Sunday, November 30, 2014

Movie reviews by novelist Dwight Okita: FOXCATCHER and THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

I saw the movie FOXCATCHER tonight. It was filled with good performances and was a tense movie to watch.  A movie about wrestlers and conflicts of interest.  Though not the feel good movie for the holidays, to be sure, I was surprised how many were in the audience. Steve Carrell channeled something in his performance. There was a stillness at the center of his character that was chilling. As if he were encased in glass and the words he spoke and the words he heard took light years to reach him. What the movie lacks in humor, it makes up for in tension. I'd give it a B.

I also previously saw THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING.  Isn't the movie poster above stunning? I enjoyed this film. At the center, it was a love story, and also a story of transcending one's disabilities/ limitations. The movie was charming and touching and fueled by the scientific quest for knowledge and personal quest for romance. By the way, both movies in this post are based on real people who are still alive. I wonder what that must feel like to see yourself, your most personal moments of life, re-enacted on the big screen for the world to see. I'd give this film an A.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


HERE ARE SOME NOTES FROM ONE CHILDHOOD MEMORY.  IF YOU ALSO WOULD LIKE TO SHARE YOURS, PLEASE DO.  And considering I have written two soft, science fiction novels -- this would be a stretch for me to ground a book in the all-too-real world. I think I will try to develop the "memoir" and sci fi book at the same time.

Some notes  by Dwight Okita

I remember when I was little my father carrying me to bed. After I had fallen asleep in front of the TV. After it was late, too late for a boy like me to be awake. He carried me gently in his arms, climbing up the stairs toward my room, carefully laying me down in my small bed so as not to wake me, pulling the covers over me, tucking me in. 

I loved that. 

The whole ceremony of it. It was a ceremony that whispered to me: "This is my father and he will always take care of me. I am loved and I am safe. And also that I should go to sleep and not wake up in the middle of the night and start exploring the whole darned house." 

What my father did not yet know was that I was a light sleeper, so I was awake for whole ceremony. I didn't want to tell my father I was awake and prevent him from carrying out his fatherly duties. 

And I especially I didn’t want to miss the magical feeling of flying through the house. 

Flying up the stairs like Casper the Friendly Ghost, and finally landing in bed. I never told him, not once, that I was awake. 

And then one day, my father stopped carrying me. Was I too heavy, too old, too something? How did he calculate the night that he would choose instead to walk me to bed...instead of carrying me there? I missed My Days of Flying, though I never told him, not even after I became a young man. 

I never told him what he had given me, and what he had taken away.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Browse 2 Speculative Novels on One Page!

Read the first 50 pages of Dwight Okita's speculative novels THE HOPE STORE and THE PROSPECT OF MY ARRIVAL -- side by side -- for the first time thanks to Scribd. Get a taste of this unique, quirky voice. Click on the Enlarge button on the bottom right of the page for easy viewing. "When the first store in the world which sells hope over the counter opens its doors, the believers appear but so do the haters and doubters."

Take a peek at Okita's Debut Novel which was a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. The novel continues to attract movie interest from companies like FilmNation, Affirmative Entertainment and Disney. "A human embryo is allowed to preview the world before deciding whether to be born. He is given a young man's body and three short weeks to experience all the world has to offer."
. .

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Nothing enriches my life more than a good friend.

Tonight I had a last dinner with my new friend L. In a matter of months, we've become very close friends to each other. In a few days, she'll move back to a small town in Illinois. But she hopes to return to Chicago as soon as she lands a job. At Taste of Heaven over dinner, we talked about what we liked about each other. I told her I felt very connected to her even though we've only known each other a few months. That I would miss her a lot. I joked: "I probably like you more than you like me." 

She later texted me this great note: "Oh, I forgot to tell you this, but another reason I like you, is that you are very inspiring. Every time I hang out with you i go home happy and stay that way for a couple of days." 

And this is why friends are one of the most important things to me. Because when you can't find the big love, when your family is going away -- friends are your family and the object of your affection. At least that is the case with me!

Friday, March 28, 2014

THE HOPE STORE makes the first cut of the 2014 Amazon novel contest

I'm pleased to announce my second novel is among the 2,000 novels moving forward out of 10,000 novels submitted worldwide to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards contest.  

My advancement was based on a 300 word pitch I wrote for The Hope Store. Visit to follow all the highs and lows of this exciting contest.  The next cut will be April 14th and based on our 20 page excerpts. 

My excerpt has alternating narrators -- store inventor Luke Nagano and hope-challenged customer Jada Upshaw. For the longest time I was sure that Jada's voice would open the novel as readers tended to take a shine to her. But ultimately Luke's voice comes first because I wanted to bring in the science aspect of the book right away. This would orient the reader right upfront to the speculative world of the book where unusual things can happen. We get a glimpse of wide-eyed Luke wandering in LiveWell Laboratories where various clinical trials are in progress.

