Believe it or not, there were more men at the Olympics than Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. Even more shocking, there were men of true character even though the media focused on Ryan Lochte’s web of lies and the USA men’s basketball team “accidentally” going to a brothel. After each Olympics, strictly for your benefit, I select 10 men whose performance makes them worthy of being a romance novel hero. From the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio Brazil, here are my top champions:
10) Isaquias Queiroz Dos Santos
- Silver Men’s canoe single 1000m
- Silver Men’s canoe double 1000m
- Bronze Men’s canoe single 200m
Future Romance Hero: The man with nine lives!
The best romance novels come with great conflict and Isaquias’ childhood was full of drama. When he was three, he poured boiling water on himself. He was kidnapped and rescued at five years old. At ten years old, he fell from a tree and suffered the loss of a kidney. As a teenager, he severed the top third off his left ring finger in a cooking accident. All of this resulted in a lifetime of bullying from other children who called him “Sem Rim,” (means “Missing Kidney”) and doctors who told him to be cautious. Defying all odds, he pursued his Olympic dream and was rewarded with 3 medals when the Olymipcs was held in his home country and he received the honor of carrying Brazil’s flag during the closing ceremonies. Whatever his future holds, it will certainly not be boring.
9) Danell Leyva
Gymnasts: (2) Silver Men’s Horizontal Bar
Country: United States
Future Romance Hero: Erotica’s Hottest Leading Man
It’s no secret that men’s gymnastics doesn’t get the attention of women’s gymnastics and Danell was on a mission to show viewers what they were missing. During the Gala, the best of the best are asked to perform their greatest hits without the pressure of the competition. Danell took this as an opportunity to show a new side of men’s gymnastics by doing a little striptease to reveal his impressive upper body muscles while performing on the horizontal bar. His stunt worked as his routine received a lot of media attention, which will no doubt help him launch his acting career.
8) Jack Sock
Gold Mixed doubles
Bronze Men’s doubles
Country: United States
Future Romance Hero: The next Action Sports Hero
Jack Sock is my favorite tennis player and I was thrilled that he was heading to Rio. Not only is he adorable but he embodies good sportsmanship. Lots of non-tennis fans might have the image of John McEnroe throwing temper tantrums on the court when they think of tennis players. This is not Jack. He is this generation’s tennis player. This video is pre-Rio but explains why he’s my favorite. He proves that you can play fair and still grow up to be an Olympic Champion.
7) Wayde van Niekerk
Track & field: Gold Men’s 400m
Country: South Africa
Future Romance Hero: Justice for his Mother
Many athletics were prevented from competing outside of their country’s borders because of South Africa’s Apartheid. Wayde symbolizes a brighter future for athletics of all races. His victories are all his own but he came to Rio with an impressive support team and lineage. His coach is a 74 year old grandmother named Anna Botha who took her 50 years of coaching experience to help the first generation van Niekerk allowed to complete on an international stage. This is because his mother, Odessa Swarts, was a talented athlete but not allowed to compete. Instead of being bitter and resentful (which was me when I heard her story), she beamed with pride over her son’s successes and he will come home to her with a gold medal.
6) David Rudisha
Track and Field: Men’s 800m; Gold
Future Romance Hero: Paranormal Shape shifter
As an animal lover, I was devastated to hear about the death of Cecil the Lion. I felt there was little I could do from the USA but not David. He’s on a mission to change his culture’s way of proving their manhood through athletic accomplishments instead of killing lions. He tells his people to instead run like lions. With back-to-back Olympic gold medals and the world’s admiration, he can take this positive message back to his Maasai ethnic group in Kenya.
5) Matthew Centrowitz Jr.
Track & field: Gold Men’s 1500m
Country: United States
Future Romance Hero: Like Father Like Son
Matthew Centrowitz Jr lived most of his life in the shadow of his father, Matthew Centrowitz Sr, a 5000 meter champion with 4 USA Outdoor Championships gold medals to his credit. Watch any video of Senior and he comes across as a tough competitor and alpha male who helped influenced his son’s career. At Rio, Junior surpassed his father’s career accomplishments by taking the gold medal. I can’t tell which reaction is more priceless, the look of happiness on Senior’s face or the look on Junior’s face when he saw that his father was proud of him. For readers who (subconsciously or intentionally) seek parental approval, this tale checked off all the boxes.
