Down and Out in Paradise

Down and Out in Paradise

Luke Williams

Echo Publishing 2019

ISBN:978-1-76068-584-3


Luke Williams’ Down and Out in Paradise is an intriguing memoir exploring the years he spent in Southeast Asia as a recovering and relapsing drug addict and an alternately employed and unemployed journalist. Living cheap, and sometimes even on nothing, Luke explores some of the debatably unsavoury hang-outs in Southeast Asia.

The idea of dropping everything and getting on a flight somewhere else is something that many people find incredibly attractive, more so when life isn’t quite going your way. When Luke Williams hopped on the plane to Kuala Lumpur, he was coming down off crystal meth. It was the cheapest flight he could book. He made his way to Thailand, the land of the free, where he chased drugs, stories, and sex. In Bangkok he became a thief, in Pattaya he became a prostitute, and somewhere along the way he discovered Buddhism. The memoir covers Williams’s travels throughout Southeast Asia and his penchant for fully embracing his journey.

Williams is very open about his sexuality and his time in Pattaya spent frequenting Boyztown and its bars and clubs. He met a number of Westerners there and for a short time, William’s worked as a prostitute himself. Much of the book fluctuates between him being broke in Southeast Asia and the occasional splendour of an expensive hotel and a bender.

During his time in Indonesia, Williams develops a fascination with his grandfather’s suicide.  Williams spent a lot of time considering the prevalence of mental illness in his family. His father’s late onset schizophrenia, his uncle’s comatose state, and his cousin’s suicide. Concerned that this could be the reason for his various issues, Williams is determined to use his skills as a journalist to uncover the truth.

At times within the memoir, Williams is critical of the influence of Westerner tourism throughout Southeast Asia, even as he contemplates that many the local people rely on tourism just to get by. Williams writes about the variety of people on his travels who coloured his world-view; reaffirming his privilege as a white Australian male and putting his problems in perspective compared to people working on the street for twelve or more hours a day just to afford food for their families. Together with perspective, Williams found spirituality as he explored various religions by trying them on for size.

There are sections of the memoir where it is clear that Williams was relieved to be clean and other sections where he embraced the highs of his addiction. Having struggled with addiction his whole life, Williams knew he needed help but had issues admitting it.  While Williams had a number of boyfriends and sexual partners throughout his travels, few of them appeared to help Luke with his recovery from addiction or his trouble with jealousy. However, there is one man who inspired Luke to do better, to keep living, and to eventually return to Australia to get help.

There is so much to unpack in this book and Luke Williams, as the author, presents himself as a highly complex character who might not be mistaken for a good person but also shouldn’t be dismissed for a bad one. He is complicated and real, struggling and adapting to his situation as he goes; sometimes driven by his addiction, his mental health, or by altruistic desire. I would highly recommend this book as it is downright fascinating to read as Williams details the highs and lows of his time in Southeast Asia as a journalist, an addict, and a human being.

4/5 stars


Words and photography by Kayla Gaskell

 

In Conversation: Matt J. Pike

When Adelaide indie author Matt J. Pike started his writing career, the publishing landscape was nothing like it is now. Indie publishing was still new and risky while traditional publishing was still more appealing, being less risky. The multi-award-winning author attempted to make his start with traditional publishing, but after many rejections for Kings of the World and having a major publisher drop Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor, he turned to indie publishing – he hasn’t looked back since.

Of his books and series, Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor has been by far his most popular. Told in a first-person perspective point, Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor follows Jack Baldwin, a teenager living in Adelaide who survives a meteor colliding with the Earth. The series has been a success in both ebook and print and has won three bronze medals in teenage and young adult categories on Amazon in the UK and US. Kings of the World (Starship Dorsano Chronicles) and Scared to Beath (Zombie RiZing), the first in their series, have won the Global Ebook Awards in Teen and Juvenile Literature in 2013 and 2015.

ExhibitionPic-SydSupa18.jpg

Pike’s various sci-fi worlds aren’t just created for pleasure, he’s hoping to find a cure for his daughter. Pike’s youngest daughter has Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder which can hinder someone’s ability to do everyday tasks, such as walking and talking. It’s a childhood disorder, affecting more girls than boys (about 1 in 9000). All earnings from his books are donated to helping to find a cure. For those who are interested in finding out more about Rett Syndrome, visit his page here or AussieRett here.