"I first strolled into the headquarters of the legendary LiveWell Laboratories five years ago as a guinea pig. I'm not ashamed to say that. I suffered from puzzling bouts of hopelessness. It's like most days I'm walking along this beautiful bridge, and then one day the bridge is gone, and I find myself clutching at air."

The second chapter opens with the voice of Jada, the accidental customer of The Hope Store.

"I started out as a girl without dreams, and grew up to be a woman without a future. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. It's not a story I'm especially proud to tell, but if I'm at a party and someone asks me what my story is, that's what I tell them. It's a conversation-stopper all right."

Monday, December 30, 2013

What novelists can learn from movies about plotting. Is your hero's goal so clear and compelling that your audience knows when it's time to go home?

NOTE:  This is excerpted from a recent Facebook discussion with other FB folk about the holiday movies.  It occurred to me that some of this is worth sharing for movie lovers and emerging novelists.  In this post, my friend Teddi was wondering if she should skip the new movie "Inside Llewyn Davis" based on lukewarm responses from her peers.


I'd say Llewyn Davis is worth seeing. The Coen Bros get so many things right in the film: the 60s period styling, the folk music era, the music. The central character is played by a handsome actor who isn't given a whole lot to do, so there's not a lot to root for. I was rooting more for the lost cat than him. Justin Timberlake's character had more juice than the protagonist.  Even the cameos of the mixed race couples hinted at stories with more hook than Llewyn's.

But then my expectations are very high with Coen Bros films. They set a high bar.
So many of the artsy and anticipated holiday films seemed to have plots that were too meandering for my tastes: HER, LLEWYN DAVIS, even AMERICAN HUSTLE to a degree. That's why I was especially satisfied with strongly plotted films like WOLF OF WALL STREET, FROZEN, WALTER MITTY, NEBRASKA and GRAVITY. 

I always feel as a writer I learn about fiction from movies. In the strong plots, the goals were clear and specific and relatable, unlike the others. In Frozen, the cursed sister wanted to turn her kingdom from winter back to spring. In Mitty, the hero wanted to find the missing mag cover photo. We learn this in the first few minutes and that goal kept things moving forward to a satisfying climax. 

But in Llewyn Davis, what did the hero want?  To have a hit record?  To leave music altogether? To get back with his ex? To get on prozac?  It wasn't clear to me.  What did Joachin Phoenix want in HER? To live happily ever after with his virtual girlfriend? To get approval of the relationship from her peers?  To conceive a cyber child? To become a monk?  It wasn't clear to me so I never knew when it was time to go home, never knew when the credits should roll. The movie just ended.

In Nebraska, the old man wanted to claim his million dollar sweepstakes winning. Exactly that.  In Gravity, Sandra Bullock wanted to make it back to earth. Period. The end.  These goals are clear and meaningful. Once they are achieved or not achieved -- we know the movie is over!  We know it's time to go home! I love that. 

Now I need to go back and clarify my hero's goal in my new novel!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Slumber Party for Grown-ups

Last night had my first official SLUMBER PARTY FOR GROWN-UPS. 10/19/13. There were three of us friends together. We started with dinner at the restaurant downstairs. One of my pals and I did get into a nasty disagreement during the meal, and words were exchanged. But after we devoured some gelato up at my place, all was forgiven. I did think for a moment, the slumber party was going to self-destruct but it didn't. I chanted for a peaceful resolution and got one.

Then we watched "The Social Network" film and some of Saturday Night Live. L. brought 3 flavors of gelato -- chocolate mint, vanilla bean and something else. Mango? Yum. G. brought soda and snacks. I thought about playing a game, but I couldn't find any games at my place. Do I have any? I used to have playing cards. Note to self: next time, plan the games better. As G. and L. were getting sleepy, we took turns reading bed time stories to each other. That was fun. I tucked everyone in for the night.  G. on the futon, L. in the bed. Myself on the floor. 

I left the light on in the bathroom with the door ajar as a nightlight. L. marveled at the view of Chicago from the 14th floor through my windows. Through the night we all slept and snored, though I did stay up and play on facebook. It was nice to finally lie down, to the gentle and not so gentle snoring of my friends.

What I experienced was a kind of family feeling. A deeper level than mere cocooning. The comfort that only comes from spending several hours with a group where the facades come down. This is just the first of many sleepovers. Waking up the next day, there was the fun morning conversation as the sun came through the windows. L. and I talked about what our bucket lists were. She wanted to get married some day. That was news to me. I wanted one of my novels made into a movie. That was not news to anyone. Finally when G. awoke, there was some leftover gelato. G. had gotten chocolate chip pancakes to go after dinner so we had them for breakfast with coffee. 

I'm aware each slumber party for grownups will be different based on who attends. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

DWIGHT'S STRATEGIC LOVE LIFE PLAN (aka "The Magical Saturday Overnite Guest Program")

My new strategic plan for my love life. It's so simple I don't know why I didn't think of it before! My plan is to have an overnight guest every Saturday night from now on. It doesn't have to be the same guest each Saturday, but it can be. It can lead to something more lasting, or it can be just be friendship and frivolity. Let's call it a "micro slumber party." We can order food in and watch CNN and Saturday Night Live. So that's my plan. I'll let you know how it works out.
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Friday, September 13, 2013

Why do we post on Facebook? What is cool and what is not cool FB manners?

