Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What's Not to Like About Stolen Laughter?

We have heard some really nice things about our newest novel, Stolen Laughter. People are finding that they can identify with the family dynamics in the book, and they like the fact that we always write books with happy endings.

Does that give anything away? Not really. Tess Thompson likes to leave readers feeling good about life after they finish reading. Tess Thompson is a pseudonym for Charlene Tess and Judi Thompson, two sisters who write as a team. We combined our two last names Tess and Thompson into our pen name.

Stolen Laughter has two plots that are intertwined. Two brothers, Cameron and Quinn, growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, must cope with a difficult, domineering father and a manipulative, saccharine-sweet mother. Both Cameron and Quinn meet women who intrigue them and take their hearts captive, yet both men are met with challenges that leave them wondering how they will ever survive the affairs of the heart.

Readers tell us that they had no idea how it would end, and they stayed up reading late into the night to find out. We love books like that. We love to write them.

If you decide to read Stolen Laugher, please consider leaving us an honest review on in the Kindle Store. Reviews are necessary for good sales and to help us enter contests.

Stolen Laughter is our sixth novel. The first five are also good reads. Why not take a look?

Click here to visit our store.

Thanks for reading,

Charlene and Judi

Monday, August 7, 2017

Don't Protect Your Protagonist

One lesson I had to learn as a writer was to allow bad things to happen to good people. After carefully crafting a character and rounding out all of their physical attributes, personality traits, and giving them a background, they always become very real to me. They are vivid in my mind, and I care about them.

How then, could I let one of them be kidnapped and tortured, or watch them lose the love of their life, or their child? How could I let a different character in the book bully or threaten them?

Well, I can tell you that it wasn't easy to overcome the tendency to protect my characters and make everything right in their world. But, I got over that very quickly after a critique partner reading one of my very first manuscripts told me that she couldn't get into my plot because nothing happened.

What? That can't be true. Of course something happened. My heroine re-united with her high school boyfriend, and after a few misunderstandings were straightened out in a few heated conversations, they walked off into the glorious sunset together. 

After I read it again with a more critical eye, I realized that the biggest problem in the entire story was that the heroine got her feelings hurt. That manuscript never got published, and that's a good thing.

Because I taught creative writing, I knew all about the conflicts that appeared in literature: man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self, man vs. society, man vs. supernatural, etc. I had included conflict in my story, but my mistake was in protecting my protagonist.

The protagonist must be allowed to flounder and even to fail. The protagonist must be placed in physical or emotional danger that is so real and threatening that the reader will be nervous about the outcome. After all, if the characters are well drawn, the reader will care about them as much as the writer does.

Judi and I invite you to read one of our Tess Thompson novels. Our characters get themselves into all kinds of trouble. Try one of our books and see how they manage to unravel all the plot twists and turns.

Now you can read all three of the 

Chance O'Brien mysteries

 in one book at a great price. Only $6.99

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, July 1, 2017

It Takes a Long Time to Write a Short Novel

Mr. Thoreau knew what he was talking about. Rambling on and on is pretty easy to do. You don't have to think about your words or how you are presenting your thoughts. And writing like that is a good way, in fact, the best way to begin.

However, when a writer begins to revise, it is time to cut and slash meaningless words and statements from your draft and begin to search for the perfect word, phrase, and sentence to say exactly what you really mean.

Sometimes it hurts to cut things out of your first draft. You wrote those words. You have invested in those words, and then you highlight and hit the delete key. Ouch! That hurts!

Judi and I usually have the opposite problem with our novels. Neither of us likes to read books filled with long, descriptive passages. We want the writer to just get down to the action and take us to the good parts. So, we find that we often finish with a novel that is a little shorter than it should be.

We hope you will find our books exciting and want to keep turning the pages.

free ebook, modern short fiction, Charlene Tess

Saturday, January 28, 2017

We Like Novels with Happy Endings

Judi and I agree with Anne Lamott. The novels that we write have happy or at least satisfying endings. We don’t believe in reading several hundred pages only to discover that the characters we have fallen in love with are on a collision course with death or destruction.

Judi, is actually more adamant about this idea than I am. In the days before eBooks (Can we even remember those days?), Judi would go to the bookstore and read the end of the book first before she would buy the novel. If she didn’t like the ending, the book stayed in its place on the shelf. I was more trusting, but was sometimes disappointed.

That is not to say that our characters have boring, trouble-free lives. They are frequently in jeopardy and have to wriggle out of some difficult situations. Sometimes, one of our characters is destined to die, but the ending of the novel is one that we hope will not disappoint.

Our role model for women was our amazing mother, Alice Bourland. She was loving, kind, and fair, but no one, and I do mean no one, could make her do anything that compromised her morals and ideals. She was intelligent and had a ready wit. She could put people in their place with one steely look from those beautiful, blue-green eyes, and she would never have allowed anyone by word or deed to treat her as anything other than a lady.

Our heroines are not damsels in distress waiting for a strong man to rescue them. A heroine in our books will determine her own destiny and enjoy a relationship with a man with whom they are equal partners.

We think you will like our characters. We invite you to read one of our books. They are only $2.99 in the Kindle Store.

Thanks for reading,

Charlene TESS and Judi THOMPSON

Monday, August 1, 2016

An Interview with Author Linda Bingham

An Interview with Linda Bingham

How did you start writing? What first inspired you?

I remember writing poetry and short stories back in grade school. I was an omnivorous reader and never considered majoring in anything but English literature in college. I don’t think I realized I would be teaching students who could barely read and consequently didn’t last long in Houston’s inner-city schools. In my mid-20’s I set out to write my first novel. Having spent the previous years reading Eliot, Dickens, Hardy, Austen, and other great English novelists, I assumed that I would naturally know how to write dialogue and structure a paragraph, transition from one scene to the next but I found myself hopelessly entangled in words and had to give it up until I gained some maturity (and life experiences)

I was nearly forty and sitting among the ruins of my destroyed beach house when I got the idea for my Galveston historical, Born On The Island. It took the 100th centennial of the Great Storm to interest a publisher in this book. By then I was well on my way to writing full-time. I quit my day job and spent the next several years learning the craft of novel-building, a subject so large I can never fully master it. However, from time to time I feel enormous satisfaction from a well-crafted sentence or dialogue exchange.

Who or what has helped you the most with your writing career? 

Reading thousands of novels was the best preparation for becoming a novelist.

Do you write everyday?


Do you have a special place to write?

My home office. I love working at a big desktop computer so I can keep my back and neck in alignment. Novel-writing is an endurance sport.

Typically, how much do you write a day?

Five hours or so.

Do you use an outline? If not, how do you keep your story and characters together?

I do not outline. I do, however, write extensive character sketches and have a good idea of my plot (for the mysteries) before I begin. Not so much in my mainstream work. For that writing, I’m happy to let the conflict between characters surprise me.

How much do you rewrite? How many drafts do you typically have?

It’s hard to count rewrites when one works on a computer. I typically spend three months on a draft, put it away, and work on something else. Then come back to it, repeatedly. I am currently working on a mainstream novel I wrote years ago and have gone over dozens of times. I’m almost happy with it.

How do you feel about writing groups and have they helped you?

I can’t say they’ve been a help to me. Writing is by its nature a solitary pursuit. I moved recently to a new community and visited a fiction writers group, but the organization was in disarray. I did make a friend, though, and we’ve been helpful to one another.

What drew you to your genre of writing? (A specific author, influence?)

I figure I have no more “great” book ideas than George Eliot, who published 7 novels in her lifetime, or Barbara Pym, around a dozen. But my years on the planet need filling up, and I like plotting mysteries. It’s a genre the reading public never seems to tire of, or seeing dramatized. I loved Nancy Drew when I was a child, Josephine Tey as a young adult reader, and still have many Ruth Rendell novels to go before I get through her entire oeuvre. I focus on women writers now to balance out the steady diet of male writers I was force-fed in college.

What authors do you like to read?

Since I spent so much of my life reading fiction, in the past few years I’ve tried to even out my reading experience with non-fiction. I like reading about science and technology. Writing a mystery, or any kind of fiction for that matter, taps into the whole gamut of one’s knowledge. I know a little bit about a lot of things!

Who is your greatest support?

I value my family for reading and loving my books. My sister is my biggest fan, and she alone knows where all the bits and pieces came from.

What do you think of e-publishing?

As important and wonderful as the invention of the printing press! The process of “getting published” has been democratized.

What methods do you use to market your work?

I maintain a website/blog, a Facebook author page, an email list of friends, family, fans.

What are you working on currently?

I just emerged from a prolonged bout on my new Elinor & Dot mystery Death In The Stacks. I’m filling time before inspiration strikes again re-reading a large mainstream work called Oklahoma Air (I’m from a small town in Oklahoma).

What advice would you give to beginning writers?

Don’t go into it for fame and fortune. You’ll get your heart broken.

Linda Bingham's books are available on in the Book Store.


In paper (available from resellers on Amazon):


Born On The Island, a novel of Galveston


Who’sBurning Paloma Blanca (my arson investigator series, including the next two)
Up In Flames
What the Librarian Heard (first Elinor & Dot mystery)

Digital mysteries, all available on Amazon:

Visit Linda at: