Sunday, February 26, 2012

Today's Host: Rachel Coles, Author of Pazuzu's Girl

Hi, T. R.

Thanks for hosting me on your blog! Pazuzu's Girl was released February 10th by Journalstone Publishing, and it's really been an exciting month.

I've gotten some questions about it so I thought I'd cover the biggest question: Why Pazuzu? Why a demon?

I am fascinated by demons. Not just because they're 'evil' and I'm an ex-metalhead. I was always interested in how they evolved. Pretty consistently, if you look at the names of the demons, you notice that their names pop up in ancient mythology as gods. Ba'al, one of the demons mentioned in The Rite and who can be found in the Catholic church as Beelzebub, can also be found in Akkadian mythology as a storm god presiding over the city of Ur as Ba'al/Hadad. Abraham in the Old Testament smashed his father's idols, which were coincidentally, of Ba'al. Ba'al itself just means 'lord'. It was also used as a household title for head of the house, maybe instead of saying 'Mr.' Can you imagine getting a telemarketer or at your door saying, “Excuse me, Ba'al, can you spare a few minutes to talk about homeowners insurance? Now to Pazuzu.

Well, he was still pretty much a demon in Assyrian mythology. However, he had some interesting characteristics. His wife, according to myth, was another demoness known as Lamashtu. But amulets of him have been found and history passed down that these amulets were protective, used to ward off Lamashtu and protect mothers from things like childbed fever and what now would probably be called SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome. He was used as protection against his own wife. This possibly points to a dual nature. There was a tenuous link postulated between some ancient Sumerian and Akkadian figures and the later Pazuzu of Assyrian myth. There was a character in the Gilgamesh Epic and the Enuma Elish called the Imdugud bird (Sumerian), and Anzu (Akkadian). This minor god, like many gods of that era and time were as temperamental and complicated as humans, not characterized in all stories as solely good or evil. One story has the Anzu bird stealing the Tablet of Destiny from Enlil, and another has Anzu rewarding the father of Gilgamesh for honoring Anzu's offspring, by leading the human out of the mountains he had gotten lost in during a war campaign. There were waves of invasion into the Fertile Crescent, the region in which these myths arose, beginning in the Neolithic period. The first known inhabitants are collectively known as the Sumerians. In truth, they consisted of a number of different cultures of varying progressive advancement typed according to characteristics of their artifacts. But they had certain things such as language base in common enough to link them. The following invasions differed in terms of technologies, pottery, language base. What often happened in areas like this was that the gods of the invaded culture were often absorbed by the invading culture, and so often the forms of myths persisted in cultural transmission.

I do not know archaeologically or linguistically if a link can actually be made between Anzu and Pazuzu, but it is possible, and certainly fun to speculate, that if myths were people, how might a transformation really happen.

So here is an excerpt from Pazuzu's Girl, I hope you like it!

Morpho shook out her brilliant blue hair in front of the mirror behind the door of her pink room. She threw on her torn leather jacket over a ruffled pink sock that passed for a mini-dress. She flounced down the stairs, grabbed her Tinker Bell backpack and the peanut butter toast her father’s servant had left, and plopped her skateboard on the tiles of the front porch. One of them dislodged as she jumped the board down the steps.
A loud chatter emerged from the thousands of grasshoppers that hid throughout the partially eaten lawn and manicured bushes. She heard them as though they spoke in English.
I know you’re mad at me, but was that really necessary? Lugal just fixed those. Are you angry with him as well? A couple of grasshoppers fluttered after her and hitched a bumpy ride on the strap of her pack before crawling up to her shoulder.
She rolled her eyes and did a rattling jump just for their benefit. “No, Dad. I’m not mad at him. And not everything I do is just to piss you off.” Her lips set in a grim line and she rode in silence.
The grasshoppers twittered and hung on as she took the curbs as hard as possible. Then to what do we owe your sunny mood?
She glowered. “I’m a freak. We are freaks.” She whirled her finger in a circle to include everyone around her in freak-dom.
You dyed your hair blue. That’s generally not what people do when they are trying to avoid attention, her dad gently reminded her.
“I’m laying my cards on the table. We have to replace the lawn and shrubs every couple days because you eat everything in the yard. And everyone thinks Lugal is your love slave. Our differences aren't exactly ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ By the way, we got another fine from the stupid housing association. They’re threatening to send pest control.”The grasshoppers chirped. “I’ll deal with them. And I thought you liked Lugal.”
“I do like him. But you might want to let him know everyone thinks he’s your boyfriend, partner...whatever.” She flipped her board up and stormed into the school hall, late for class, as the grasshoppers flitted away.

*   *   *

Thousands of grasshoppers emerged from nooks and crannies throughout the denuded sod in front of 248 Rowan Street, Ken Caryl, Colorado. As they flooded into the hallway of the house from the moist April breeze outside, the swarm of glittering wings and golden-brown bodies condensed into the figure of a tall thin man with golden eyes, black hair and slightly canine features around the mouth. Pazuzu, Demon of the Air and the Southwest Wind, stalked into his suburban home to deal with the four-hundredth letter from his homeowner's association and ruminate on how to handle an angsty teenage daughter.
Lugal, an equally tall, sturdy man with dark features and a hawk's nose, dropped to his knees and bowed his face to the floor as Pazuzu entered. His palms flattened on the ground in obeisance. His right hand was marred by rough white scar tissue across the palm and wrist. “Lord, what is your will?”
Pazuzu motioned the man to his feet. “I accept your loyalty,” he nodded, “but you have not bowed to me since the first time we met, except when you have done something you knew would displease me. What have you done?” He glowered.
Lugal raised a carefully-groomed eyebrow and his eyelid twitched for a moment. “I have not seen such a look on your face for many years. I thought you might benefit from an old formality.”
Pazuzu's lips curled up in a smile that looked like a grimace. “Did you see Morpho's attire? We are supposed to maintain a low profile!”
Lugal's white teeth flashed and the other eyebrow rose. “Forgive my impudence, Lord, but have you seen some of the other children at the high school? She is fitting in.”
Pazuzu met the dark man’s eyes and they both burst into deep rolling laughter. Pazuzu sank down into the tasteful but nondescript kitchen chair and picked up the HOA letter. He took the content in at a glance and tossed it back on the table. “She told me about this.”
“What will you do?” Lugal brought pungent-smelling cardamom tea to the table.
“I will be the indignant homeowner at one of their silly meetings. They have been fining us since we arrived more than a year ago. It gives them something to do and makes them feel important, happy with their power. Happy neighbors are quiet neighbors.”
“But they have threatened to hire extermination services.” Lugal sipped his tea, watching Pazuzu warily.
Pazuzu leaned forward slightly, and his golden irises lit from within, then faded. “I will dissuade them.”
Lugal was silent for a moment. “Has there been any sign of her? Of the Scourge? My spies have detected nothing yet.”
Agitation distorted Pazuzu’s lips into a snarl, making him look more canine than ever. “No. Not aside from the usual events in the news lately. The bombings, the shootings, in many of the nations near the old kingdom, near Uruk. I see nothing direct, only her influence.”
“She is subtle. That is how she gained her power before you left her. What will you do should she find Morpho?”
Pazuzu’s eyes flashed and a rasping breeze lifted in the room. Lugal quietly placed his scarred hand on the napkins to keep them from skittering off the table. Pazuzu’s voice was like the sound of a million furious, buzzing insects as he answered, “I will protect my child.”

Pazuzu's Girl is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Journalstone website. It is available in both paperback and e-book. And as a special for T. R.'s site for her awesomeness in hosting me, we're doing a 3 e-book giveaway for 2/27/12 only (leave a comment & email address to be entered to win one of  the three Pazuzu's Girl ebooks being given away). If you get the book for the giveaway it would be really terrific to hear what you think! Please review it on any of the above sites or Goodreads.

T. R.'s books are a lot of fun to read. She is a very talented author, and if you have not already, you should check out her Warriors of the Cross series. I have them on my Kindle!

Thank you again T. R. for hosting me! I look forward to your next book.