Guest Blogger: Terrie Farley Moran – Setting a Story in the Real World (Click for Comments)

Setting a Story in the Real World by Terrie Farley Moran

Hi Debra, thanks so much for inviting me. It is always great fun when you and I get a chance to hang out together.

Happy Labor Day everyone! Today is the day we celebrate the history of workers in America. I found this picture online some years ago. It was taken in 1909 and shows a float of the ladies auxiliary of the typographical union—one of the first unions to admit female members—as early as the 1860s.

labordaywomen (1)

I like to think that those hardworking women were the predecessors of Sassy Cabot and Bridgy Mayfield who are the proprietors of a café and bookstore known as the Read ’Em and Eat—breakfast, lunch and all you can read. They are also the protagonists of the Read ’Em and Eat cozy mystery series,moran books (1) including Well Read, Then Dead, Caught Read-Handed and Read to Death.

The series is set in the very real town of Fort Myers Beach which is made up of two barrier islands in the Gulf Coast of South Florida. I can tell you right off the bat that one of the reasons I picked Fort Myers Beach as the location is because it is extremely picturesque but the more compelling reason is that the subplot in the first book of the series, Well Read, Then Dead, involved the history of the Gulf Coast and most especially the Ten Thousand Islands, one the final lawless American communities in the late 1800s and early 1900s.The history is so captivating, I didn’t want to betray it by using a fictitious community anywhere on the Gulf coast.

I suppose there are real advantages to setting a story in a real place. A lot of my short fiction is set in New York City, where I’ve lived my entire life. Still, for accuracy sake, I occasionally have to look stuff up. At which Broadway crossing is the famous statue of Father Duffy, hero of WW I? Does traffic on Third Avenue run uptown or downtown? What is the address of the Waldorf Astoria?

And there are disadvantages when writing about a community that is not as familiar as the back of my hand. I had never been to Fort Myers Beach before I chose it as the location for the Read ’Em and Eat Café and Bookstore. I also knew that thousands of tourists visit the beach twelve months a year. So once again accuracy would be paramount, because the odds were that a goodly number of my readers would have spent far more time at Fort Myers beach than I ever had.

I was fortunate enough to visit the community a couple of times. (My daughter lives a few miles away.) I took pictures and memorized where popular sites were located in relation to other popular sites. One thing that really tickles my fancy is that Fort Myers Beach has its own Times Square. Complete with entertainers and fireworks displays, it is a wide shopping area built around a four sided “square” clock. Times Square leads to The Pier, which stretches far out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Now here is a caveat about describing a real place in your books. I had a scene set in Times Square. (I often do, they sell ice cream there. YUM!) For some reason, I was writing a much longer description of the clock than I needed to. So I was looking at pictures and searching my memory and I couldn’t decide how tall the clock is, other than it is a lot taller than I am. I called the Chamber of Commerce but no one there could help me. Then I called the local newspaper, The Island Sandpaper, and the editor, Missy Layfield drove from down island to Times Square to measure the clock for me. I seem to recall it came in at around fifteen feet.

So the moral of my story is that if you are going to set a story in a real location, either be very familiar with it or have some nice person like Missy Layfield willing to help you out.

Since today is a holiday, we may as well have a giveaway. This notepaper is designed by Florida artist Leoma Lovegrove, who lives a stone’s throw from Fort Myers Beach in the artsy community of Matlacha. (As an aside, Sassy and Bridgy visit Matlacha in Read to Death.) For a chance to win the box of notepaper, please leave a comment saying anything at all about Florida. To be entered, you should include your email in this format: yourname (at) yourserver (dot) com so the spambots can’t pick it up.

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Terrie Farley Moran is the author of the Read ‘Em and Eat cozy mysteries series, including the Agatha Award winner Well Read, Then Dead, Caught Read-Handed and Read to Death.

Terrie’s short mystery fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. Her short story, “A Killing at the Beausoleil” was an Agatha Award Best Short Story nominee.

She also co-writes Laura Childs’ Scrapbooking Mystery series. Together they have written Parchment and Old Lace and Crepe Factor.



24 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Terrie Farley Moran – Setting a Story in the Real World (Click for Comments)”

  1. I’ll be flying in to Fort Myers next month to head to our new home in Port Charlotte for about 10 days. We will be moving in next April as my husband retires on March 31st. We are about 2 miles from the Gulf. I’ve always wanted to live in Florida since my first visit in 1982 and now my dream is finally coming true. pgenest57 at aol dot com

  2. We are headed to Florida in January to do the Disney/Universal/NASA thing! This is my oldest son’s senior year of high school and we figure if we don’t do it now we might never get the chance. 2boys4me (at) gmail (dot) com.

  3. Happy Labor Day! Thanks for sharing today and giving us readers a really unique giveaway! The cards are beautiful and so are the covers of your books! Florida is a state I haven’t been to a ton but anytime I’ve gone I’ve had a lot of fun! Any info you can give us about future books in the Read ‘Em and Eat series?? Thanks so much!

    Rlewis11797 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  4. Happy Labor Day, Terrie. Thanks for sharing your info on the Gulf Coast. It’s very
    Interesting. Like you, I know NYC very well but other locales require some research
    And a visit is always nice!


  5. It’s been many years since I’ve been to Florida.
    The in-laws were SnowBirds and we went to
    visit them every winter. Now that they are gone
    we don’t get down that way. We were
    there in the 60’s and 70s, so I know it has changed so much.

  6. I have only been to Florida once and I really enjoyed seeing the sights around Tampa, but really liked Daytona. Loved the breeze off the water and the beauty of the ocean. Next visit to Florida, I would like to go to Key West.

  7. Thanks for the giveaway. I grew up in Florida and last year we moved back after being gone for 15 years. We live in Ocala which is in central Florida, so we are about an hour away from the Gulf. I love living here and I really enjoy reading cozy mysteries that are set here.
    ceciliayoung at

  8. Well, my nephew lives in Florida and it has a lot of oranges. So much for what I know about Florida.

  9. Although I’ve never been to Fort Meyer’s Beach, I love to visit Florida. I really love the Fort Walton Beach/Destin area. cking78503(at)aol(dot)com

  10. Terrie, you could have fooled me! I was quite sure you were very familiar with Ft. Myers Beach. Your accuracy about the landscape, venacular and dress code, scream Florida beach town. Plus, since I met you in Florida. ….
    No need to put me in for giveaway. I have everything and more and am fixing to move again. Just wanted to stop by to read your blog and say hi. Cannot wait for next book!

  11. I was still in elem. school when my dad had a book convention to attend at the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach. (The group was small enough to only need the hotel.) My g’parents bought a van, had it converted into a camper (you couldn’t buy them like that at the time) and loaned it to our family for the trip. My mom was humiliated when we drove up to the hotel and valets were unloading our laundry bag etc. right in front–at the top of the steps there were women in mink coats, despite the heat and humidity. We had luxe living for a few days, got to visit the Everglades on a an airboat, an alligator wrestling place, boat tour of the homes of the rich and famous from the water, & so on. It was all mind-blowing! (The oranges not such a big deal, we were from Calif.) jeplibrary (at) aim (dot) com.

  12. Happy Labor Day! I have not been to Florida, but I do enjoy reading books set there! Thank you for the chance to win this beautiful prize!

  13. We lived in Florida for 3 years at Homestead AFB before Hurricane Andrew destroyed it. Chicago had been humid growing up, but my glasses didn’t fog up when I went outside after a rainstorm. And my toddler wasn’t almost carried away by mosquitoes in the middle of the day in July. But we loved it and often visit my sister who lives outside of Tampa. Thanks for the giveaway.

  14. Hi All, The giveaway is closed and the winner has been notified. As soon as she (a clue–the winner is female!) confirms her snail mail addy, we will announce it here. Once again my most heartfelt thank you to my dear friend Debra Goldstein for inviting me to babble along for a few paragraphs and many thanks to everyone for stopping by and keeping the conversation lively! xoxoxo Terrie

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