4) Galen Rupp
Track and Field: Men’s Marathon: Bronze
Country: United States
Future Romance Hero: This generation’s Dudley Do Right
Good guys should finish first (technically he finished third but that’s not the point). Galen Rupp is a favorite of mine because he’s from Oregon and he comes across as a good human being. His personal mantra is “always do the right thing, whether it means never taking shortcuts, being honest or having integrity”. Galen proves that you can be a nice guy and still be a fierce competitor. After a disappointing 5th place in the Men’s 10,000 meter race where he collided with his training partner, Mohamed Farah, I feared that would be his 2016 Rio experience since he only other event was the men’s marathon, an event he had little experience. However, he impressed everyone by taking the bronze medal in his only second completed marathon. He is now part of history as he medaled in an event that will be remembered for the Ethiopia Olympian Feyisa Lilesa’s symbol of peace that endangered his life and Meb Keflezighi falling at the finish line and bounced back with three push-ups. For me, it was the most memorable event of the Olympics with one of my favorite athletes.
3) Michael Hixon
Diving: Men’s synchronized 3m springboard: Silver
Country: United States
Future Romance Hero:
All of my top ten lists include a diver because you have to be a strong confident man to compete in such limited clothing that viewers will question if the media coverage intentionally made their event appear racy. Michael received a lot of attention for his physical resemblance to Zac Efron (who made a guest appearance in Rio and received more media attention than many of the actual athletes) but he made my list for his “victory dance” in the water after his silver award performance with his diving partner Sam Dorman. It’s great to see excitement from the competitors.
2) Sam Kendricks
Track and Field: Bronze Men’s pole vault
Country: United States
Future Romance Hero: Military Hero
When Usain Bolt stopped an interview in honor of a national anthem being played in the stadium, he received international media for his character. But he wasn’t the only one who respects national anthems. US Army reservist Sam Kendricks started to run his pole vault attempt when he heard his national anthem. He stopped mid-attempt, dropped his pole and stood in attention. He gave viewers a moment to share in his patriotism. Since I come from a military family, this moment was precious to me and I wanted him to take him the gold but will be very proud of his bronze accomplishment.
1) Ryan Murphy
- Gold Men’s 100m backstroke
- Gold Men’s 200m backstroke
- Gold Men’s 4x100m medley relay
Country: United States
If you weren’t Michael Phelps getting all the attention for the right reasons or Ryan Loche stealing media time for all the wrong reasons, it was hard for any USA male swimmer to get any of the spotlight. There were quite a few fine gentlemen to select from but Ryan Murphy’s childhood drawings warmed my heart. He wrote a letter to his parents when he was eight years old with his intentions to be in the Olympics and he made good with that promise by taking home 3 gold medals at his first Olympics (pre-Phelps, that was considered a huge accomplishment). His looks alone should land him on the cover of a romance novel but it’s an extra bonus that he has the heart of a champion.
These men are wonderful but there were AMAZING women at the 2016 Olympics and they will get their own top 10 ranking in my next blog post. Stay Tuned.
We’re celebrating strong women here on See Jane Publish this month in honor of May being the month of Mother’s Day. I was privileged enough to have a very strong woman raise me, and have been mothered and mentored by other amazing women since then.
Because of those amazing role models, I’m drawn to kickass heroines in books I read and books I write. When I start a story, the female characters speak to me first. Sure, I love a sexy strong hero as much as any romance reader—but if I can’t relate or admire the heroine I stop reading. Romance reader questionnaires and sales figures show that most readers pay more attention to the hero of the novel. Books with males on the cover usually sell better (the exception is historical covers where it is all about the gorgeous gown). So, when I received the cover for the second book of my Viking Warriors series I was surprised and amazed and grateful to see that my publisher decided to put a woman on the cover.
I had a chance to chat with Sourcebook’s cover production manager Dawn Anderson at the RT conference in April and asked her about her cover model choice. Her reply was that because immortal Viking king Leif so rocked the cover of the first book, she needed someone who could hold their own against Leif. Enter Astrid, the Viking warrior Valkyrie who is the heroine of the second book.
I love, love, love this cover. It has elements of every fantasy and science fiction book I loved as a young reader. I devoured those books because when I grew up, those were the only genres where girls got to go on their own adventures and didn’t just trail behind the boys.
Here’s Astrid, the VIKING WARRIOR REBEL! The book is available on October 4, but can be pre-ordered now from these online retailers:
Though See Jane Publish steers clear of politics, the other day I found myself in a line up (Portland is famous for long lines – from donuts to dive bars, there’s ALWAYS a line) discussing strong women in history. The usual suspects came up first: Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany), and Hillary Clinton.
Blame it on the election year. The conversation with strangers made me think about other types of female empowerment… and realize a trend that’s been gaining ground in publishing:
Ever since Gone Girl and the Amazing Amy (capable of appalling feats that make readers love to hate her, and prompted almost 43,000 reader reviews on Amazon) publishers have been chasing those resilient bad girls. Is a new definition of a STRONG WOMAN emerging?
Fast forward to 2016. I just finished Maestra. A 27-year old art house assistant, Judith Rashleigh, wears an aspirational tweed suit as she plays by the rules in the art world she lives and breathes. When she takes on a second job in a champagne bar entertaining older men, her darker side emerges, and is later ignited when she is fired from her job.
Rage becomes her full time job as she plots her revenge. She becomes dangerous and glamorous. Manipulative and lonely. She is decades of complicated with an alcoholic mother and an obsession with 17th century artist Artemsia Gentileshci. I couldn’t help but like her (and Googled all the references to Gentileshci as I read).
Even as her scheming ramps up to murder, and she brutally slices the Achilles tendon of her victim before brutally butchering him to a slow death, I mentally cheered “Go Judith!”
Okay, so this is just fiction, not real life. Yet I have to wonder if the popularity of these heroines—or rather, anti-heroines—is a reflection of the strength many women seek?
I mean, we can’t all be serial killers, but we might occasionally play one in our imaginations, yes?
Or perhaps the conversation I had in line offered a glimpse of the future? Are we reverting back to Lizzy Borden, Lucrezia Borgia, and Marquise de Merteuil (Dangerous Liaisons)? If we are seeing a resurgence of the manipulative bad girl, we may want to take a very close look at who we’re voting for in the upcoming elections.
Since this is the month of Mother’s Day, here at See Jane Publish we thought we’d share some of the strong women in our lives. Here, strong women, have a pretty mutant rose! Mwah!
Strong women are very much in the news lately, both in story news and in the rest of the wider world. (Which apparently exists outside books? Who knew?) From the discussion of “strong female characters” in the movies to the role of more women in Hollywood in general, from the power (and lack thereof) of women in politics to the very personal (like, in-your-pants personal) definition of what it means to be a woman. It’s an interesting time to be a woman, and I think we’ve come a long way, baby!
But we still have a way to go and there’s still a lot to learn, so I want to share a few lady resources that have made me think and laugh lately.
I stumbled upon her book The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (run go get it and her newest too) back when it was released. Blew my mind, man. I started following her and have since absorbed so many smart essays I would’ve never otherwise found. Her speculative worlds opened up my REAL world, which I think is pretty freaking cool.
It’s not often you find a romance heroine in real life, but look — here’s Alisha Rai! Not only is her Glutton for Pleasure a guilt-free pleasure, but she knows all sorts of interesting people (click on Meljean Brooks’ link for a book-related workout) which makes following her a two-fer. (Note: Glutton also has two-fer heroes so there’s that. See why I follow her!)
For quick snippets of female fun and fury (because both those are good) I recently found “the feminist Onion”. Just a quick peek at their headlines should be enough to convince you:
- 5 Granola Bars That Will Make You Want to Scale a Fucking Mountain With Your Boyfriend
- Beautiful! This Woman Embraced Her Boring Natural Hair Color
- 5 Hand Placements on Your Boyfriend’s Stomach To Make Sure Everyone Knows You Own Him
I hope you have a strong woman in your life to celebrate with mutant flowers, a gift (maybe a book!) or a shared laugh. Or maybe YOU are that strong woman! If so, Happy Day to you!
Hi everyone, Debra Elise here. I write contemporary and romantic suspense and my debut novel, Saving Maverick, a sports romance, just released on April 4th. (pssst, there’s a giveaway link at the end of this post in celebration of its debut.) My good friend, Asa Maria Bradley, Ms. Double Rita Nominee, and my favorite Viking Warrior author, is taking this month off to concentrate on her hand waving and acceptance speech writing. She graciously offered me her spot on SJP this month. Who was I to turn her down? Thank you, Asa!