Hello my quiet blog followers.  I have a juicy topic for your consideration.  I love Facebook more than Twitter.  Sometimes what I write on FB is a cross between a diary entry to myself and and letter to the world.  But sometimes I'll bring up a controversial topic that I feel passionately about.  I do so with trepidation knowing that it can provoke.  Topics like:  Gun control.  Racial discrimination.  Gay rights.  Trayvon Martin.  Psychopharmacology.  Etc.

I recently posted about a new study that suggests that the more gun owners in the world, the more crime that occurs.  Some agreed with the study; some responded with hostility saying that study was biased and gun bashing. They challenged me, Dwight, as obviously being anti-gun.

So I had to ask myself, when I post on FB, is it just to preach to the choir?  There's value in that too. Or is it to persuade and change minds?  That's hard to do in an online post.  I do know that when I post, I don't intend to necessarily have a debate.  I prefer to debate privately with others as needed.  Otherwise I feel bullied and I won't stand for that.  I responded to one friend recently with the following PRIVATE MESSAGE:

Janet, please help me with this.  I don't go over to other people's facebook pages to argue with their views, even though I may disagree with them.  If you don't care for my views, why don't you ignore me or unfriend me?  I just don't see what it accomplishes.  OR if your TRULY want a dialog with me, why not PRIVATE MESSAGE ME? 

So what are your thoughts?  How do you handle people who come to your personal FB page and call you out, challenge your beliefs, politics, opinions?  And do you bring up topics to preach to the choir, change the world, open a heart or two?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

10 Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing

Well, Sofia Samatar was good enough to send me a batch of questions to answer in regard to my new WIP (work in progress).  I was too busy working on the WIP to respond, but it's now a year later and I'm ready for my close-up!  And the WIP is done, so that's groovy.  Here goes.

I'm going to answer the questions for THE HOPE STORE. The cover above is just a prototype for now.

1. What is the title of your book?
The Hope Store.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
My first novel The Prospect of My Arrival was trippy and speculative and poetic.  I called it soft sci-fi or literary fiction.  I wanted my follow up book to be in a similar spirit. By the way, the 2013 version of Prospect contains the opening three chapters of The Hope Store as a bonus!  You can order it now.

The genesis for the book?  I remember hearing a politician on the radio misspeak.  He said, "He have to install hope in young people"  I know he meant to say "instill" but his version was funnier and spookier.  That was kind of the germ of the idea. In the book, the two men who create the store have a tag line:  "We don't just instill hope.  We install it." There is humor, pathos and a bit of horror in the book.

3. What genre does your book fall under?
Soft sci-fi or literary fiction. Trippy and speculative.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I love movies so I must take a stab at answering this question.
Jada Upshaw could maybe be played by Viola Davis.
Luke Nagano?  I'm not sure.  Though I could see Andrew Garfield who was so good in Never Let Me Go & The Social Network.
Kazu Mori could maybe be played by Ken Watanabe who was in "Inception" and "The Last Samurai."

5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?
When Luke and Kazu open the first store in the world claiming to sell hope over the counter, hopeless Jada Upshaw decides to offer herself as a guinea pig to reveal the Hope Store as the scam it must be.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
We shall see.  Currently the book is under consideration by Hydra/Random House, their new sci-fi ebook imprint.  Right now I'm not working with an agent, though I have a manager in LA who tries to develop film projects for me. I'm happy to self-publish again if I can't find the right publisher. Or maybe I'd work with a small press or some new emerging publishing paradigm.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Two years.

8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?
I'd say The Hope Store has some resonance with The Age of Miracles, Being There, Generosity, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The Hope Store was in some ways inspired by my experience with 25 years of Nichiren Buddhist chanting, as well as my transformative reaction to Prozac. Both of these things helped me overcome social phobia and depression, and embrace a deeper view of the world. I've always been fascinated by breakthoughs that relate to how the brain works, why placebos are often as effective as cures, and the inseparable relationship between mind and body.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
This is the first time I've experimented with having alternating first-person narrators which was a lot of fun. (Prospect was in third-person.) It's a way for the reader to experience the extremely different perspectives of a hopeless person and a hopeful person.  Kazu and Luke are life partners and they are Asian American.  Jada has a long-time boyfriend and they are African American. Here is the opening paragraph of the book.  Jada is narrating:

I started out as a girl without dreams, and grew up to be a woman without a future. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Mind you it's not a story I'm especially proud to tell, but if I'm at a party and someone asks me what my story is, that's what I tell them. It's a conversation stopper all right, but what are you gonna do? People say you can choose your own story, but I think my story chose me.

* Thanks for reading my post.  If anyone wants to respond in kind by writing about their WIP, please do. And let me know where I can read it.  Answering these questions was very helpful and fun!