The Kingdom of Embarcadero is under siege. King Elvis wants to steal its secrets, mysterious outsiders want to expel its citizens, an ancient and sinister Force threatens to devour their souls. Salvation rests on the slender shoulders of a young wizard named Taco Del and his unlikely allies—a red-haired Chinese girl, a ghosty tribe of Mission Indians and a small fir tree named Doug.
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Taco Del’s story falls somewhere between future urban fantasy and magic realism with a little bit of a mystery woven about its core. It is based on my novella of the same name published in Amazing Stories. My agent liked the characters so much he suggested I write a novel about them, and so, I sent my diminutive wizard, Taco Del, on a quest to save his world from enemies both mundane and magical. I love this book and its people. I realize it’s a bit “off the wall,” but I am hoping to find readers who like their fiction “off the wall.”
Cicerone. That’s what the other kids called me. Means ‘chickpea.’ You got any idea how small a chickpea is? Pretty damned small. Got called ‘Peanut’ a lot, too. And some other stuff not as complimentary.
Mi madre said there was a chance I’d get bigger as I got older, but it never happened. Didn’t really expect it to. It’s got a lot to do with diet and that mi madre didn’t eat too well when I was a babe. There was food and all, but they were new here and didn’t know the what-how. You get the best veggies in the Sang Yee Gah, but we lived at the other end of the kingdom. I think I saw my first broccoli when I was five. Thought somebody’d shrunk up a shrubbery.
You don’t notice stuff when you’re little ‘cause you think life just goes on and on, and that whatever life’s like, it’ll always be just like that. My kid life was pretty bueno, you know? Mi padre got a job at a beanery in the neighborhood and mi madre learned how to grow green stuff in a garden on the roof. They got integrated, I guess you’d call it. Which was more than they'd done all the other places they'd been.
It might've been a foggy old dead city to the folks from Outside, but to mi madre y padre it was the Gam Saan — the Golden Mountain — which I guess to them, was sort of like Eldorado.
It was the Economy that killed the cities, Kaymart says. What with one thing and another (like the fact that some Economic Centers were an earthquake, volcano, or hurricane away from Complete Ruin) people just started Getting Out. They went to Rural Places — Planned Communities, Kaymart calls them, where there were no dumpsters or indigents, no rats the size of hub caps, no syringes in the gutters, and where nobody planted their backside on your front porch and called it homesteading.
According to History, folks just sort of drained out of The Cities like corn meal through a slit bag — first trickle-trickle, and then a steady pour and then let’s-get-the-hell-out-o-here. It took a while, but finally everybody who could Got Out. What Kaymart calls the Economic Base went with them.
That left people like mi madre y padre, who did a lot of wandering before they found a place that wanted them. And people like Creepy Lou, who isn't much wanted either, ‘cause no one likes to be around a dude that makes them twitch. And people like Firescape’s madre who just got born in the wrong barrio. And people like Lord E who saw the Getting Out as a Golden Opportunity. (Oh, I'm not saying Lord E is that old, ‘cause he isn’t. But there's always been guys just like him, even before the Getting Out, according to Kaymart.)
Anyway, mi madre y padre fit in here, so I just sort of fit in with them and I thought fitting in was something you just did and that just was.
I remember Cinco de Mayo festivals that’d go on early into the next spring morning; the streets all clogged up with folks and torches; the air so stuffed with music and laughter I didn’t see how anybody could move.
After I was s’posed to be in bed, I’d lean out over the fire escape and listen and watch and think that maybe I could just float right out the window, and that all that noise and heat and life would let me down to the alley as light as a feather.