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Longboat Key Wednesday, May 25, 2016 5 years ago

Sarasota area sets the scene for novelist Meredith Ellsworth

Known by her pen name M.S. Spencer, Spanish Main resident Meredith Ellsworth's newest novel unfolds at Mote Marine.
by: Kristen Herhold Community Editor

A dead body in the turtle pool at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquariun?

Although this may not be reality, Spanish Main Yacht Club resident Meredith Ellsworth uses real-life settings in her mystery novels, including “Mai Tais and Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine.”

“A woman has come down here to settle and comes to Mote Marine to take in a baby pufferfish,” Ellsworth said. “She goes into the turtle pool and finds a dead body.”

Under the pseudonym M.S. Spencer, Ellsworth has published 10 mystery and action/adventure novels.

Before writing each book, Ellsworth, who moved to Longboat Key in 2013, conducts months of research on the setting.

“Each one of them I do research, and I learn all this information about the history of the place,” she said. “That’s what I love.”

Ellsworth is currently writing her second book that takes place in the Sarasota area. The yet-to-be-named novel focuses on Longboat Key’s ghost hotel.

“John Ringling was going to build a Ritz Carlton where the Chart House is now,” Ellsworth said. “He stopped building it in 1926, and from 1926 to 1964, it just sat there. What do you find in a ghost hotel? Ghosts.”

The book will begin in modern times but go back to the time of Ringling and the construction of the hotel.

“They’re doing work in the parking lot of the Chart House and find a skeleton,” Ellsworth said.

The book also features a reporter from the fictional “Longboat Key Sun” and other characters and plot lines that are inspired by local people and businesses.

“I get advice from people in the professions I’m writing about to get everything accurate,” Ellsworth said. “With the skeleton, somebody has knocked out all its teeth. I asked my dentist advice, and he was so excited.”

Ellsworth’s first book, “Lost in his Arms,” was published in 2009.

 “I emailed them checking on the status, and I got an email back saying, “We love it. We want to publish it,” she said. “When you go screaming around the house, jumping up and down, then it becomes real. Once you get something published, you realize it’s possible.”

Ellsworth’s inspiration for “Lost in his Arms” came from a dream she had. She woke up and spent the next several months writing it.

When Ellsworth isn’t dreaming up her novels, she uses the setting as inspiration.

“For me, it usually begins with the setting instead of a storyline or characters, which is unusual for writers,” she said. “Once I know where I want it to take place, I might Google around or start thinking about what it could be on a walk. You start writing, and the characters take off, and sometimes the plot takes off.”

Ellsworth believes the hardest part of writing a book, especially her mysteries, is the consistency.

“For a murder mystery, it has to be absolutely consistent,” she said. “I was reading over my story before it was published that had already been read by several editors, and I realized my character had a skirt on at the beginning of the scene and pants on at the end, and no one had caught it. I’m glad we can read it over several times before it’s published.”

Ellsworth’s novels are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and other online retailers.

For more information, visit

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