L.J. Taylor Books

Tales of Suspense and Dangerous Romance

When I First Discovered I Was a Writer

Someone recently asked me when did I first discover that I was a writer.  I really had to think about that question. 

I have always been a voracious reader.  I remember that, as a young child, my mother would search for me high and low and inevitably find me hiding out in a corner somewhere reading a book.  I had to hide. I am the oldest of five children and finding a moment of peace and a quiet space to read required some ingenuity.  I eventually learned to tune the world out while I read.  That ability to focus in and tune out distractions served me well in college and law school and continues to serve me well in both the practice of law and my writing career.

I started writing at an early age too.  At the age of 13, I began writing a science fiction novel that was inspired by Star Wars.  In high school, I wrote poetry and song lyrics.  One of my poems was published in my high school yearbook.

Despite the fact that I began writing at an early age, I really discovered that I was a writer in 2007 when, after years of stifling my creativity and being miserable, I wrote an erotic poem.  Even though I had never written an erotic poem before, it was the best poem I had ever written.  A few of the lines just came to me while I was in the shower.  I dried off, threw on a robe, sat at my computer, typed the lines that were in my head and created the rest of the poem around it.  When I had finished, I just sat there staring at the computer in astonishment.  I realized then that I had to write or I would never be happy or complete.  That's when I knew I was a writer.

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Easy Ways to Get in 7+ Fruit and Vegetable Servings Per Day

In my quest to lose weight, I started seeing a doctor of Chinese medicine referred to me  by a friend.  During my first visit, she told me, among other things,  that I had to start eating 7 to 11 fruit and vegetable servings per day.  I looked at her as if she had two heads, but I decided to give it a try.  What did I have to lose but weight and years of not so healthy eating habits?

At first, it seemed impossible to even conceive of how to eat  all those servings of fruits and vegetables in a single day.  But then she handed me a sheet that said a serving equals a half cup of any vegetable or fruit, except lettuce, spinach, cabbage, collard greens, kale and the like.  You need a full cup of those leafy veggies to make a serving since they are made of mostly water.  A serving can can also be a piece of fruit (i.e. an apple, a pear, a plum, a nectarine) or 15 grapes or 6 baby carrots and so on and so forth. 

When I left my doctor's office the first time, my mind was reeling (partly because she also told me I had to stop eating dairy – but that is a topic for another day).  Like the psychotic Type A person that I can be, I feverishly researched the issue, tormented myself and experimented until I finally figured out how to add 7-11 fruit and vegetable servings into my day without becoming a vegetarian and without it becoming a full time job.

The first thing I did was to get on the web and look for vegetable recipes.  I knew that I would not be happy eating salads every single day and that I would need some help in that regard.  I discovered that the Center for Disease Control (the “CDC”) is very serious about getting Americans to increase their vegetable intake.  They have a fabulous website devoted to the issue that is filled with recipes for cooking meals containing all types of vegetables.  For example, they have a recipe for a vegetable and chicken stir fry that gives you 3 servings of vegetables per meal.  Have it over brown rice and you've got yourself a delicious and healthy meal while wiping out 3 of your 7 daily vegetable servings in one felled swoop.  You can save the recipes you like from the site and print them out in a customized cookbook.  It is unreal.  See for yourself at www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov and click on the recipes box. I also discovered some great vegetable recipes on the Food Network website and later the Weight Watchers website.

After finding some vegetable filled recipes that I thought I would like, I had to make a plan to increase my fruit and vegetable intake.  Now, I have it down to a science.  On a typical day, I will have at least two servings of fruit before lunch.  I make 5 one cup sized plastic containers of fruit salad on Sunday and throw a container into my lunch bag to eat as a mid-morning snack.  I also throw in two pieces of fruit to snack on in the afternoon –  usually an apple and a pear or a plum or a nectarine.  Sometimes I throw a snack sized baggie containing 12 baby carrots (that's 2 servings) or celery sticks and a tablespoon of hummus wrapped in foil into my lunch bag. 

When I make a turkey wrap for lunch, I add a cup of baby spinach and a sliced plum tomato to my deli thin turkey meat and dijon mustard to bulk up the wrap (that's 2 servings of veggies right there). 

On the weekends, I make sure that I cook vegetable soup and sides I can pair with meals all week long.  For example, Weight Watchers has recipes for vegetable soups which I have modified and made my own and the Food Network website has recipes for carrot soup (and others) that are delicious.  The CDC website also has some.  A cup of either yields 2 or more vegetable servings (more for pureed soups). 

Sides of veggies are the easiest to make.  For example, you can peel some carrots, cut them diagonally into two inch pieces, throw them into a bowl with a little olive oil and salt, coat them,  then throw them onto a sheet pan, roast them in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes and throw a tablespoon of chopped dill over them when they are still warm (or not) and you will be a happy child.  You can do the same thing with sweet potatoes (no need to peel and no dill). 

You can take a 16 oz. bag of frozen peas and carrots or mixed vegetables, throw them into a pot with a little chicken broth, garlic powder, onion powder, and Goya Adobo seasoning (or a little salt) to taste and you have  tasty side veggies to go with the rest of your dinner.  You can take frozen broccoli, blanch it boiling water for a few minutes, take it out with a slotted spoon and throw it into a bowl of ice water to keep it green and stop the cooking, drain it and then throw it into a saucepan to saute with a little olive oil, chopped shallot (or onion) and garlic and a little Lawry's to taste. 

The point is that it doesn't have to be hard, time consuming or even ridiculously expensive to work 7-11  fruit and vegetable servings into your diet.  Frozen veggies give you the same bang for your buck as fresh, and canned pineapple works as well as fresh (as long as its not packed in heavy syrup).

The reward for this effort is youthful glowing skin, better health, increased energy, weight loss and for me, the beginning of the healing process after 22 years of smoking.

I hope you find this helpful.


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The Benefits of Attending a Writers Conference

A couple of weeks ago,  I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference.  It was a great experience.  I had been to the Maui Writers Conference several times before.  I always came  back from those trips refreshed and renewed and having learned a lot about the craft of writing.  

I didn't have high expectations for the San Francisco Writers Conference.  I doubted that  it would be able to compete with the wonderful experiences I had in Hawaii.  Boy was I wrong.  I don't know if its because I have now written three novels and I am at a different stage in my writing  journey (the godforsaken land of  editing), but  I got so much out of the San Francisco Writers Conference that I came back fired up and with an action plan that I have already started to set in motion. 

I learned about the need to have a platform (an audience who would look forward to reading your work) and how to go about developing one.  I learned how to best to pitch my work to agents and editors.  I learned how to find the agents and editors who would be most receptive to the type of books I write.  I even learned that my romance novel would be difficult to place because it is short (57,000 words) and that if I want it to have a greater chance of getting published, I need to expand it to at least 75,000 and preferably 90,000 words. 

I got very helpful feedback on the first few pages of my suspense novel – Dreams Deferred – from an independent editor and invitations from six well-known and respected agents to send them my manuscripts for consideration.  Now if I could just finish editing the darn things and get them out the door . . .  But that is a topic for another day.

The point is, there are numerous benefits to attending a well run, well attended and very well put together writers conference – from the writing seminars to the ability to consult with independent editors to the ability to network with and pitch to top agents and editors, to the fellowship and inspiration one gets from mingling with other creative minds.   I will definitely be back next year – not to find an agent, but to learn more from the seminars and to pitch my next book.


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Friends Can Help With Weight Loss

Last weekend, I had dinner at my best friend's house.  One of the many reasons we are such good friends is that we have a mutual love of pleasure in all forms – good food, good wine, good music,  good times  . . .  and so on and so forth.  Anyway, she is an excellent cook and one of her favorite chefs is Emeril Lagasse whom I also adore.  Expecting a delectable, but calorie rich meal and a few too many cocktails, I saved up all of my extra weekly Weightwatchers points for the occasion.  I even had the nerve to bake my first cake ever to bring over for dessert.  It was a chocolate cake made from a recipe out of Betheny Frankel's book “The Skinnygirl Dish Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life.”   I thought it came out pretty good.  I think my friend would agree with me even though the peanut butter in the icing made her tongue stick to the roof of her mouth and her husband had us laughing so hard over his imitation of her dilemma that she was afraid to eat any more.  But I digress.

To my surprise and delight, my friend, in consideration of my weight loss efforts, had made a delicious and healthy dinner for us to enjoy.  She made bruschetta on 5 grain Italian bread, a light version of coq au vin, whole wheat couscous, cauliflower, and a salad with low fat dressing.  She even had low calorie desserts available but I, apparently, sabotaged that with the chocolate cake. 

During dinner, my friend told me that she had enjoyed the challenge of making a light but tasty and satisfying meal from appetizer to dessert.  The next day, after I entered every morsel and sip into my Weightwatchers online journal, I saw that, even with the cocktails and the chocolate cake (I had a very small piece), I had stayed within my Weightwatchers points for the week.  I called my friend  to thank her and to share the good news.  She was thrilled.

The moral of this story is that a good friend can support you in your weight loss efforts.  Sometimes they do it on their own, like my friend.  Sometimes,  you may need to ask for their help.   Don't be afraid to.

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Hello world! Get ready for L. J. Taylor

My name is L. J. Taylor.  This is my very first post on my very first blog, so bear with me.  

 Who am I do you ask?  I am a warrior who fights for a living (a commercial litigation attorney) and has a fighting spirit.  I am a poet who can express a wide range of emotions from the most tender to the most militant.  I am a novelist and a screenwriter who (I have recently realized) enjoys writing in the  suspense genre.  I am an avid learner of all sorts of interesting things like cooking, weight loss, achieving better health, dance (from bellydance to argentine tango), and writing (fiction. nonfiction and poetry).  I am a busy professional woman who is still struggling to achieve balance between my professional and personal lives.  But, first and foremost, I am a woman.  I am a daughter, a sister, an avid “Auntie” and a friend. 

When I turned forty, I decided to take some time to pursue some personal goals outside of the practice of law.  To that end, I quit smoking, lost more than 40 lbs, learned how to cook healthy meals and wrote three novels, a poem and a movie script (all while keeping my “day” job).    I struggle every day to find balance between my personal and professional lives, to pursue my dream of publishing novels and to take off the weight that I have carried for most of my adult life. 

I started this blog to share my art, some of the lessons I have learned along the way and  my journey, with you.  I hope that you enjoy the ride.


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