Elegiac Machinations, an excerpt

Daulton Dickey.


The horror of the city on fire, the roar of the city on fire, the smell of the city in flames, and the sight of faces and demons, of multi-pronged-shaped things growing and vanishing inside the flames, fill my head. Dread floats in and out in waves. Everything will eventually collapse and fall to ashes—it’s nature’s way—and few of twitterheader (2)us will be surprised by the chrysanthemums wilting on the horizons. Imagine it: empty domes bubbling and imploding, people racing and screaming, marionettes and acrobats swinging on veins hanging from clouds. Wings will sprout from each particle and wave launched by the sun. The particles and waves will slam into the earth, crowning the surface with newspaper print.

People walk in reverse interact in reverse race backward from work across town back home into the shower where water is sucked into the showerhead and back into their beds.

This movie plays eternally.

Flesh glimmers. Sounds shimmer. Colors sing and hum, screech and cry. The textures of waves smacking eyes will paint new layers of soil into which blastocysts are planted—and from them children sprout. The children will grow to absorb programming which will integrate them into the machinery of routine. They’ll march through cities, from home to work, spending their free time fighting dreams.

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This is what it’s like:

Thoughts tear through you. Sometimes they crush and hollow you. Sometimes they conquer and torture you. And sometimes they push you to the brink and abandon you. They sometimes abandon you.

That’s the worst part, the inexplicable part: when you’re sitting on the ground at night, gazing at the tapestry overhead, fighting to step outside yourself, to scramble over the barricade of self and to flee to the other side; when you’re connecting the twitterheader (2)stars like dots and trying to focus on the sensations surrounding you, to try to escape the experience of you, you eventually at some point realize the emptiness and the hollowness and the drenched-to-the-marrow sadness devouring you dines on meat devoid of thought.

That’s when the situation seems unbearable—and tragic. When your emptiness and depression gnaws on you without a thought to trigger it, without a series of thoughts to sustain it, and your own sadness fuels a deeper sadness, you know the auguries seem grim. Continue reading

The Adventures of a Failed Writer Who’s Trying to Eliminate the Adjective, part 1: Branding


Daulton Dickey.

But first, a theory on branding:

The Internet, paragon of a revolution, the digital revolution, itself the beginning of a new epoch of human civilization. From online videos to on demand television, to interactive entertainment featuring photorealistic graphics and films sporting mind boggling visual effects, the digital revolution has altered entertainment. With the advent of smartphones and tablets, and innovative social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, with the advent and increasing popularity of ebooks and print on demand services, digital technology has also irrevocably changed the landscape of the written word.

It is now easier to publish a book—as an ebook or a hard copy—than ever before. In a sense, the digital epoch democratized the written word. Literary agents and New York publishing houses are no longer the sole gatekeepers; now, with the help of digital technology, the barbarians, to evoke a cliché, are at the gates, and in many cases have stormed it.

Anyone so inclined can now publish a book, and many do: by some accounts, more than 400,000 books are published annually, many by writers without agents or publishers or the help of what was once considered traditional PR and marketing firms.

But with so many people producing so many books, how does a writer distinguish him- or herself?

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Branding—a concept you cannot escape, and the key to setting yourself apart from dozens, if not hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of writers.

When we hear the word “Branding,” we might imagine Coca Cola or Apple or another corporation whose logos and slogans, images and products permeate our culture. And we wouldn’t be wrong. In a sense, to brand is to imprint a specific company or property or product onto the brains of a consumer.

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The Long, Slow Death of a Dream; or, the perils of branding an idiosyncratic writer


Daulton Dickey.

If you’re marketing yourself online, if you’re working toward branding yourself, then experts warn you to avoid issues too personal or negative. Stay positive, inspirational, or, failing that, remain neutral. Don’t betray pessimism or low self-esteem or negative feelings or despondency.

In other words, don’t whinge.

For writers, branding isn’t concerned solely with their books; instead, branding is concerned with the writer—i.e., it’s creating an easily marketable persona who might inspire potential readers through engaging them while implicitly, or sometimes explicitly, plugging a book, short story, article, blog post, et cetera.

Your content, we’re told, and the tenor of your conversations and online activity should reflect the kind of books you’re peddling. If you write quirky tales, then your content should reflect that. If you write didactic narratives, then your content should daultodickeylogo1reflect that.

But what it you write experimental fiction? What if each novel you write is told in a different voice, written in a different style, employs different structures or literary theories, and are sometimes cynical and pessimistic and depressing?

What if your books aren’t easy to market? What if you can’t compare them to writers currently represented by literary agents and signing deals with corporate publishing houses?

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Another Thinking Animal

by Daulton Dickey.

—So tell me why you’re here. ​

—I’m tired. Not exhausted, but … just, I don’t know, tired. ​Sarah’s wearing that gray face sad people wear, that mask with dead eyes looks like an unpainted statue. ​

—Can you describe it? “Tired” is so … ​

—Not clear? ​

—Mmm Hmm. ​

—I didn’t want no attention, she says. —Some people, I think, will think I did it for attention. But it wasn’t attention I wanted. ​

—What did you want? What did you hope to achieve?

—Shit. What you think? ​

—And that seemed like a solution? ​

—No, she says. —Not a solution. An escape. ​

—But an escape’s not a solution. ​

—Didn’t say I was looking for no solution. Escape sounded fine by me.

The doctor glances at his notes. He spins his pen between his fingers and clicks his tongue. Seems like there’s some place he’d rather be, like maybe drinking martinis on his yacht or whatever it is doctors do when they ain’t talking to suicides.

—It says here you’re on LexiPro and Wellbutrin, he says. —Were you taking them when you attempted …

—Hell yes I was, Sarah says. —They numbed things, but they didn’t stop the thoughts, the bad thoughts flying through my head. They didn’t make me feel full when all I feel is empty all the time. Continue reading