Fascinating courtly intrigue and bloody power games set on a generation ship full of secrets―Medusa Uploaded is an imaginative, intense mystery about family dramas and ancient technologies whose influence reverberates across the stars. Disturbing, exciting, and frankly kind of mind-blowing.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

Monday, September 7, 2020

New Mexico Thrift Shopping in Plague Times

Economists have various indexes they like to use to gauge the health of the economy, but I'm a working-class gal, and I've got one that tells me more than any graph could: the Thrift Store Index. Basically, it's a measure of how many cute pairs of pants you can find in a group of thrift stores in any given year. It's a also a measure of how many of those thrift stores can continue to stay in business from one year to the next. Right now, that index isn't looking too good in New Mexico.

I'm a fiend for thrift store clothes, probably because I'm greedy. Why have a sensible, skinny closet that only contains what you need when you can have a fat, overstuffed closet that requires serious excavation in order to actually get at the clothing entombed therein? Is there any thrill that equals driving home with a trunk full of pretty new finds (for which you may have to buy new hangers)? All of this becomes even more silly when you reach the point in your life where you don't have as many places to actually wear that wonderful, hip stuff you just scored. I mean hell, once you're getting close to retirement, do you even need to change out of your sweat pants? 

All of that is beside the point, however, because despite common sense, the heart wants what it wants, and this is the case even during a plague-induced recession -- possibly even more so when trends that you may have been seeing for several years in a row are clarified. In New Mexico, I've seen a steady decline in the economy for at least five years, while Arizona's economy has improved. Even the delightful Pie Town is losing customers.

Arizona and New Mexico are next-door neighbors, but they're different in a few critical ways. Arizona has larger cities, including growing communities of tech workers lured away from California. Chunks of New Mexico are controlled by the Federal Government for very good and top-secret reasons, (even without Area 51), and those jobs pay pretty well, but most other people in New Mexico work service jobs or have small farms. The mining industry has pretty much left the state, and New Mexico's other claim to fame, it's art community, is struggling in the new century. Younger people don't tend to collect art, and older people are at the point in their lives where they're downsizing their households and trying to sell off the art and Indian jewelry they once collected with such enthusiasm. There are casinos in New Mexico, but they support various Indigenous communities and are dependent on traffic, which has slowed a lot in recent years. And the minimum wage in New Mexico is currently $7.50 an hour. It's due to go up starting in 2021, and that may help working-class people in New Mexico -- it certainly has in Arizona. But I suspect the art crowd has decided New Mexico is old news. They're the ones who were most likely to get tired of their pretty, expensive, hip clothing and donate it to thrift stores. That's how that trickles down, and that spigot is going dry. 

That leaves New Mexico with plenty of what it already had: tradition, culture, Indigenous communities, national and state parks, amazing geology, fabulous food, and serious tenacity. If the fat cats abandon the place, it has a chance to rediscover itself. I'll keep going there at least once a year. That says something. 

As for the thrift stores, New Mexico still has 'em, and you should still look for them. Also used book stores, little art galleries, amazing restaurants, and the Very Large Array of radio telescopes near Socorro. 

Reruns is in Grants. I got the cute pants in the photo at the top of this post from the Habitat for Humanity thrift store in Espanola. The pretty horse and the shot of the gorgeous front door came from The Inn at the Delta in Espanola, and the yummy pies can be found at The Gatherin' Place Cafe in Pie Town. The book store is in Santa Fe, Books of Interest

The photo of my mom and me was taken on the outdoor patio of Los Potrillos Restaurant. We celebrated her 99th birthday there. And the bull pictured below is from our delightful hotel in Santa Fe, the Silver Saddle Motel.


Michael Levy News: New Collaboration!

Michael Levy has kept busy during this semi-plague and has new connections with interesting entities. Read his announcements below and follow the links.

New Collaboration with the Ancient History Encyclopedia & a 'Latter-Day Miracle' from Brazil's First Temple of Antinous!

Dear Loyal Lyre Fans, 

Firstly, I am delighted to announce the official start of my collaboration with the Ancient History Encyclopedia - whom I have given permission to feature my ancient-themed lyre music in each and any of their audio presentations, podcasts & video productions, in perpetuity - the nearest I can get, to a record company, for getting my music out to the 'potentially receptive, niche global target audience'!

