Thursday, 15 May 2014

Rise Like A Phoenix - The Triumph Of Conchita Wurst

OK, so Eurovision is camp, over the top, brash, glitzy, ditzy...insert your personal choice(s) of noun or adjective. But occasionally, just occasionally, it gets something spectacularly right and, for one snapshot of a second, becomes relevant.

When a 25 year old guy from the small Styrian village of Bad Mitterndorf in the south of Austria puts on a fabulous dress and some amazing eyelashes, he ceases to be Tom Neuwirth and transforms into Conchita Wurst. On Saturday night, in front of an esitmated 170 million TV viewers worldwide and a live audience of around 10,000 in Copenhagen, Austria's controversial entry took to the stage and took the world by storm. Her song - Rise Like a Phoenix - couldn't have been more perfect for her. An anthem to the struggle she herself has had to fight against bigotry, prejudice and homophobia.

Her road to fame would have tested the toughest of rhinoceros hides. Growing up for Tom was hard, even with his unstintingly supportive mother, Helga, fighting his corner. With a population of just over 3,000, it was never going to be easy for an 18 year old boy to come out as gay in the traditional ski resort of Bad Mitterndorf. He said, "you need a tough hide to get through it all." With grit and determination, he has found success and now, he is welcomed and accepted there.

Tom Neuwirth

Following a successful stint in boy band 'Jetzt Anders', Tom created Conchita, complete with fabulous hair, lashes, dresses and beard, in 2011. Then her star began to rise. But her nomination for Eurovision sent some ultra conservative elements in her home country spinning. A  Facebook hate page was set up and, within four days, 31000 people had signed up. 

Internationally, the Armenian entrant vented his spleen at her sexuality (he later apologised) and a Russian MP I will not even name here, called for the broadcast to be dropped from the Russian TV schedule if she got through to the finals. She did. It wasn't. And plenty of Russian viewers picked up the telephone and voted for her, making her their third favourite of the contest. Only when their jury contributed their votes did the resulting score drop down to a paltry five points. Now homophobic elements in Russia are campaigning for Russia to quit Eurovision altogether and set up its own 'straight' alternative contest.
When her victory was proclaimed, Conchita was visibly overcome. As she accepted the trophy, she dedicated her winning performance to, "everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are. We are unity. And we are unstoppable."

 When Tom Neuwirth created his alter ego, Conchita, he chose her surname with care. 'Wurst' is the German word for sausage - but it's also used in the context of,  'it's all the same'.  By way of explanation, Tom said, "It's all the same how you look or where you come from, because the only thing that counts is the person you are." Tom describes Conchita as "simply an artistic creation" and says that when he is dressed as her, he behaves, thinks, speaks and acts as a woman. When back in his Tom persona, he describes himself as "a man, and a very lazy one at that." He credits his mother with providing the inspiration and encouragement to go for Eurovision nomination. As a tribute to her, he has a large tattoo of her on his back.

On Saturday, voters all over Europe looked at Conchita Wurst, heard her sing and voted her the worthy winner. All power to her.

Here's that winning performance:

Monday, 5 May 2014

Ellie Eden - Letting Evil In, And Tackling The Tough Question...

Today, I'm delighted to welcome romantic suspense writer, Ellie Eden, whose latest book - Letting Evil In - has just been published. More of that later, but for now, Ellie's getting to grips with a frequently asked question...

Tackling The Romantic Suspense Readers' Eternal Question - Where Did They Find That Hot Guy On The Cover? 

Okay? Do I really need to add anything more? My new book, Letting Evil In, has a hero who looks just like Luca. Ha!

I discovered Luca while on a very grueling assignment. I was asked to describe the hero of my romantic suspense novel to the Etopia Press cover designer. Well, I know how my hero looks -- he's hot -- but their idea of a hot guy could be totally different. Tony, the hero of Letting Evil In, is a hot federal agent in Rio. He's Italian-Brazilian. So I searched images of hot Italian actors. I must say, it was probably the most fun research I've ever done :) And I found Luca. It was love at first sight. 

And here he is again. They probably couldn't exactly feature that one on the cover...

The Etopia Press cover designers found their own hot guy anyway. He looks like Azul, one of the book's bad guys. Azul was one tough guy, but see his sweet mouth. What do you think? I've had a lot of readers' questions on the lines of -- where did the publisher find that hot guy? It's a publisher's secret, but if I find him I'll let you know. 

Now, you've seen the eye candy, here's what to expect from Letting Evil In

When Michael goes on a photographic assignment to Brazil and fails to return, Kristi and her son fly to Rio de Janeiro, desperate to find him. Instead she finds that during the cold New Jersey winter, her husband has spent his time in steamy chat rooms with Nara, a young woman desperate for attention and involved in the Rio drug world.

As she searches for Michael in exotic but crime-ridden Rio, Kristy finds herself way out of her league. She turns to Italian-Brazilian Federal Agent Tony Lamazzo for help. As the harsh truth of her marriage brings a dose of reality to her life, she finds the temptation of getting closer to the strong, capable—and totally hot—Tony difficult to resist. She’s in Brazil on the Day of Dead, a day when Brazilians go wild. Why shouldn’t she go wild with Tony, for just one night, before returning home to start the new life alone she’ll have to learn to make for herself?

But when her son vanishes too, Kristi doesn’t know where to turn. Michael’s affair with drug-dealing Nara has exposed them all to the murderous wrath of a ruthless drug lord, and while she longs to trust Tony, she can’t trust his powerful and politically corrupt family. But in the dangerous slums and rainforests of Brazil, the danger mounts for both Kristi and her son, and a cold-blooded enemy has an agenda of his own. If she trusts Tony, she might save her son. Or it might just get them all killed…

About the Author

Ellie Eden thinks the next best thing to hot romance is reading or writing about it. And she finds it even better to be somewhat scared or totally petrified at the same time. That's why she loves Romantic Suspense. She favors strong, protective alpha heroes, but finds murderous but good-looking bad guys fun too, at least on paper. She loves to escape her family into an exotic, preferably crime-ridden, location.

In another life, Ellie Eden is the best-selling author of two bestselling travel books and a number of award-winning biographies about mostly alpha heroes. She lives beside the sea with her husband, two daughters and son. 

You can buy Letting Evil In here: