That Church Life by Teresa B.
Walking in Victory International, LLC
The Church Gal Crew is leading the way to Salvation at Mt. Zion Holiness Church. Feisty Natalia Freemon is the “head” of the crew. Rebellious and outspoken, she has no problems challenging the church status quo. Years later however, her loss of faith will tragically impact her life.
Michelle Hanks, a country girl from a hardworking farm family is the peacemaker and “soul” of the crew. Although struggling with self-confidence she is wise beyond her years and can’t wait to escape the farm life and find success; even if it costs her soul.
Missy Jones, the “heart” of the crew, has the face of an angel and a voice sent from heaven. A pastor’s daughter raised in the church, Missy loves the ministry and her place in it. But the flesh is tempting, especially when it comes in the form of sexy church musician and Mt. Zion playboy Tommy.
In spite of her dedication to the word, Missy falls hard for Tommy, and then falls out of favor with the church. Trapped in a cycle of relationship abuse, Missy’s world is falling apart until Beanie, a reformed stick-up man turned Deacon, shows her real love. But when tragedy strikes, Missy is torn between the truth, that could jeopardize everything she loves, or a lie that could be her damnation.
These three best friends drift away from each other and the church but come back together through spiritual downfall, relationship crises, drug addiction, and even murder. Just some of the drama you’ll find, in that church life!
Sisterhood is the constant theme throughout this book. Missy, Natalia and Michelle are childhood friends who grew up in the church, but have all branches of into lives of their own. In true "Sister" fashion, they are there to lift each other up, when they're needed the most.
This book started off crazy, but soon became the page-turner that I was not expecting. I was literally glued to my chair, determined to find out what happened to this trio next. Kudos to the author for the twists and turns that the reader will never see coming. I'm looking forward to the sequel. -Diamonds Literary World
I really loved That Church Life––part thriller, part romance, part family drama, the novel dances across genres and delights in its roots in soap opera and melodrama to great effect. The novel follows a young woman, Missy Jones, as she navigates the sometimes friendly but sometimes hostile landscape of Durham, North Carolina. As she rises in prominence within her church, leading her to take on greater responsibility, she is beset by conflicts with lovers, her father, and her family’s past. This may sound traditionally pulpy and in many ways, it is––that rich pulpiness and willingness to leap into plot headfirst supplies a great deal of the charm of the book. But the novel rises above pulp into truly engaging fiction through the electric sense of character and place that Ms. Howell brings to the tale. Like many other examples of strikingly brilliant genre fiction, the city that these characters inhabit plays as large a role in this novel as any of the characters.
Howell does for Durham what Chandler and Hammett did for Los Angeles as she provides Durham with an explosive and dramatic inner life. Her placement of Missy Jones within the world of televangelism does even more to build the texture of her world, creating a community of fantastically colorful and unique bit players; one of the most prosaically brilliant chapters of the book is a lengthy description of a church service, bursting with music and dance. Though this chapter does little to advance plot, it crackles with a dense pleasure, enriching the novel in ways that far more experienced authors often forget to do.
Similarly, “That Church Life!” is imbued throughout with a rawness that experienced writers from MFA programs often fail to capture. Ms. Howell is a first-time writer, and though this leaves some sentences clunky or poorly punctuated, these un-sanded edges help the novel to stand out amongst so many works written after years of study. Instead of a story told, the novel conveys a life lived in the real world, where boundaries between sex, church, love, and murder barely exist if at all. Howell makes no attempt to sanitize the book, but instead she embraces the lechery of churchgoers (to great comedic effect) and the friendly and unfriendly disagreements between friends and lovers (to great dramatic effect).
Especially commendable is the number of dimensions given to every character in the novel. This is no social realist book; there are villains and heroines, but the characters are stripped from real life and then heightened to match the drama of the plot, making them something like caricatures in the best sense of the word. Better yet is what happens when these characters interact, as Ms. Howell has a specific talent for writing dialogue. No line falls flat between Missy and her two close friends, or when she confides in her father. Ms. Howell’s talent for character is up with the best of them.
“That Church Life!” may not be the product of an MFA program, where the only input comes from fellow writers and the creative process is sealed away from worldly experience in churches and cities. But the fact that it is an exception to these cookie cutter novels makes it worth picking up, for any reader from the high-minded to the one seeking a fantastic fun summer read. Ms. Howell has here straddled the break between pulp and literature to produce a novel that is, put very simply, damn good.
Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Betrayal. Suspense. Murder…Can the crew survive the drama involved in That Church Life?
That Church Life by Teresa B. Howell follows Missy Jones as she seeks comfort from her calling as a pastor to guide her through the obstacles in her life. When her boyfriend is shot in her church, she struggles to understand her confusion and feelings of guilt. Her father and her friends tell her that he’s bad news, but she’s blinded by how much she loves him and how much faith she has in him changing his ways. Things get worse when a woman shows up, claiming to be her mother. When her two best friends suggest a trip to Jamaica, she sees this as her opportunity to get her life on a new path. Hope comes in the form of Beanie, a man who understands the church part of her life. Can she make a new course for her life before her past threatens to ruin it?
That Church Life is surprising, fast paced, and honest. I had a completely different idea of what to expect than how the story ended up being. It begins in the heart of the action as Missy is processing what happened. Everything follows her frame of thought as she goes through shock and confusion. The story felt cinematic in the best way with the quick pace, the action, and the dramatic elements. Teresa B. Howell finds the perfect balance. The shock of the shooting was hectic and crazy, trying to figure out what’s happening and why. Then there’s a soft calm where every detail falls into place. Every dramatic element has a calm payoff. The strongest part of the novel is the heart.
The relationship between Missy and her two best friends is strong and honest. They’re three different women, but they come together to make each other stronger, despite the obstacle one of them is dealing with. That Church Life has a lesson underneath of finding guidance and strength through any obstacle, and of friendship. A must-read
Purchase That Church Life by Teresa B. (Book 1)
Christian Fiction/Mystery Suspense
Chapter Excerpt: That Church Life by Teresa B. Howell
“Lord, forgive my sin!” echoed down Burlington Street and off the row of brick tènements. I ran back and forth, screaming the words at the top of my lungs with a preacher’s tone. Is this happening to me? Is this a dream? Help please! Feet red and bruised, where are my shoes? Why wasn’t anyone helping me?
Could they not hear me screaming? Fluttering eyes continued as I looked up at the horizon. I was not surprised to see window shades pulled up and people glaring from their homes. All those empty stares watching me for a story, but not to help. I stood in the middle of the street feeling insecure and paranoid while dabbing at burning ears as my anxiety go the best of me. Tinges of red on the edge of my fingertips confirmed all my fears. Blood! But how? Where? Got to find some place to hide. Numb and still very confused, my chanting became even louder than before, “Lord, my God! Help me, Lord!”
The screams and the crying did not cease. “Lord, please forgive me for my sin.” The scene of violence was stuck in my head: Oxygenated blood gushed slowly out of his body and onto the brown carpet of the pastor’s study. The stranger’s hands were large and strong as he wrestled with the two of us. The handgun concealed in his boot was braced with his second hand before it went off six times. We all fell to the ground simultaneously. The musician laid there, still holding onto the candid smile he had when he walked in. The sound of the gun going off pierced my ears over and over again. The thought of losing someone I loved so intensely created shivers from my head to my toes.
( Continued... )
© 2016 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Teresa B. Howell. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author's written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.
Intimate Conversation with Teresa B. Howell
Teresa B. Howell is an Exceptional Children’s Director that has two Master Degrees in education and leadership. She has received numerous awards and accolades in her profession, dedicated to mentoring and teaching students within the school system.
Teresa was born and raised in the church. She witnessed the good and the not so good while not only attending, but also serving in various capacities in different church organizations. Teresa decided in July 2015 to put her experiences and observations on paper, and her first novel That Church Life was born.
She aspires to be more than just the average Christian Author, which can be noted in her writing style. Teresa’s literary path is inspired by her faith, family, and close friends. She currently lives in Durham, NC with her husband and children.
BPM: What made you want to become a writer? How long have you been writing?
I have been writing songs and poems since childhood. Due to the death of a close family relative I began to write again using it as a therapeutic tool to overcome grief. This tool helped me to expand on writing other topics that were familiar and relatable to my situation. In 2015, I considered writing a non-fiction novel about my experiences in the church and how my upbringing had effected my outlook on spirituality and my relationship with God.
After self-reflection, I realized that I would be great at writing fiction as I loved to tell stories in my own unique way. I started writing That Church Life in July 2015 using Missy as the main character to tell my story. A year later I decided to publish with over 55 re-writes and an entirely different twist from the original manuscript.
BPM: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I have evolved greatly in the area of writing with coaching, training, and researching. I learned how to develop stories that will grasp the reader’s attention from page 1 of my books.
BPM: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Absolutely! It has become a true outlet for me in all areas of my life. I allow myself to connect with spiritual incite as I write down every word.
BPM: How has writing impacted your life?
Creating a page turning fiction Christian book has given me great opportunity to travel the world and talk about some of the tough topics that church goers don’t want to talk about within a church setting. From speaking engagements, television, and signings I have been able to speak to hundreds of people about different topics that arise within the church. That Church Life has given me a bigger platform to discuss and reflect on life’s challenges with the church and spirituality.
BPM: What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your books?
I learned from several of the readers that I have a talent that I didn’t know existed. I didn’t realize that my gift for writing would touch so many lives and I was very surprised at the response that my first novel has received.
BPM: How do you find or make time to write? Are you a plotter or a pantster?
I am a pantster by nature. Spending time to plot things would be a waste of time for me as I change story lines and characters around often in my writing. I love the creativity piece of being a panster and I try to have at least 8 hours a week for writing.
BPM: How did you choose the genre you write in? Have you considered writing in another genre?
I enjoy talking about tough topics dealing with religion and spiritual growth. In That Church Life the main character struggles with a lot of tough topics that become distractions for her growth. Now that I have found my niche, I don’t think I will go outside of Christian fiction or Mystery Suspense genres.
BPM: Tell us about your most recent work. Available on Nook and Kindle?
That Church Life part 1 is available on Nook and Kindle. It is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and my personal website.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters or the speakers. What makes each one so special?
That Church Life has three main characters that come together and create a powerful force. Missy Jones is a preacher’s kid who has a hard time pushing aside certain things and following her calling. She gets tangled up with several different distractions that cause her to waver her faith and destiny. She is the representative for all of the women within the church that struggle with these same topics.
Michelle Hanks is the peacemaker that tries hard to please everyone. But she has a deep dark past that haunts her. Her secrets will be revealed in That Church Life 2.
Natalia Freemon is a daughter to one of the deacons in the church. She is the troublemaker of the crew and doesn’t take religion seriously. She believes in living life freely and doesn’t allow all of the church mayhem to disturb her quality of living. She speaks her mind and lets everyone around her know that she means business.
BPM: What was your hardest scene to write, the opening or the close?
The ending was the hardest scene to write due to the complexity of the characters. I wanted to bring an unexpected twist to the readers that they didn’t see coming their way. I completed that task but it took months of evaluating to make it work.
BPM: Share one specific point in your book that resonated with your present situation or journey.
These three girls deal with so much within a months’ time frame but yet still push forward. I guess my main point of this novel would be to show how people within the church endure several issues but still come out as overcomers.
BPM: Is there a specific place/space/state that you find inspiration in?
I am easily distracted. I love to be in quiet and serene settings that allow me to think clearly about the writing process. Places such as the library, the beach, or vacationing are all great hotspots that allow my pen to flow freely.
BPM: Do you want each book to stand on its own or do you prefer to write series?
Writing a series takes a lot of work. You have to align every detail to each book because readers notice everything. I have enjoyed the process for That Church Life but I think after this series I will stick to stand alone books. They seem easier to write in my opinion.
BPM: Does writing energize you?
It can be very fulfilling overall. I can’t say that it is a complete energizer because trying to piece it all together can be really hard work.
BPM: Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes! Writers block is definitely something that happens often when I am writing. I have learned to step back for a few days and then get right back to it.
BPM: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I would never write anything dealing with erotica. It’s just not my style.
BPM: Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others?
For me writing the love scenes can be difficult. I find myself overwriting and putting way too much emphasis on how the characters feel more so then what they are actually doing. I love hard so my description of love is way over the top for some people.
Purchase That Church Life by Teresa B. (Book 1)
Christian Fiction/Mystery Suspense