheer sexual energy that poured off him was intoxicating. His fresh, clean good looks spoke of a typical American, upper class upbringing, expensive soccer clubs and college scholarships. Shit that Nicco usually despised and denigrated.
He broke the eye contact and set his jaw. The kid had another think coming if he honestly believed he’d be taking Nicolas Garza’s place on the team. Pure and simple, no matter how fevered his sudden fantasy over popping the kid’s cherry. He ran a hand down his face and swallowed hard. Things had certainly gotten complicated and then some. But he knew that he had a focus now—keeping his starting spot ahead of the delectable Parker.
Microbrewery owner, best-selling author, beer blogger and journalist, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz lives in the great Midwest, in a major college town. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse. While working as a successful Realtor, Liz made the leap into writing novels about the same time she agreed to take on marketing and sales for the Wolverine State Brewing Company.
Most days find her sweating inventory and sales figures for the brewery, unless she’s writing, editing or sweating promotional efforts for her latest publications.
Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”). More recently she is garnering even more fans across genres with her latest novels, which are more character-driven fiction,” while remaining very much “real life.”
With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and many times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate, and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.
If you are in the Ann Arbor area, be sure and stop into the Wolverine State Brewing Co. Tap Room—but don’t ask her for anything “like” a Bud Light, or risk serious injury.