Writing and publishing indie fiction, according to Pike, is both fun and challenging, with creative and marketing control being one of these. “I think having creative control, as well as marketing control is a pretty powerful combination,” says Matt, “as is having the worldwide rights to my work. Sure, it means a lot more things to do (like, lots), but I like all those challenges.  You have to be dedicated, but it’s rewarding.”

As for the future, Matt has plenty of stories coming up for avid readers and fans. He will be releasing the final entry in his Apocalypse series, entries 7-9 in the Zombie RiZing series. A “very inappropriately funny sci-fi action novel” he is co-authoring with fellow Adelaide indie author Russell Emmerson is also currently in the works. He also plans to start work on a side series to Apocalypse soon.

For those interested in Matt J. Pike and his works, check out the link to his website here. He will be doing the convention circuit at numerous Adelaide events, including AvCon in July and Supanova in November. He will also be at the upcoming Sydney and Brisbane Supanovas.


 

Words by Cameron Lowe

‘Bleeding Hearts’ by Annalise Timms

A pleasant humming sound emitted from within Pots and Pansies, a small flower shop run by Vivian Finley. The store was filled with a wide variety of colour, in the form of tulips, peonies, gerberas, lilies, roses, succulents, carnations and much more. It was a Tuesday afternoon and Vivian had just finished sweeping the floor when the wind-chime on the door jingled merrily. She quickly wiped her soil-covered hands on her apron and brushed her messy brunette hair out of her face as she glanced up at the young man. The first thing she noticed was his warm smile, followed by his kind, shining, green eyes.

‘Can I help you?’ Vivian offered as the man looked around the shop, surveying the displays of bright floral bunches and twisting leaves.

‘Yes, please,’ he nodded. ‘Do you have any bleeding hearts?’

‘Yes, I got them in this morning, actually,’ she replied. ‘I’ve got a few different arrangements if you want to look at size and prices,’ she added, gesturing to one of the tables.

Vivian found bleeding hearts to be very intriguing flowers. They were perceived as a symbol of strong romantic love, and had a very unique appearance, looking nothing like the family of poppies they belonged to. Each stem was lined with dark pink heart-shaped flowers that hung down in a neat row. The small hearts folded up at the bottom, revealing a small white tear-drop tip that made it seem as though the hearts were bleeding.

It didn’t take the man long to decide which bunch he wanted before bringing it to the counter. He had chosen a small arrangement wrapped in baby pink cellophane and brown twine, tied in a small bow.

‘Could I please get a tag too?’ he requested, nodding to the small decorative tags for sale.

‘Sure, what would you like on it?’ she asked, picking up a pen.

‘To the most beautiful person in the world,’ he answered. ‘Love, Elliot.’

‘How sweet,’ Vivian said softly, tying it around one of the stems.

When she handed Elliot his change, he didn’t hesitate to drop the coins into the tin she had on the counter, collecting donations for cancer research.

‘Your family?’ he asked, looking at the framed photo beside the till. The photo was from two years ago, and showed both of her parents kissing her on the cheeks, while her younger brother, Eugene, ruffled her hair.

‘Yeah,’ Vivian replied quietly. ‘That was opening day.’

‘It’s a nice photo.’

After he walked out, Vivian sighed. Whoever received the flowers would be extremely lucky, indeed, and there was no denying the nagging sense of envy that filled her chest. She did not believe in love at first sight – no, that was preposterous – but as she thought of the goofy smile that lit up his face, she couldn’t help but hope that she would see him again.

__

The following Tuesday afternoon, Vivian was trimming the lavender roses, although she was struggling to concentrate properly due to how fast her mind was racing. Despite how quiet the day had been, she had been feeling anxious ever since the fight she had that morning with Eugene, now twenty years old.

Their parents’ recent divorce had put a significant strain on their relationship, causing fights to erupt between them over the smallest issues. That morning, Eugene snapped at her for using the last of the milk, and it had escalated to a shouting match, in which they ended up blaming each other for the divorce. Of course, none of it was true, but Vivian had not had time to make up with Eugene before she had to rush to work.

The argument had just been playing over in her mind all day, so when the wind chime suddenly clanged to life as Elliot entered the shop, she jumped, causing her fingers to slip, and instead of cutting the stem, she accidentally sliced her finger. Vivian swore loudly, quickly trying to find something to clean her finger with.

‘I am so sorry! Are you okay?’

‘N-no, it’s fine, my fault for being so clumsy,’ she stammered.

‘Here,’ Elliot offered her a handkerchief.

