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Visiting the Scene or Vacation? by Will Zeilinger

March 3, 2018 by in category Partners in Crime by Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger tagged as , ,

Visting the Scene or Vacation | Will Zeilinger | A Slice of OrangeMy wife Janet Lynn, and I have been writing together for several years and are just completing our fourth co-written murder mystery novel. Since our stories are set in the 1950s, we have to research many of the locations that have either changed or no longer exist. And because our storylines take us to distant places, we travel to many of those sites in order to get it right.  Google Earth is great, and the web is invaluable, but there is only so much you can learn from these resources. Nothing beats being there in person. This works out great because we both love to travel.

For our first Skylar Drake Mystery, SLIVERS OF GLASS, we traveled to the northern California wine country, including Sonoma County, Bodega Bay and Santa Rosa.

STRANGE MARKINGS took us to Molokai where we researched pre-statehood Hawaii. This was the only Hawaiian island that wasn’t overly developed and gave us an idea of Hawaii before all the high-rise buildings.  Visting the Scene | Will Zeilinger | A Slice of Orange

Las Vegas in the mid-1950s was the setting for DESERT ICE. Most of our time was spent in the Special Collections at the UNLV Library, the Clark County Library and the Nevada State Museum. The Mob Museum to really give us the flavor of Vegas in 1955.  We also had the opportunity to interview a Las Vegas Dancer and the daughter a notorious mobster who lived there in the 1950s.

When we tell friends and family about our trips, they turn green with envy and mistakenly think we are on a vacation.  Nothing could be further from the truth, although we do learn things a “normal” tourist wouldn’t.  We are entertained by the people we meet and the historical tidbits that come to light during our research.

Visiting the Scene | Will Zeilinger | A Slice of OrangeSuccess in our research may stem from the questions Janet asks hotel staff, restaurant wait staff and sometimes random residents we meet on the street. She’ll ask, “If you needed to dump a dead body around here… where would you put it?”  The result is one of two different reactions. First: The person will take a couple of steps back and look around for an escape route. Or Second: They’ll provide specific locations of abandoned buildings, intersections, cemetery names, coves, cliffs or other places. This can seem a bit disconcerting, because that response means they’ve thought about this in depth.  There are times I’ve felt like taking a couple of steps back myself.

Our most recent book is a prime example. SLICK DEAL is set in 1956 on Santa Catalina Island. (only twenty-something miles off the coast of southern California.) We did exhaustive online research before consulting the Long Beach Main Library.  We happened to be on Catalina Island for other reasons a few months ago and stopped in at the Visitors Center. They also referred us to the Avalon branch of the L.A. County Library , which happened to be closed at the time we visited. We next visited the Chamber of Commerce, who, once again, referred us to the Library. This wasn’t going to work, so we visited the Catalina Conservancy. Guess where they referred us. Yes, the Library.   We thought we had it solved when we went to the Catalina Island Museum. Again, they said, to try the Library.  This prompted another visit to the Island when the Library was open. We scheduled it during the month our story took place and many questions were answered.  The staff was helpful and even provided white cotton gloves so we could rummage through their archives.

Visiting the Scene | Will Zeilinger | A Slice of OrangeSome of the most interesting facts came from the guide at the Avalon Casino “Frankie of Avalon,” who grew up on Catalina.  There was also a fellow at the golf-cart rental shop, and a couple of waiters. Does that sound like a relaxing vacation?

Once we visited these locations, we were struck with inspiration and appreciation for the locales.

Online research is great, but physically visiting the places where your story takes place can supply all your senses with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and the personality of the people you meet.  As a couple writing together, we have a great time and, after four books, we’re still married.


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Weird Things in 1950s Los Angeles by Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger

February 3, 2018 by in category Partners in Crime by Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger tagged as , , ,

Weird Things | Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger | A Slice of Orange


The Capitol Records building has been sending out hidden messages since 1956.