Here is a list of some of the Ancient History Encyclopedia podcasts and YouTube videos recently produced, which feature my music:

Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia

Dogs in the Ancient World


Greek Mythology

The Life and Death of Ancient Cities - Interview with Author Greg Woolf 


The Minoans: A Civilization of Bronze Age Crete

The Mycenaeans: A Civilization of Bronze Age Greece

Secondly - I finally have some actual video footage from the premiere of Rufus Wainwright's epic second opera, "Hadrian" -  featuring his arrangement of my ancient tyre theme, "Hymn to Zeus"  in Act II Scene IV!

How I finally managed to acquire this video footage was almost like divine intervention from Antinous himself! After learning the awful truth, that my laptop screen capture app miserably failed to record the one-off "Watch Party" livestream of the premiere on 10th August & after pleading on Twitter, if anyone else out there had recorded it, I was contacted by an actual latter-day Priest from Brazil's First Temple of Antinous...who finally enabled me to see the opera; almost 2 years after the premiere in Toronto!!! The best things in life, are certainly those worth waiting for...

My Lyre Theme - in Rufus Wainwright's HADRIAN

Wishing you all health, happiniess...and the continuation of sanity, during these troubled times (towards this goal, please enjoy the meditative mood of your free bonus track, "The Scented Gardens of Alcinous" - track 1 from my 2020 album of the same tiitle; actually recorded, produced & released during the peak of the pandemic here in the UK). Thanks once more, for your continued & invaluable support in my musical quest.


Friday, April 17, 2020

Good News for Fans of the Ancient Lyre

I haven't done a darn thing during the Covid-19 crisis except clean out my garage, but Michael Levy does not suffer from my sort of creative malaise.  Read his announcement below for some good news:

1. I have just been contacted by a music curator from the BRITISH LIBRARY SOUND ARCHIVE - who wants to preserve for posterity in the NATIONAL COLLECTION, the entire repertoire of my 'New Ancestral' musical creations...for all future generations!!

As far as my musical mission goes, at reintroducing the recreated lyres & ancient musical modes back into the modern musical world, for me, this is a truly 'MISSION ACCOMPLISHED MOMENT'! Orpheus may have been the most legendary mythological lyre player of antiquity, but unlike me, neither he nor all the actual lyre players of ancient times had the either the opportunity or the technology to preserve their musical art, forever, in perpetuity - NOW I DO!

Not only will each and every track from each and every album and single I have continually been releasing since 2008 be painstakingly conserved and preserved, but also, so will the original, raw 'live' YouTube audio which originally resulted from my 2008 'live from my spare room' rendition of the oldest written melody in history (Hurrian Hymn Text H6) - currently the most viewed presentation of any extremely early music, on the planet!

This is about the nearest I have ever come to something akin to the iconic Sci Fi ideal of  achieving immortal...via mind-uploading!

Indeed, to quote Grimes, from her utterly epic 2018 single, "We Appreciate Power"... 

"...And if you long to never die 
Baby, plug in, upload your mind 
Come on, you're not even alive
If you're not backed up on a drive 

And if you long to never die 
Baby, plug in, upload your mind 
Come on, you're not even alive
If you're not backed up, backed up on a drive" 
- I AM NOW!!

2. Other important news - as well as all the usual digital music platforms, all my albums can also be purchased direct from my website! Simply visit the either the "Music" & all the sub-pages of the "Albums for Solo Lyre" sections to make your meditative track selections!

In particular, this new option of my website will now enable you to either preview in full or purchase my new album, "The Scented Gardens of Alcinous", ahead of its release across the usual digital music platforms on 3rd May! As a taster, just for you loyal subscribers, attached is track 2, "Sacred Rites of the Priestesses of Cybele" - enjoy!

Hoping all you lovely lyre music fans stay safe, sane and well during the ongoing global crisis - you are all in my thoughts. I sincerely hope that my music brings you all some much needed inner peace during these, the most challenging and troubled of our modern times.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Echoes of Ancient Mesopotamia and Canaan

Michael Levy has a new album available!  Follow the links and order today . . .


I am pleased to announce that my new album, "Echoes of Ancient Mesopotamia & Canaan" is available to pre-order from Amazon & iTunes from TODAY, ahead of its general digital release across all the usual major digital music platforms on 1st March 2020!

For all the details and to download a free PDF booklet of the detailed album notes, please see my new webpage about the release:

Pre-order this album on iTunes!

