Top 10 Olympic Women who would be Awesome Kick-Ass Novel Heroines

There was something wrong with the 2016 Olympic media coverage. It wasn’t just the commercials every 5 minutes or the security and health concerns facing all the athletes in Rio. It was the blatant sexism illustrated best in this video:

The women’s entire female Olympic team and Katie Ledecky deserve all their media attention for their accomplishments but there was more female talent than the hours of media coverage on the women’s beach volleyball team of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross with constant bottom up camera shots of their derrieres. The media was happy to give women attention for all the wrong reasons: Hope Solo’s poor sportsmenship, the doping scandals of Russian athletes highlighted by the feud between Russia’s Yulia Efimova and U.S.A.’s Lilly King or Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s female Prime Minister’s downfall.  But the reality is that women at the 2016 Olympics made Olympic history and shattered glass ceilings. Just on the USA Olympic Team alone, there were 264 men and 294 women. USA women won 27 of the 46 American gold medals. The following 10 women are inspirations to their countries and would make legendary kick-ass romance novel heroines.

10) Majlinda Kelmendi

Gold in Judo

Country: Kosovo

It is a great honor to pursue the dream of bringing home your country’s first gold medal but that doesn’t guarantee food on your table. Majlinda is such a talented athletic that other countries offered her huge financial incentives to compete for them. She turned down these lucrative offers to bring home hope to her war-torn country.  That must have been a tough decision to make, especially for someone who has experienced a life of limited resources. Her bravery and fortitude landed her on my list.

 

9) Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Track and Field:

  • Bronze – Women’s 100m
  • Silver – Women’s 4x100m relay

Country: Jamaica

At Rio, the first Olympian to get the chance to pursue a third straight Gold medal in the 100 meter race was a Jamaican track star named Usain B….Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. What? Based on the media coverage, Usain Bolt was the only athlete of such grand stature but there was a woman who had the chance to accomplish the same dream. Unfortunately she also came to Rio recovering from a toe injury and only walked away with a Bronze and Silver medal. It was the way she handled her non-gold medals that landed her on this list. She was gracious and congratulated her fellow Jamaican track star Elaine Thompson. Shelly-Ann is one of my favorite Track and Field athletes and I will always wonder what kind of reception she would have received if she had also achieved the third goal medal.

 

8) Gwen Jorgensen

Triathlon: Gold Women’s individual

Country: United States

Gwen is on this list because she broke free from a safe comfortable life in a work cubicle to pursue her Olympic dream full-time. At first, she kept her full-time job and only practiced before and after work. It was only when she took the leap of faith and trained full-time that she became an inspiration to all women to have faith in their dreams.

 

7) Caster Semenya

Track & field: Gold Women’s 800m

Country: South Africa

The coverage of this athlete was brutal. They were determined to put an asterisk by her name to dimmer the shine of any medal she received at Olympics. They insisted on calling her a name that has never been proven by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and has never been confirmed by the athlete and her family. Because of her appearance, her clothing choices and her stellar improvements on the track field, people have been cruel to her. But it’s up to the IOC to come up with a fair way to determine gender identity and not to revert back to historically humiliating gender identity verification. It’s unfair to the athletes to be found guilty in the public’s eye. When the warm-up to her race was televised, I had to mute my television screen because the announcers wasted minutes talking about her in a way to imply that when she won, it was because of an unfair advantage. Instead of becoming bitter and resentful, Caster only expressed kindness and gratitude, making her a true Olympian in my eyes.

 

6) Michelle Carter

Track & field: Gold Women’s shot put

Country: United States

On the flip side, there was another athlete who received a lot of media attention for having a physical appearance that went against traditional public opinion. Female Shot Put athletes are not known for appearing to be feminine but Michelle Carter not only wore beautiful make-up during her competition, she has her own cosmetic company. None of the criticism stopped her from taking home the Gold Medal with her father, Michael Carter (1984 Silver Medal Olympian in Shot Put), in the stands. It was a beautiful moment for the Carter family and the United States.

