Award News! LOKI RAGNAROK Nominated for 2019 Audie Award

February 4, 2019. New York
LOKI RAGNAROK, written and narrated by Mark Binder has been nominated for a 2019 Audie Award for Original Work! The audiobook was published by Light Publications, and is available on Audible, GooglePlayAudioBooks, Scribd, and many other platforms.

Considered the audiobook Oscars, the Audie Award ceremony is presented by the Audio Publishers Association, and will be held on March 4, in New York City.

They broke into his home. They kidnapped his children. Left his wife bound and gagged on the floor, where she choked and died. He had once helped them, been their friend and blood brother.

A well-told tale of the Norse gods… told not from the point of view of the heroic Thor or Odin, but through the eyes of Loki, the trickster… As Binder says in his introduction, this is not for children. But the stories are well-told, both in their writing — Binder adapted them from the Norse poetic and prose sagas called the Edda — and in their performance. Binder’s voice swoops and soars, now angry, now gleeful and now mocking, as Loki tells these stories of the gods run amok.

—Providence Journal

Originally conceived as a spoken-word performance, LOKI RAGNAROK is a darkly humorous revision of Norse mythology. This is not a child-friendly Marvel Universe story.

The story of Loki echoes the cycles of violence and revenge playing out across our world. Told with a blend of poetry and prose, humor and horror, it offers no solution — but a glimmer, perhaps of understanding and compassion.

Mark Binder is the author of 16 books and audio books for adults, families and children. At Columbia University, he studied mythology with T.E. Gaster and David Damrosch, and storytelling with Spalding Gray. He tours the world as a performance storyteller, sharing traditional and original tales with listeners of all ages.

Saving Providence Public Students

Starfish on beach

This fall, students will be returning to Providence schools that have been branded insufficient. Hand-wringing and blame throwing won’t make a difference to the young people. Regardless of the state of the buildings, on the first day of school, every child must be greeted where they are — emotionally and academically. And then their teachers and parents must lead and challenge them to learn and grow. 

Impossible? Let me tell you a parable:

Two people from Providence were enjoying a late summer walk on the beach, when a large wave swept in, soaking them to their knees.

The older one laughed, but the younger cursed the ruin of a pair of expensive sneakers.

The oldster laughed again, saying, “I told you to take off your shoes.” 

But the youngster wasn’t listening.

Scattered across the sand were thousands upon thousands of starfish.

“That’s beautiful,” the younger said. 

“And sad,” said the older. “Starfish need water to breath, and the tide is going out.

The youngster looked thoughtful, bent down, and picked one up. It was hard and bumpy, and wriggled a little. A few steps brought them closer to the water’s edge, and with a flick of the wrist, the starfish flew, like a five-pointed Frisbee, back into the ocean.

The youngster went back, found another, and flung it too out to sea.

“What are you doing?” said the oldster. “You can’t save them all.”

Everywhere they looked, across the beach were starfish, exposed and gasping in the fresh air.

“Perhaps not. But I can save this one. And this one.”

Two more starfish soared and splashed.

The oldster, moved by the youngster’s actions and words, took out a phone and began calling friends who lived nearby. The youngster paused long enough to post an alert on social media. 

Soon, the beach was full of citizens, collecting starfish and returning them to the ocean.

Working together, it didn’t take long, and except for the people (and the seagulls), the beach was clear.

When the last starfish was rescued, a cheer erupted. Some people left to return to their jobs. Others lingered, walking on the sand or swimming in the water.

The youngster was staring into the waves.

“What are you thinking?” asked the older.

“It wasn’t their fault. What would have happened if we hadn’t noticed? If we hadn’t seen them?”

“But we did. And you decided to save one, and then another. You inspired me, and everyone else. With a little effort by all of us, the world has changed.”

They walked together along the beach, while not far off, below the waves, the starfish thrived.

Thoughts on Books and eBooks and “Fall” by Neal Stephenson

Fall by Neal Stephenson

I just finished reading “Fall, Dodge in Hell” by Neal Stephenson. Or rather I read the first bit and finished by skimming to the end.

Let me start with a review, and then go on about Book vs. eBook…Dodge in Hell / Fall by Neal Stephenson

I’ve liked Stephenson’s work since “Snow Crash”, and was on the Overdrive waiting list for this one for a while. According to the Big River Swamp Company in print the volume clocks in at 892 pages, though on my Kindle it didn’t seem that long.

There is much delightful about the book. It dances around the overlap between cyber and “meat” space. It plays with the stories of the Bible, the Greek Gods and Dickens’ “Bleak House”. And it’s very well written.

Until the last third or so. By this point, most of the major characters have died in the real world and been reincarnated into the poetic, mythic landscape inside an energy-hungry computer network. They retain no memory of human life. The story follows Genesis for a while and then turns into a bit of a long-winded D&D adventure. The final “Quest” at the end? Well, I got the sense that Stephenson came up with the idea, not really knowing where it was going, and then didn’t go back and re-edit to make the early breadcrumbs better.

