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Description of Welcome to Wonderland
A recently fired biologist with mommy issues, a successful entrepreneur with a dead wife, and an immigrant hiding from gang violence…These three have only one thing in common.
They’re all screwed up
Biology researcher, Violet Hill, was just let go and is devastated. She found the solitary lab and long hours the ideal respite for her anxiety issues–doing meaningful work while avoiding people and conversation. Now unemployed, with diminishing finances, Violet is forced to face the enemy, her mother.
For years, Turner Cooper was consumed with building his company’s client roster, until the sudden death of his wife throws him totally off kilter. Now, instead of work, Turner’s guilt and alcohol issues consume him.
Living a reclusive life in Dallas, Rosario Guzman is hiding from a Mexican cartel while working in the shadows at three part-time jobs. Finally, the item she covets the most, a Green Card, arrives in her mailbox. But Rosario quickly realizes the paper card doesn’t solve all her problems.
While navigating social issues, private demons, and nightmare memories, these three lives collide as they find each other at a place none of them ever imagined they’d be working at. As their mutual relationship evolves, Violet, Turner and Rosario lean into each other and unexpectedly find their lives unfurling in remarkable and magical ways.
Read an Excerpt of Welcome to Wonderland
Violet is Blue
Mother considers me awkward, graceless, and socially challenged, but always has hope for improvement. I disagree and think of myself as critically shy. Is there such a diagnosis? I’ve learned I do best when I can control limited social encounters. That’s why I’m better working alone, in a world I’m comfortable and familiar with, the study of soil, seeds, and grasses.
I’ve been working as a research assistant with Dr. William Hirshfield. After finishing my masters at UT in Austin, I gratefully found my hidey-hole at the UT School of Environmental Sciences. After being hired, I realized it was the perfect job for me. For a year, we’ve been running experiments and collecting data on soil absorption, attempting to come up with a microbial substance that will turn arid lands into potential blooming fields of agriculture. All well and good for keeping me in my cozy, solitary research lab, but with the added bonus of working toward saving a warm and crowded planet.
Then yesterday happened.
Dr. Hirshfield called me unexpectedly to meet in his office. We normally only met every two weeks for consultations on experiments. I sat down across from his desk, with my sweating palms gripping the arm rests of the chair. The meeting opened with congenial small-talk. I said, “Hello.”
As with most people I conversed with, I found it difficult looking at Hirshfield when he spoke. Today I found his floorboards especially interesting. Wide wood panels which had me wondering, were they deliberately distressed or actually marred from age? As he shuffled papers on his desk I reached down and touched the floor. Definitely faux distressed.
He nervously coughed and then continued, “Violet, I must say, your work has been exemplary, but…”
Oh shit… The proverbial but. I shuddered slightly.
As I pretended to be intrigued with the floor, Hirshfield said, “I’m afraid I have some bad news to share.” He coughed again. “I’ll just get right to it. I hate to tell you this, but our next year of NIH funding has been cut. They haven’t renewed the terms of our project at the previous level and claim our results are not going as quickly as we initially projected.”
He seemed to be talking to himself now, explaining his problems to the ceiling as my eyes nervously flitted up occasionally to watch. “Seems our study is on the low end of their priority scale regarding research grant money. But our idea has so much merit! It dovetails perfectly with climate change issues and food production for overpopulated areas. Anyway…it’s probably all politics. Therefore—” He coughed a third time. Nervous tick or avoidance? Either way, not a good sign. “I’m having to cut most of my research staff, including your position.”
Please no. Had I heard correctly? I was praying he’d single me out as too good to let go. But of course not. My eyes became moist and my body went cold. I had finally found my place in this chaotic world, my comfy, musty den. Where I could reach my fingers deep into sandy soil and disappear into another world within my microscope. I’d clock in for hours of uninterrupted work, eat a sandwich over my work station by myself, needing to only interact with others regarding information I was knowledgeable about.
Now apparently all that was gone.
And what remained? Going home to Mother? I was devastated. I felt like laying down on those faux floorboards and curling up in a ball.
“Dr. Hirshfield, p-perhaps p-part-time. Tw-Twenty-five hours a week?”
In case you missed that, I have a noticeable stutter, which seems to come into full bloom during times of stress.
“I only wish that were possible, Violet. The grant has been downgraded to include lab equipment, supplies, and compensation for only a few key personnel. I’m so sorry. This has all come as quite a surprise. So, we’re making adjustments immediately; I can keep you for another two weeks. I wanted you to hear it from me, personally.”
I mumbled, “Th-Thank you,” then stood up, wrapped my arms across my chest, and meekly asked about a possible reference letter. He went back to shuffling papers and nodded, agreeing to my simple request. I quickly walked out with my head down, making my exit before he had the chance to shake my perspiring palm.
I spent the next few weeks desperately attempting to find a position with another research team within the department. There were several available for volunteer and credit work, but all paid positions were fully staffed. Although my educational credentials were excellent, my interviewing skills were a little shaky. I considered customer service positions, but they never seemed a good match, and I truly wanted to continue within my field of study.
At the end of the two-week period, I decided to call in for financial reinforcement. Via email, I sent my mother news of the change in job status, then requested funds to keep me in Austin while I continued to look for work, but instead of an electronic deposit, she offered this:
So sorry to hear about your job loss. I know you’ve been happy with your little research position. Sometimes these minor hiccups work out for the best. I think you need more stimulation and interaction in your work. When I visited, your lab job seemed so sterile and lonely. I’m sure I can line something up for you through my contacts in Dallas. Come home, darling. The guest house was recently redone and you’re welcome to use it. It’ll be fun hanging out together again. I believe I’ll call Lexy and see if she can revise her schedule and set aside sessions for you. What day should I expect you? Can’t wait to catch up! –Mother
She was not going to be sympathetic to my cause. I made a second stab at job hunting, knowing it was only a delay tactic. Was I being an ungrateful little bitch? Sort of. But I knew I’d have to deal with my mother’s incessant smiling face, popping in without warning, spewing false cheer, urging me to conform to her standards, and always sending out subliminal messages regarding her underlying sense of disappointment in me.
It had been five years since I’d lived at home. My first year in the dorms had been a disaster. I was happier on my own, renting an apartment for three years while earning my bachelor’s and another two for my masters, comfortably surviving in my small, quiet efficiency.
In contrast, Mother’s home was palatial, but for me it was a luxurious prison sitting on a green oak-studded hill overlooking White Rock Lake in Dallas.
I dragged out my move. I felt no incentive to rush home knowing what lay ahead; struggling through painful interviews, going through clothing issues and social events with Mother. Yes, still a tender issue at age twenty-four. Then, once again, I’d start sessions with my speech therapist, Lexy.
Unfortunately, research assistant’s pay was low, Austin rents were high, and the guest house at Mother’s was free. Economically, it made sense. Emotionally, I was an unhappy wreck.
And who could I complain to? Call 911 — My mother is inviting me to move into her newly renovated guest quarters. Put her on trial? — She insists on buying me new clothing suggested by her personal shopper at Neiman’s. Lock her up? — She’s offering me therapy for an affliction which admittedly has recently become worse.
I was a pathetic whiner. Time to get up, pack it in, and get moving.
About Author Bobbie Candas
Bobbie Candas lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, Mehmet Candas, a stray gray cat, and a jealous tabby who does not enjoy sharing affection with the interloper. Bobbie attended The University of Texas in Austin, earning her degree in journalism. She took a detour with a career in retail management, and found her happy place when she returned to writing fiction about nine years ago.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/author/B00MNS6KV0
Bobbie Candas will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.