 

5) Oksana Chusovitina

Gymnastics

Country: Uzbekistan

Most people have the mental picture of female gymnastics as being extremely young and petite with high pitched voices. Oksana breaks that mold by her accomplishment of completing at her 7th Olympics at the age of 41. She even has a pole vault routine named after her. If she could have stuck her current pole vault landing at the 2016 Olympics, she could have been serious competition for Simone Biles. Very few other athletes had the chance to be a legitimate threat against the Rio golden girl. They might even go toe-to-toe again in 4 years. Oksana proves that you can still go after your dreams at any age.

 

 

4) Tie: Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) and Abbey D’Agostino (United States)

Track and Field: Women’s 5000m

These women collided during the women’s 5000m qualifying race. Abbey encouraged and helped Nikki to get back on her feet to compete and Nikki helped Abbey get medical attention after Abbey finished the race. They were both awarded with the prestigious Pierre de Coubertin medal for Spirit of True Sportsmanship. They are awesome women with hearts of gold.

 

3) Allyson Felix

Track & field

  • Gold Women’s 4x100m relay
  • Gold Women’s 4x400m relay
  • Silver Women’s 400m

Country: United States

Allyson is the most decorated US woman in Olympics track and field history with seven total career Olympic medals. Yet her path has not always been golden. She lost out on 1st place during the Women’s 400m because Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller dramatically dove for the finish line to get more of her body across the line first. Then they were almost disqualified in the women’s 4X100 meter relay because Allyson was bumped while trying to pass her baton. She fought for every victory, never giving up and earned her spot in Olympic history.

 

2) Simone Manuel

Swimming

  • Gold Women’s 100m freestyle
  • Gold Women’s 4x100m medley relay
  • Silver Women’s 50m freestyle
  • Silver Women’s 4x100m freestyle relay

Country: United States

Believe it or not, there was another Simone on the USA Olympic Team making history at Rio. Simone Manuel made history by becoming the first African American woman to win an individual swimming medal. But she didn’t stop there; she walked away with 4 medals, cementing her inspirational journey to Rio. I cried tears of joy with her.

 

1) Yusra Mardini

Swimming

Refugee Olympic Athletes

Why did I select a person for the #1 spot who didn’t even medal at the Olympics? Because she accomplished something that no other swimmer has ever been asked to do by swimming for hours in the freezing cold water to save the lives of other boat passengers. Yusra competed at the Olympics as part of the first ever Refugee Team and took this opportunity on a global stage to shine a positive light on refugees. Part of her refugee journey was traveling by a boat that began to sink. This has meant death for so many other refugees in similar situations. However, Yusra and her sister jumped out of the boat and swam for three hours to help everyone reach the shore alive.

Last week I spotlighted 10 male champions at the 2016 Olympics that would make ideal romance novel heroes but today these 10 female champion counterparts deserve a bright spotlight for their Olympic achievements. And right now, athletes all over the world are training for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. I can’t wait to meet you all!

Top 10 Olympic Men who should be in Romance Novels

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

Canoe Sprint

  • Silver Men’s canoe single 1000m
  • Silver Men’s canoe double 1000m
  • Bronze Men’s canoe single 200m

Country: Brazil

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.

brazil canoe

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

Tennis

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

Country: Kenya

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

Swimming

  • 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.

Kickass Heroines Deserve a Cover Feature

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:

Amazon: http://hyperurl.co/0fx3ut
B&N: http://hyperurl.co/2ojqh6

Astrid

Strong Women: Love or Loathe?

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: Maangela2rgaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany)angela, and Hillary Clinton.

angela3Blame 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:

THE ANTI-HEROINE.

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). ArtemisiaGentileschi-Judith-Beheading-Holofernes-I-1612-13

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.

In honor of Mother’s Day

mutant-rose

Photo Credit: My neighbor, Deb H., who gave a loving home to my extra rose bush only to be rewarded by this mutant bloom

 

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.

N.K. Jemisin

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.

Alisha Rai

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!)

Reductress

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!

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