The problem with the ending is this: all of the main characters are dead. They’re only bits and bytes in a computer. And the author can do whatever he wishes. Stephenson spends pages (which I skimmed) describing the end of the cyber-universe in great detail. Who cares? Not me.

That said, the beginning of the book — say the first 400 or so pages, is well worth reading.

Book vs. eBook

There is no way that I would have read the entire book if I’d purchased it in print. First off, the thing would have killed me if I’d done what I like to do — read in bed until I doze off.

Second, by masking the length, the reader gets to experience the now of the book very profoundly. Only when it started to drag did I begin to pay attention to the % left. (eBook pages don’t correlate directly to printed pages because they vary based on the size of the font.)

Finally, let’s talk about the cost. The paperback costs $24.49. The hardcover is running $19.31, and the eBook is $14.99. Crazy, right? I got it for “free” because it’s in my library’s virtual system, which gives me permission to read for three weeks. I got a notice about a week ago that it had expired, and my first thought was, “Brilliant! Write a really long book that you can’t finish in 3 weeks and have to purchase to find out the ending.”

But I know a trick. I quickly turned off my wifi Router, then set my Kindle to airplane mode. The book will remain on my device, readable, until I come off airplane mode and the Internet tells the device the book’s expired.

So. The author gets screwed. Amazon gets screwed (which I’m fine with). And I get to finish a book I was enjoying without having to pay the Big River Book Dump any more than I already do.

And I wonder why no one buys books anymore… Sigh.

Book News, Tour Dates and Passover

BOOK NEWS: For the past year and a quarter, I’ve been working on The Bark Minder Project, a collection of edgy work for adults. As part of that, I created a novel that was initially serialized on Spotify. 

Last week, I finished the umpteenth draft and began sending queries to agents. I’ll keep you posted as news develops. 

Mark Binder at the Audies
I got a medal!

Loki Ragnarok
It was an honor to be nominated for the 2019 Audie Award for Original Work. I went to New York to the glitziest event ever… And we didn’t win. They picked a production with a broadway cast. Oh well. It’s available on Audible.

TOUR DATES 
This Saturday (April 13) at 3pm, I’ll be performing at the New England Folk Festival in Mansfield, MA. It’s been a few years since I’ve been at NEFFA, the site of my first live recording. If you haven’t been, they take over the entire Mansfield High School and fill it with dancing, music, and of course storytelling. Fun for families, couples and singletons. Check it out at https://www.neffa.org/

Only TWO open studios left for this spring. Stop by to say hi and check out my books and audios at my office on Saturday April 13 from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm (Leaving early for the gig) and Saturday April 20 from 9:30 to 1pm. The address is 1005 Main Street, Pawtucket RI, 02860. I’m on the second floor (go up either staircase from the Main Street entrance.

On Saturday, April 27 at 4:00pm, I’ll be bringing “Life in Chelm” to Congregation Beth El, 183 French Street, Bangor, ME. This is my second visit to this congregation, and I’m looking forward to it. This is an all-ages event, free and open to the public. Arrive early to get a good seat. (There’s also a young person’s program on Sunday morning at 10:30)

Passover is Coming
Did you know I wrote a collection of Passover stories called Matzah Mishugas?
It’s true! These are eight enjoyable stories of Matzah, matzah, matzah and… love. Get a copy on amazon (https://geni.us/matzah/) or find out more at https://markbinder.com/chelm#matzah/

Thanks so much for your support. I really appreciate knowing you’re there.

Who ate the first clam?

I often wonder about the origin of human interests. Who was the first scientist?

Usually, I find that it begins with Og, the caveman. Og is a hapless protagonist who makes a lot of mistakes.

In this story, Og stumbles on the secret to a happy marriage, and finds a new source of protein. Feel free to share the story and link!

And, if you’d like to buy more like it, this story and others are available on my TRANSMIT JOY! Audio Storybook – https://lightpublications.com/books/transmit_joy/

QUESTION: What else do you think Og stumbled across?

Gala Audie Awards 2019

Audio book narrators really know how to throw a party. Yesterday’s Audie Awards was a glitzy snazzy gala held in New York City at Gustavino’s expansive hall underneath the 59th Street Bridge.

It was very purple!

The weather, traffic and parking gods all aligned to make this trip as smooth as it could be. Even though I awoke to a foot of snow (and an hour and a half of shoveling) by the time I hit the highway the road was clear and sped down to New York in just over three hours. Finding free on-street parking a block from the venue was the next big win! Walked off to have dinner with an old friend. 

 I’d never been to a gala event like this, and a month ago when I tried on my tuxedo I found I’d shrunk out of it. So I went to Franklin Rogers, an old-school men’s store in downtown Providence and got kitted out with a shiny chianti-colored suit and my first pair of pointy-toed shoes. 