So, I love this month’s topic, Re-vamping your New Year’s Resolution(s): Checking in with your goals, because really I love setting goals, making awesome graphics to go along with them (see below) and then forgetting them until five, six months down the road when I suddenly remember oh yeah, I should have added this or that or, how could I have forgotten about wanting to try pilates?
However, since I’ve been pursuing a writing career, I’ve been a bit better at the follow through. But, and this is a BIG but, this year I didn’t put in anything pertaining to my non-writing life on my list of goals. And I should have. Not the usual you know loose ten pounds in a month or learn a foreign language; although I’d love to do both. No, what I should have been paying attention to all along—balance. Specifically, how I was going to achieve it in all areas of my life.
Home and work balance may be easy for some, but when your home is also where you work, the logistics become wonky. For me I was comfortable in my many hats, wife, mom, chef, laundress, dog walker, chauffer, chief bottle washer and monster-under-the-bed-catcher, and be able to have a clear goal in mind for each. But this new hat, the one where I’m an honest-to-goodness professional writer who now has contracts and deadlines; now that’s tricky.
I’d somehow fooled myself into thinking working from home would be a piece of cake (or a sour cream lemon pie-yum). This year what I failed to take into account was that in order to achieve the goals I’d set for myself as a writer, it would be next to impossible if I didn’t draw a line in the sand, hallway or door to my office and not let my “home” life intrude.
I wish I’d been better at structuring my time between work and non-work time and giving myself a break, figuratively. I now have to choose between time with family, friends and dedicate time to my job. It also became harder to view my writing as a job when I could wear yoga pants, go without makeup and walk twenty feet from the coffee pot to my office chair. Lines blurred, doors remained opened and children didn’t see me as anything other than a food source and stain-getter-outer.
A mere two months into 2016 push came to shove and my well thought out work goals became unattainable. I’d begun to put my writing second and sometimes third in line on a daily basis thinking that I could somehow make that lost time up. But what happened in the end was that I had to scramble to finish my second book to meet my deadline. I’d once had ample time to work on it had I not treated it like a hobby instead of my career and hopefully one day, a college tuition revenue stream.
Once the big, bright light bulb went off, I set myself some new goals and scheduled sanity breaks and a concrete writing schedule to follow. Meaning my home office is where I work. From ten am until I pick up the kids in the afternoon, and if I had to step away from it, I would still need to meet my daily word count after the kids were in bed. And I need to do all the other life stuff, outside of work hours. Just like I did when I had an office across town to go to. So far it’s worked; for one week (last week). This week I’m on a business trip. And next week? My planner is all set with clear goals for each day. Balance scheduled—work and non-work hours.
How have YOU been doing with your 2016 goals? Good, not so good, or I never set goals because they drive me crazy?
Thank you for reading!
Maverick Jansen and Kelsey Sullivan fall into a complicated game of PR strategy by day and searing passion by night where they both find a new meaning to fast and hard.
He needs someone like her …
Rand ‘Maverick’ Jansen has what it takes to be the star pitcher of the Idaho Outlaws—talent, talent and more talent. Trouble is, since his younger brother’s death in a car wreck, a mysterious ‘injury’ to Mav’s throwing arm has him sidelined. And trying to find solace in a series of all-too public drunken parties isn’t aiding his cause with the league, or the team’s owner. If Mav doesn’t accept help to work out his grief and repair his reputation, he may end up in the dugout for good. He just didn’t expect that help to come from a gorgeous little spitfire in sexy stiletto heels.
She needs to stay far away from guys like him …
Kelsey Sullivan is a publicist, and a good one. She’s not a big fan of bad boy baseball players. But when the owner of the Outlaws, a close friend, asks her to take his star pitcher from media strike out to home run, she has to say yes. But she’d rather eat her favorite Chanel purse. Mav Jansen is everything she’s spent her adult life staying far, far away from—a sports celebrity who seems to consider the world his personal playground. She just didn’t expect him to be quite so gorgeous and irresistible.
When life throws them a curve ball, is it too late to learn that love can save them both?
Saving Maverick is available at these retailers:
Debra Elise lives with her husband and their two sons in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She loves to read, nap, write, and watches entirely too much T.V. (Blacklist and Mr. Robot are two of her current obsessions). She also enjoys hanging out with other author-type individuals and teasing her three ‘boys’ into displaying their killer smiles. Most days find her carpooling, avoiding laundry and daydreaming about her characters and how to make them come alive for her readers.