Pre-order this album on Amazon!

This album is my mostly historically inspired evocation, of the lost music of ancient Mesopotamia & Canaan; but as the final track, this release also features my most recent arrangement of the reconstructed melody of an actual bronze age hymn to Nikkal; the oldest notated fragment of music which can still be interpreted and performed today; performed this time, on a replica of an actual surviving bronze age lyre!

For most of the tracks, I play this fascinating replica of an actual, typical bronze age Canaanite form of asymmetric lyre; custom-made for me by Luthieros. The design of this lyre was based on the same proportions of a Canaanite form of lyre found in Egypt, dating to circa 1,500 BCE and which is preserved in Leiden.

These types of lyres were almost certainly introduced into Egypt during the reign of the Canaanite Hyksos kings, that ruled northern Egypt as the 15th dynasty, c.1630–1523 BCE. The exotic, sitar-like tone of the bass strings of this lyre, are due to the flat-topped, groove-less bridge. As almost all the lyres still played throughout the African continent today still retain this distinctive buzzing timbre (particularly the Ethiopian begena), since the lyre originally probably came to Africa via ancient trade routes between the ancient Near East and Egypt, it is indeed far more likely, that this buzzing timbre of the lyre was much closer to the original ancient near eastern/middle eastern lyres of antiquity.

For some of the tracks, I also use the more sinister, darker timbre of my tenor register 10-string lyre - ideal for evoking the mystery of the long-forgotten pantheon of ancient Mesopotamian & Canaanite gods!

As a taster, here is a YouTube presentation of track 4, "The Magic of Marduk":


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Em Report (2019)

Every once in a while, I remember that I have a blog and that I'm supposed to keep people posted about my stories and books that have been published in the past year or so. If I had more marketing savvy (not to mention more success), I would be doing this every month, but at this point I'm lucky if I remember to comb my hair before reporting to my day job. So I'll have to make do with this annual(ish) report.

I've got two new novels to crow about: Medusa Uploaded came out from Tor in 2018; the sequel, Medusa in the Graveyard was published July 2019. Joel Cunningham, at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, says, “Book Two of the Medusa Cycle is just as dark, daring, and propulsive as the first.” That should be all you need to hear! Run right out to your favorite indie book store (or click on one of my links to the Evil Empire) and buy them today . . .

I had to think harder about which of my stories has been published, but I've got a pretty comprehensive list, here: 

"10,432 Serial Killers (in Hell)” appeared in the May/June 2018 edition of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and was nominated for the 2019 Thriller Award. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine will also be publishing “Not My Circus, but They Are My Monkeys,” on sale August 14.

I managed to make it into two Apocalypse-themed anthologies in 2018/2019: “Cruddy,” a kaiju story, is in Enter the Aftermath, edited by Thomas Gandolfi, and “Appetite,” my riff on zombies/mummies is in Enter the Rebirth, edited by Thomas Gandolfi.

"Wraith” was published in Longshot Island no. 6.  In fact, editor Daniel Scott White did more than his fair share of Em publishing: “Alternate Universe Ernies” is in Unfit Magazine, vol. 1; “Destry” is in Unreal Magazine, vol. 1, and “The Hitter” is in the forthcoming Unfit Magazine vol. 4.

And last but not least, “Jumpers For Jesus” will be published by Mystery Weekly Magazine, (publishing date to be announced, but I've provided a link to the magazine so you can check them out, maybe subscribe). How can you live without weekly mystery? I need mine daily . . .

I hope I have good stuff to report next year, but if not, there's always hiking, geology, ghost stories, music, movies, book reviews, whatever I can come up with. So please watch this space. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Music for Writers (the SciFi and Fantasy Edition)

Lately people have been asking me to recommend music to listen to while writing. A lot of writers already have their favorites, but most people stick with what they already know. Classical music can be off-putting to people who don't hear it very often, because they think it all sounds like Bach and Mozart. I don't mean to cast a poor light on those composers, but they don't represent everything classical music has to offer. After all, most movie soundtracks can be described as classical in form (or jazz, which is a close cousin). So here's a sampler you can explore if you're feeling more adventurous.

Gustav Holst: Most people are familiar with The Planets, and it is, indeed, most excellent music for evoking fantastic images, but if you don't also listen to “The Perfect Fool”, “Egdon Heath”, and Beni Mora (especially the third movement, “In the Streets of Ouled Nails”), you're not getting everything you can out of Gustav Holst. Not by a long shot.

Ralph Vaughan WilliamsI love The London Symphony from start to finish, but by far my favorite part is the 3rdmovement. It’s so rambunctious! You can say the same about The Wasps Suitewhich was written to accompany a play; it has an optimistic, heroic tone. But, my goodness, Sinfonia Antartica! The symphony was adapted from the film score for Scott of the Antarctic. You can see that bleak, majestic landscape when you hear the music, but I feel more inclined to envision the landscapes of Mars. 

Claude Debussy’s famous works are so well-known, I don’t see the point in listing them here, especially when I can recommend something far more magical – his Nocturnes.They conjure mystery, wonder, adventure; what more could a writer ask for? Well, perhaps joy, which is what you’ll hear in “Joyous Isle.”

Yolanda Kondonassis: While we’re on the subject of Debussy, Debussy’s Harp is simply gorgeous, especially Kondonassis’s interpretation of “The Engulfed Cathedral” and “Dances Sacred and Profane.” I would grieve for you if you never heard these, my imaginative friends. 

Isao Tomita: Another beautiful interpretation of Debussy’s “The Engulfed Cathedral” is arranged for synthesizer for the album, Snowflakes are DancingEach song on the album is lovingly rendered for the Space Age, but it’s also suitable for those more inclined to Fantasy.

Mahavishnu’s album, Apocalypseblends jazz and classical music. When I hear it (which is often, since it’s on my list of top ten albums), I always envision post-apocalyptic landscapes. “Vision is a Naked Sword” also provokes memories of intense thunderstorms in the Sonoran Desert.

Another of my favorite albums of all time is Gail Laughton's Harps of the Ancient Templesinspired by the music of ancient cultures (including a couple that exist only in legend).  (Note: try the Laurel Website, for new copies.)

Chances are, you've heard the first movement of Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherazadeand that's about it. Most music samplers don't bother to move beyond that magnificent opening. However, if you saw Amazon's Prime series, The Romanoffsyou may recall the first episode, about the beautiful Paris apartment. The son (who hopes to eventually inherit that fabulous joint) turns on the radio and listens to gorgeous music. If you play Scheherazade all the way through, you'll get to hear that lovely piece, too. Once you have, treat yourself to The Golden Cockerel and Skazka (Fairy Tale), too.

Anatoly Liadov was not as prolific as some of his contemporaries – he liked to take his time. So we're fortunate he produced works like “Baba Yaga” and “Kikimora.” For those trying to envision something different from the European mythos that permeates the fantasy genre, try some Russian flavor from Liadov. 

Jean Prodromidès was a composer of French film scores who isn't well-known in the U.S., but if you were one of the lucky kids who saw La Voyage en Ballon when it premiered over here in the 60s, you got to hear one of the best scores ever composed. This music is adventure, distilled. We have Jack Lemmon to thank for that – he bought the American rights. The best version of the movie is the one that has no narration, just action and music. 

I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know, but Bernard Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still is the essential SciFi soundtrack, and Jason and the Argonauts is the essential Fantasy.

I searched for Georges Auric's La Belle et la Bête for 40 years before someone finally released it on CD, and that's when I discovered that the score had been lost among his personal papers that whole time. Someone found it when they were sorting through, after his death. As beautiful as Cocteau's images are in that movie, Auric's score is half the experience (at least!).

Igor Stravinksy's Rite of Spring was adapted for Disney's film Fantasia by Leopold Stokowski. Many have grumbled about his version, by I think it captures the essence of the piece. You can't hear that music without seeing the dinosaurs. However, if you want to see dragons, go with the original. 

When you were a kid, you heard Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the WolfNow that you're a grown-up – possibly writing a novel with characters in the military? – try the Lieutenant Kije Suite.

Sergei Rachmaninoff would be insulted if we included the work of his countrymen and not his majestically macabre masterpiece, “Isle of the Dead.”

Ottorino Respighi is one of my top ten favorite composers, and the album I've linked to for Pines of Rome is one of the greatest recordings ever made.  This music is a link to ancient Rome, and the wider world beyond it.  However, for pure ecstasy try "The Birth of Venus" from Three Botticelli Pictures.

This is a long post, but a short list.  If you like this music, explore a bit more. You won't be sorry.