When Life Hands You Lemons (Part 1)

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Martinis — With a Twist!*

Life was humming along on all cylinders for a while. Born in Alabama, I grew up in a small German-American farming town north of Detroit, where I lived a book-filled childhood and followed most of the rules. Graduated from Wayne Law School cum laude and served as an editor of the Wayne Law Review. Ranked in the top 1% of lawyers nationwide, and practiced law throughout the U.S., representing clients from around the world. While I published millions of words during my legal career, most of them were nonfiction. Never drank gin martinis, shaken or stirred.

Always an insatiable reader with a keen interest in crime fiction, particularly mystery and suspense, I spent the travel years on airplanes and in hotel rooms. I put the time to good use by learning fiction craft when not practicing law, but friends pointed out that my fiction files contained only desire and incomplete projects. Too true. Grisham and Turow and many other lawyers hit the fiction world long before me.

But in 1995, one shocking phone call destroyed my thriving law practice. My largest client was overwhelmed by product liability lawsuits and filed for bankruptcy protection, blasting a gaping hole in my by-the-book life and leaving me with an uncollectable debt besides.

Lemons

Pelted by these lemons, gin martinis were a viable option. But I don’t like gin. I’ve been called a Pollyanna and perhaps that’s true, because I was sure I could find a better answer. Like what? Well, I loved that creation story about the famous author who got fired at age 40 and became Lee Child.

Of course, I hadn’t heard that story in 1995 and he wasn’t famous then.

I had heard the one from the medical clerk who wrote “A is for Alibi” to kill off her ex-husband and become Sue Grafton. I didn’t have an ex-husband, but more than a few folks had recently made my list of jerks the world could do without. Hmmm…..

I’d been through Travis McGee’s adventures a dozen times, never tiring of exploits that traveled along smoothly on Boodles Gin. I’d moved to Florida and adored everything about the Sunshine State. The hours to write what I loved instead of what paid the bills now stretched endlessly ahead and I figured it was now or never.

So sure, Pollyanna, why not?

You’re thinking I acquired a taste for gin martinis, killed off the bad guys, finished the book, and lived happily ever after? Um, not exactly.

After a series of false starts, I challenged myself to finish Due Justice in the style of stories I loved to read, put my head down and went to work.

Due Justice and the three books that followed are suspenseful Florida mysteries set in the legal world. Rather than a strapping, muscular boat-bum like McGee, my hero is Federal Judge Wilhelmina Carson, a strong woman who drinks Bombay Sapphire Gin and delivers true justice with a twist and a splash of humor. The Willa books quickly found a publisher, an audience, and acclaim as well, under another author name.

So, not Lee Child or Sue Grafton, but there I was, up and running, humming along on all cylinders again.

All’s well that ends well? Not so fast.

You guessed it: Another fusillade of lemons.

For Part 2 of this story, CLICK HERE.

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*This article first appeared in Mystery Readers Journal

Meanwhile —

Caffeinate and Carry On!

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14 Responses to When Life Hands You Lemons (Part 1)

  1. Linda June 26, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    I like your style. Reinventing or recreating your life isn’t for sissies. You go, girl!
    Oh, and I’ll go toe to toe with you on the coffee!

    • Diane June 27, 2014 at 8:50 am #

      Thanks, Linda! Cheers! *raises coffee mug* 🙂

  2. Ann in Cali June 26, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    I think you have made more than lemonade out of your lemons. You have turned them into something a little sweeter, maybe lemon tart. Good for you!

    • Diane June 27, 2014 at 8:53 am #

      A lemon tart! What a good idea! That’s very kind, Ann, thank you. I’m pleased that the result is something I’m able to share with readers around the globe.

    • Elayne Tiller June 29, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

      I’ve always liked this phrase, “When life gives you lemons, keep them, Hey, free lemons !! “

      • Diane June 30, 2014 at 9:39 am #

        Haha! That’s funny, Elayne.

  3. Roseanne June 26, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    Well, I for one am thrilled you were handed some lemons and didn’t just cut them open for the bitter taste. I have greatly enjoyed your Willa series and am always happy to see your next update arrive in my email. False starts – we all fail at something but the getting back up and moving on makes us stronger. 🙂

    • Diane June 27, 2014 at 8:53 am #

      Exactly, Roseanne. Thank you.

  4. Jenny Hansen June 27, 2014 at 2:28 am #

    I love getting to hear your story, Diane! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Diane June 27, 2014 at 8:54 am #

      Thank YOU, Jenny, for reading! I’ll publish part 2 of the story next week on the blog.

  5. Amy Shojai, CABC June 27, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    Reinventing ourselves has become the new “normal.” Good for you!

    • Diane June 28, 2014 at 10:32 am #

      Thanks, Amy. It’s all about acknowledging the situation and making the most of it! Oh, and a whole lot of hard work. 😉

  6. Marcia Berbeza June 28, 2014 at 12:14 am #

    I’ve been pelted by lemons many times, but since I like lemons, it usually works out for the best. It’s all about your attitude and finding good in the worst situations. When my children were small I worked as a substitute teacher. When they were bigger and other family responsibilities had been taken care of, I needed full time employment. I couldn’t get a classroom for love or money. It wasn’t until two excellent educators came to me and told me to go back to school and become a librarian that I found my true place. When I developed migraines that were triggered by the bright sun light, I started my hat collection. I have a great collection now and ladies always stop me to ask where I got them. Point is, bad news doesn’t have to remain bad. Sometimes it is a blessing in disguise.

    • Diane June 28, 2014 at 10:34 am #

      Marcia, it sounds like you got some wise advice. A strong support team helps immensely, doesn’t it?? I love your story of turning migraines into a hat collection. What an inventive way to cope! Thanks for sharing.

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