Weird Things | Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger | A Slice of Orange


As many tourists will tell you. One of the most recognizable landmarks of Hollywood (besides the Hollywood sign and the Chinese Theater) is the round Capitol Records building.  It opened on April 6, 1956. That evening a red light on the tip of the spire atop the building at 1750 Vine Street (a couple blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard) began spelling out H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D in Morse code. Then Capital president Alan Livingston ordered the light be added as a symbol that the Capitol Record label was the first with a presence in Los Angeles. Except for the years 1992 when the light blinked out C-A-P-I-T-A-L 5-0, celebrating Capitol Records fiftieth anniversary and 2016 when it flashed C-A-P-I-T-O-L 7-5 for the company’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the red light atop the spire continues to flash the original message.

World famous singers and musicians made Capitol Records their label, including: Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys,  Judy Garland, Dean Martin and many more.

Weird Things | Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

Even the most casual observer can see that the wide curved awnings over the windows on each story and the tall spike emerging from the top of the building resembles a stack of records on a turntable. But, Lou Naidorf, the building’s designer, didn’t have that in mind at all.

While Hollywood has undergone a lot of changes, this landmark has held its ground. Even in the 21st century, while many well known artists are recording music in a digital format. Turntables and vinyl LPs have regained popularity. Perhaps the meaning of the Capitol Records building’s design will once again be connected with the entertainment capitol of the world.

This iconic building was featured in several movies, including the 1974 movie “Earthquake,” 1997’s “Volcano” and 2004’s “The Day After Tomorrow” where it met an undignified demise. Despite these cinematic disasters, the light atop the building blinks out its H-O-L-L-Y-O-O-D  message to this day.


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Co-writing: Getting Your Ducks in a Row by @janetlynn4

January 3, 2018 by in category Partners in Crime by Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger tagged as , , ,

Ducks In A Row | Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger | A Slice of Orange


Getting your Ducks is a Row


My husband, Will Zeilinger, also a published author, and I decided to come together and write a 1950’s hard-boiled mystery, the Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series.

Without organization, nothing, and I mean nothing, would get done!

[tweetshare tweet=”Getting Your Ducks in a Row by @janetlynn4 Tips for writing with a partner” username=”A_SliceofOrange”]


Though we each bring different things/skills to the table when it comes to writing, I am the one who seems to get the organization together. During the early life of the novel, we start off brainstorming. No idea is too “outrageous” or “stupid” to write down. This includes characterizations, character names, background, and their part in the story.

Plot meetings

From there come several plots and subplots. An in-depth discussion of each follows. We then find the main plot that may even be several subplots melted together. This comes about over several meetings, we try to limit them to five. If we need more than five meetings to get any one of the issues resolved, something is usually wrong with the characters, plot or subplots and we revisit it by going back through prior meeting notes.

Purpose and agendas

Each meeting needs to have a specific purpose. Agendas are a great way to keep the discussions on track. When writing mysteries, like we do, this is an absolute must. We keep copies of all meeting agendas and decisions which helps with future reference, especially when we are stuck and can’t remember why we made the decision we did.

From this point, we set a timeline for when things need to be completed. If we do not meet a timeline that is a warning to get going and focus.

The results? SLIVERS OF GLASS, STRANGE MARKINGS and DESERT ICE. Our fourth book in the series, SLICK DEAL, will be released in February 2018…and yes, we’re still married.


Janet Elizabeth Lynn


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Life and Times of the 1950s: Vintage Holidays by @JanetLynn4

December 3, 2017 by in category Partners in Crime by Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger tagged as , , ,

Vintage Holidays | Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger | A Slice of Orange

Vintage Holidays


During the 1950s holiday parties happened all month long. They included everything from Company dinners and dancing, Club/organization award dinners, to neighborhood parties. If the evening wasn’t a Black tie affair, dress was “Cocktail” or “After Five”. A great deal of time was spent by both men and women in preparing their holiday outfit. Many women made their outfits for the occasion or re-designed old dresses. Suburbanites who had jobs in the city but lived in the “burbs” realized they didn’t need to travel to the city in order to enjoy the holiday season. Simple to lavish affairs were planned in neighborhoods and by organizations in their local area. Still, fashion was important, regardless of where they live
Men of the ’50s were polished head to toe with stylish hats, suits, handkerchiefs, coordinated ties, socks and Wingtip shoes. Suits were slim fitting and skinny ties were the1950s fashion. Men pulled out the jewelry: collar bars, lapel pins, cufflinks, tie clips and most important…a watch. Many wore some of it or all depending on the event.

Women also followed the trend of the day with dresses that were cinched at the waist and dramatic necklines. In an effort to look coordinated, parures (matching sets of jewelry) were popular. These pieces were designed to be worn as a set. The women wore matching earrings, necklaces, bracelets, pins and rings. They strived for the “coordinating” look.

(Note: My mother-in-law, who lived overseas, was a “fashionista” of her time, 40s, 50s, 60s. Her strategy was to make or buy an evening dress that was full and long. Each year (with the help of fashion magazines) she would re-shape the dress by making the skirt less full, changing the sleeve and the neckline. The original dress was reshaped up to five times and they were beautiful each time.

As a youth, I lived in Long Island, New York in the 1950s, and my mother and several neighbor women did the same thing with store-bought evening dresses to keep within the yearly budget. This is how important fashion was in the 1950s.)

Everyone paid a great deal of attention to the coats they wore when they arrived at parties. After all, that was the first thing people saw when you stepped through the door. Full swing coats were popular for women, depending on where you lived and the temperature. Men wore full length coats. And again, the coats, for both sexes, were accessorized, i.e., pins, corsages or boutonnieres of artificial flowers, gloves, hat, etc.

After all, the holidays were the time to pull out all the stops.

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Janet Elizabeth Lynn


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Life and Times of the 1950s – Service Stations by @JanetLynn4 & @Will_Zeilinger #researching #writing

November 3, 2017 by in category Partners in Crime by Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger tagged as , ,

Life and Times of the 1950s – Service Stations | Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger | A Slice of OrangeIn the 1950s the emergence of suburban America led to the boom in automobile travel. This was a time of cheap fuel, before air quality regulations and seat belts. Cars were nowhere as fuel efficient or reliable as the vehicles of today. More than 230,000 service stations dotted the nation. All four corners of many major intersections were occupied by service stations.  “Service stations?” The gas station of the 50s was truly a full-service station and puts today’s modern fill & go places to shame. Customer service was a key factor in the success of any service station, and competition was stiff for the 1950s customer.

When you pulled into a service station, your car would usually run over a tiny rubber hose laid across the entrance driveways. A bell would “ding” and as many as four uniformed attendants not only filled your tank, but opened the hood and checked the oil and coolant while others checked tire pressure and washed your car’s windows. At one station, they wiped down the radio antenna.

Life and Times of the 1950s – Service Stations | Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger | A Slice of OrangeA trip to the service station was an experience even the kids enjoyed. Some service stations let the young boys “help” fill the tank or check the tires. One chain had trampolines for them to jump on while the parents filled up the family car.

Not only that, but these businesses often provided incentives to get your return business.  Some gave out promotional items with a fill-up like drinking glasses imprinted with the company logo. China dishware or cutlery was another incentive. Each time you’d go to the station, you would receive a free bowl, plate or other piece. If you returned often enough, you could amass an entire set of china or flatware.  Mostly, the free giveaways were toys, key chains, calendars, Blue Chip stamps or Green trading stamps. (If you are too young to remember trading stamps, it worked like this… with each purchase you made at a participating business you’d receive stamps that were pasted into a book. When you accumulated enough stamps, you could trade them for items in a catalog. This very similar to credit card or frequent flyer points today.)

Life and Times of the 1950s – Service Stations | Janet Lynn and Will Zielinger | A Slice of Orange

Free road maps were another giveaway you don’t see anymore, but they were given out as a courtesy in the 1950s. One company in New York even provided an “upside down” map from New York to Florida where south was at the top of the map for easier use by southbound drivers.  To keep the customer coming back, some held contests for free fill-ups or offered the chance to win a prize. Some went so far as to give away a new car to a lucky customer!


My own father would drive twenty miles from Orange County, California to buy gas at one of the Parks Texaco stations in Long Beach— all for a chance to win a new Cadillac. Eventually, the Parks stations closed and he has since passed away. He never won the Caddy.

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