After dinner I still had an hour to kill, so I went into a nearby Bistro and ordered an espresso. (My fifth of the day!) Drinking espresso never takes me as long as it does Europeans or Italians. Fortunately, the bistro had a big restroom and I hogged it for ten minutes to change  out of my driving/schlepwear into my new shiny suit.

Outside Gustavino’s there were sparkles and spotlights. Inside, a line of servants (ahem) waited attentively to collect coats and bags. Despite my dawdling, I literally was the first one there to pick up the heavy silver medal that signified LOKI RAGNAROK (and me) as an Audie Finalist.

Me on the red carpet!
Yes! Red Carpet

Then it was off to the red carpet. The photo here was taken with my camera and blurrs the medal, so when the “official” one comes through I’ll repost it.

More servants (waitstaff, actors with day jobs) waited with glasses of wine or champagne. I stuck to the water, knowing there was a long drive home. 

Then I mingled, introducing myself to anyone who was standing alone. In short order I met a literary agent who was accompanying a client’s spouse, a young fellow who said he wanted to direct movies but was there with his boss who was a “paymaster” for audio book narrators, and Kate Reading, who was lovely to talk with. (I actually had listened to and enjoyed a number of her books, but didn’t realize it until this morning.)

Me, Kennedy Phillips and Levar Burton
With Kennedy Phillips and Levar Burton

It also seemed that the “Original Works” folk attracted each other. Kennedy Philips of the Magus Elgar book and I went over and asked Levar Burton for a selfie. Bonus factoid: The last time I went to New York for a big award — the World Ebook Award for Cinderella Spinderella, Levar Burton was also there and presenting. (He didn’t remember 😉

Eventually we all went upstairs, where I was seated at the table farthest to the back of the room with some of the other peons. 

Award ceremonies are weird. They hired a celebrity (Tan France from the Netflix reboot of Queer Eye) as the host. He spoke for a few minutes and then introduced the people who were going to announce the awards. Unlike the Oscars and Grammies, the presenters didn’t read the winners, instead it was pre-recorded narration, so it sped by like a freight train. 

Meanwhile, I poked at the chocolates and fruit “desserts” which were tasty but not truly delicious.

Time passed quickly with award after award zipping by with applause. Why do they say, “And the award for Most Words in An Audiobook goes to…” and then the name of the publisher? 

Finally, it was our turn. Drumroll. The announcement of the title. There’s my name on the screen! The moment of suspense and…

The winner was… Spin, the audiobook that had a full cast of Broadway stars. Sigh. 

LOKI RAGNAROK - Audie Finalist (and Silver Medal) Winner for Original Work!

I’m sure they deserved it, but dang, I wanted it. Oh well. At least they gave me a medal!

The ceremonies finished, I got my coat and bags. Grabbed another selfie on the Red Carpet. Quick walk to the car. On the road by 10 and in bed by 1am.

All in all not a bad day.

Stop Playing the Reality Election Game Show

Almost every day during the winter, someone would look at the sticker on my puffy down parka and say, “I voted for Bernie.” or “Still hanging on, huh?”

I’d slapped it on a billion “news cycles” ago, because I supported Bernie over Hillary. Over and over back then, people would tell me, “He can’t win. He’s unelectable. It’s her turn.” Yep. These were many of the same people who told me, “Trump could never be the Republican candidate. He supported abortion. He’s paying off prostitutes!” Yep.

“Do you think he’ll run again?” they asked me of Bernie. Rather than say, “How the hell do I know?” I’d shrug. Yeah, he’s kindof old, but I know from personal experience that politics is addictive.

I noticed that the sticker was getting pretty ratty after I shoveled the three inches of global warming snow and rain the other day, so when the announcement came yesterday that Bernie was officially throwing his hat into the ring I had mixed emotions.

On the one hand there was that whole electability and the we-need-to-destroy-Trump thing combined with the “overcrowded field of progressive candidates” thing.

On the other hand, though — and this was the one that stuck in my head — here is a guy who I would have voted for last time, who I HAD voted for. No, I’m not sure he’s the best girl on the field. But yes, I would want him to be President.

The good news is that I don’t have to decide right now. I can listen to all the candidates. Pay some attention to their speeches and their stances. Watch what shakes out and who drops out. Who plays the game with a combination of style and ruthlessness? Who can dodge the smears?

The one thing I won’t be doing is playing the Reality Show Game — constantly second guessing strategies, talking about electability, using the word “base”. All those things detract from the goal of an election — to field the best candidate for the job. Absolutely winning the election matters, but that’s what the Republicans did last time, and look whose souls they sold out. The man is giving nuclear secrets to the Saudies.

Yeah, Bernie’s old. He’s not perfect. Is he the best? We’ll see.
Is he electable? Hell yes. I’d still vote for him.