What millennial carries a hanky? Vivian thought to herself, biting back a grin when she saw a tiny rose stitched in the corner.

Elliot held Vivian’s hand closer to him so he could get a better look at her injury, causing her breath to hitch in her throat slightly as his warm touch sent tingles down her arm.

‘It looks pretty bad…’ he murmured. ‘I think you might need stitches.’

‘I’d rather a Band-Aid,’ Vivian laughed nervously.

‘I’d rather you made sure your finger is properly treated.’

‘Well… I’d rather you let me make poor choices to avoid my fears.’

‘Okay, fine,’ he gave in with an eye roll. ‘But, I’ll be back next week, so if it’s infected, I’ll have to chop it.’

‘My hero,’ Vivian snorted. ‘Thank you… do you want this back?’ she asked tentatively, holding out the bloody handkerchief.

‘You keep it,’ he laughed. ‘I’ll see you next week, Vivian.’

As he walked out again, she wondered how he knew her name, but quickly smacked herself as she remembered she was wearing a name badge. After realising she’d had a successful conversation with Elliot without making a total fool out of herself, Vivian did a happy jig, however, it was short lived when he burst back in, catching her off guard.

‘I was just, er, running on the spot – gotta keep fit, right?’ she chuckled nervously.

‘I forgot the flowers,’ Elliot laughed awkwardly.

‘Bleeding hearts?’ they asked in unison.

The two broke into bashful smiles as Vivian nodded.

‘Just over there.’

When Elliot returned to the counter with a small bunch in hand, he asked for another tag, with the same thing written on it as last time: ‘To the most beautiful person in the world, Love Elliot.’

Vivian tried very hard to ignore the sinking feeling in her chest as he walked out once more, knowing that that person was not her.

___

For many weeks, Elliot continued to visit her shop every Tuesday afternoon, each time buying the same flowers with the same tag. With each purchase, the two would get to know each other that little bit more and Vivian knew that, what once was a teensy little crush, was now a steady, throbbing ache in her heart, slowly swallowing her whole.

‘Who are they for?’ she managed to ask as Elliot placed another bunch bleeding hearts on the counter, many Tuesdays later.

Contrary to what Vivian expected, Elliot’s face fell, his green eyes immediately losing their shine.

‘My gran,’ he answered grimly.

‘Y-your gran?’ Vivian repeated in shock.

‘She’s in hospital… brain cancer,’ he sighed.

‘I- I’m so sorry,’ she breathed.

‘It’s not your fault,’ Elliot shrugged. ‘It’s looking a lot better though, they think the treatment is finally working.’

‘That’s great!’

‘Yeah… I told her about you, too… she wants to meet you, actually.’

In that moment, Vivian was struggling to breathe slightly, too overcome by a range of emotions to notice the pink blush that had coloured his cheeks.

‘I better hurry though,’ he added, glancing at his watch. ‘I’ll see you next week!’

__

But Elliot did not return next week, or the week after that, and the extra bleeding hearts Vivian had ordered were left to wilt and die when no one bought them. She worried what had happened to him, until he came in a week later, although he was hardly recognisable. His hair was a mess, he had large bags under his eyes and there was no smile on his face. Vivian didn’t even know what to say to him, but he spoke first, his voice hoarse.

‘I need more bleeding hearts… do you do funeral arrangements?’


IMG_4140Words by Annalise Timms

Annalise is a young writer and poet from Adelaide. She is in year 11 at high school. She enjoys reading, writing, being a social hermit and staying home with her pets. Last year, her work was published for the first time in the SAETA Spring Poetry Festival Anthology.

Relocation

The stuttering crawl of traffic arrests, and a terminal red line on the GPS tells Gerald he should settle in. He sits straight-backed in a collared shirt, top button still buttoned, in the driver’s seat of his car, in a line of stationary cars, a still frame excised from a zoetrope.

On the passenger side, an emergency stopping lane hints at escape. It runs clear, but only as far as the next overpass. There, a massive pylon erupts from the ground like a memorial. For any who made the attempt, it would mark an end.

Gerald’s spent a lot of time on this freeway, rolling slow in the dusk, but he’s never been held up exactly here, at the top of this low rise. He’s noticed the graveyard, of course, beyond the concrete wall that serves to divide the locals (dead) and those just passing through (ostensibly living). The other side has it pretty good, with their freshly mown grass. Their gated community. Until now Gerald had never noticed the graffiti scrawled against the barrier: If you slept here you’d be home by now.

The vehicle in front of him inches forward in a restless zombie shuffle. Ahead and to the right, a transit van’s indicator light blinks like a tic. Fumes from all these idling motors start to cloy, so Gerald recirculates the air in his cabin. There: he is sealed off from the others, those commuter vessels, also static. Steel cannisters for single occupants. When the traffic flows again, they will diffuse into the suburbs. For each car a garage; for each garage a dwelling. Is that what home is? That’s encapsulation, thinks Gerald, but it’s too transient. Home should be a place to stay and sleep sound. At this rate when he reaches his destination it will be time to leave again.

More than anything else, Gerald wants a shorter commute. So he pulls into the emergency lane. He is moving, picking up speed, tearing past the other cars. He can see his new address.


Words by Andrew Roff

Andrew Roff’s first novel-length manuscript was shortlisted for the Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award at the 2016 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. His short fiction has appeared in Antithesis Journal and Antipodean SF, and has been adapted for community radio. Andrew’s interests in crime, politics and economics inform his writing. He tweets at @roffwrites and you can read more of his work at roffwrites.com.

Best of the Best: Modern Australian Short Stories

This powerful book encompassing 25 short stories written by the crème de la crème of Australian literary talent is worth a visit. The editor, Barry Oakley, was the literary editor of the Australian Newspaper between 1988 and 1997. Barry Oakley is a prolific Australian playwright, novelist and short story writer, and by-the-by was encouraged by the publishers to include his own futuristic dystopian peace at the tail end of this impressive body of writing.

 

Mr Oakley handpicked these 25 stories from a list of over 167 short stories he edited for Five Mile Press volumes. Most of these stories were written in the decade leading up to 2009, while his selection was based on the writers’ abilities to ‘replace our world with theirs’. Therefore, he avoids what Patrick White terms the ‘dreary, dun-coloured offspring of journalistic realism’ often encountered in shorter, year-specific collections. The result is a confluence of compelling dramas, magic realisms, and teased-out situations.

 

The Australian short story has long been linked to Australia’s isolated geography. This trend continues: coping with fears, grief and sudden change are certain features of this geography.

 

Mr Oakley has grouped the short stories under themes to assist the reader’s appreciation: Childhoods: a place where innocence is threatened; Fabulations: see myths and magic merge; Impositions: where difficulties are encountered; Letting Go: when strings are cut or should be; On the Margins: out of town; Desperations: when crimes are committed; Resolutions: in one’s family. Threads of racism, violence, multiculturalism, horror, and so forth, are equally stitched.

 

Matthew Condon’s The Sandfly Man is a story about the ghostly spirit of a caravan park that haunts a young boy: ‘If I closed my eyes I could see the Sandfly Man, coming for me through that swirling mist, moving slowly forward, his boots crunching on the dirt laneways.’ David Malouf’s Blacksoil Country examines a terrible chain reaction set off between two cultures: ‘The whole country had a new light over it. I had to look at it in a new way. What I saw in it now was hiding-places.’ Julie Gittus’s Driving the Inland Road shows relationships fraying on a bush-block in paradise: ‘At Gunnedah my headlights shine on a billboard beside a stone church. Have faith. He loves you. But I keep driving south into the night.’

 

Cate Kennedy’s Habit is about an elderly woman who attempts to pass through Customs with cocaine in tow. Carmel Bird’s The Hair and The Teeth tells of the emotional toll carried by a woman whose house was burgled. Tim Winton’s Commission begins when a son goes in search of his father at his mother’s request in the West Australian outback.

 

A majority of the stories’ POVs are written in the first person, some in the third person. Most of the plots tend to follow the traditional linear path, with or without flashbacks, with about a third circling the main issue. One jumbles its timeframes.

 

The themes in these stories should appeal to a wide variety of readers. They satisfy my personal tastes. There are an equal number of male and female characters albeit a slight majority of POVs are male-centric. Each story feels like an emotional canvas: when you least expect it, the porcelain breaks. It never once felt like any two stories covered the same ground. I give this collection 4.5 stars out of 5 stars. Worth reading with tea and chocolates.


Best of the Best: Modern Australian Short Stories

Edited by Barry Oakley

Stories from Tim Winton, David Malouf, Thea Astley, Cate Kennedy, Peter Goldsworthy, Margo Lanagan, and Others

RRP: A$24.95

ISBN 9781742117454 (pbk.)

320 pages

Printed 2009, 1st Edition, Five Mile Press, Victoria


Words by Dane Miller.

Dane Miller is an established writer and poet from South Australia.

NaNoWriMo – A Beginner’s Guide

 

Every November Twitter is taken over by desperate writers mounting an immense personal challenge – the writing of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days – otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Now in its 15th year, this yearly word marathon has developed quite a reputation. Some love the excuse to devote an entire month to writing, children and partners be damned, and the social opportunity of write-ins for otherwise word hermits, and of course, the global writing community coming together to celebrate this shared hobby. Detractors, however, decry the flooding of unedited self-published NaNo Novel uploaded to Amazon in December by enthusiastic people who haven’t heard of the term “revision”, and the detrimental approach to speed writing that values quantity over quality.  But love it or hate it, NaNo is an institution, and one this author would definitely recommend giving a go, if only to see if you can, at least once, if only for the 40% Scrivener coupon.

So, how should you go about undertaking such a challenge? By following my simple rules:

 

1: Register on the NaNoWriMo website

Perhaps the obvious first step but I’ve met a surprising number of people who started NaNo without even realising there was a specific organisation that started it all. It’s free to sign up and participate in NaNoWriMo (at https://nanowrimo.org), although they do take donations and have a pretty snazzy merch store, if you’re into that sort of thing. The site also lets you track your word count and spits out some pretty neat progress graphs and statistics (such as an estimated finishing date, and approximate daily words needed to finish in time). You can also join your region and meet a bunch of people in your area who are also taking part in this event. Which leads me to;

2: Join your local region

Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit. It can be even more fun to do with other people around you, who you can bounce ideas off of or ask for feedback. Your local ML (Municipal Liaison) will plan write-in events throughout the month, as well as some more casual social gatherings, and also offer online support on the official forums and possibly a Facebook group, depending on your region. I’ve made many new writer friends through these events, whom I catch up with during the rest of the year as well. So it’s definitely worth getting involved.

3: Plan

Even if you’re someone who likes to just sit down and write whatever comes to mind, novel writing is a Big Ordeal. Those 50,000 words will feel mountainous, unless you break it down. Planning as much as you can before November will make your month far less stressful, but if over-planning saps your motivation to actually write the thing, try just creating a loose plot outline and character sketches. And even if you do plan in great detail, don’t be afraid of throwing way that plan if you think of something better as you go.

4: Pace yourself

It’s tempting to want to lock yourself away all month and do nothing but write, but this isn’t sustainable nor particularly healthy. Make sure you take breaks from your work to eat and drink properly, see friends and give your hands and brain a rest. If you’re balancing NaNo with full time work and/or managing children, you may have to get really great at fitting in writing where you can. But don’t go so hard that you give yourself RSI. NaNo isn’t worth physically injuring yourself over.

5: Don’t Panic

If you fall behind, miss a few days, or even start after November 1, don’t panic. There’s still time to catch up. You can do this. As mentioned, the website will tell you how many words per day you will need to finish on time. Doubling your daily target a few times can make up for a few days when you were too busy to sit down at your computer. Some people can only write on weekends because of weekday commitments. Whatever your life demands, you can still do it. Just take a deep breath and go.

6: Have Fun

NaNoWriMo is meant to be a fun challenge. If you’re finding yourself exceedingly stressed out, step back and evaluate if it is realistic for you to force yourself to do. If 50,000 is too long, try setting your own goals. The Camp NaNo events, (held in April and July) allow you to specify your own word goal on the website, but you can still aim for whatever you want to aim for in November. This is entirely a personal challenge after all. No one is policing what you do. No one will dob you in for doing it differently. And even if you don’t make it to your goal at the end of the month, that’s still okay. Ultimately any words you wrote are words you didn’t have before you started this challenge, and that’s amazing. The discount code prizes for “winning” are pretty nice but the real prize is the work you wrote during this time.

No matter how you go this month, NaNoWriMo is about building a regular writing habit, and engaging with other writers about this art form you all love so much. So give it a go. Take the excuse to sit down with that novel idea you’ve always wanted to write ‘if you had time’, and see what happens. Lock away your inner editor and just start typing. As a wise person once said, you can’t edit a blank page.

 


Words by Simone Corletto

Simone Corletto is an Adelaide-based YA and Science-Fiction writer. She spends her spare time crocheting lumpy hats, writing about teenage superheroes, and telling people about her science degree. She tweets at @SimCorWrites