Since the paperback and ebook are not yet linked on Amazon:
In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ve been posting the first several chapters. Today I give you chapter 8, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like. Chapter 8 will get you about a third of the way through the book, and it’s the final chapter I’ll be posting on my website, as the book will soon be released on Amazon.
– Neri –
“Down, down,” Ben said, tugging on my hair.
“Okay you little dust dervish, here you go.”
As I dropped Ben onto the sandy road, he scurried back to Ruth and Anna, a tiny dust cloud in his wake. He collided into Anna’s legs, wrapped his pudgy arms around them, and squeezed. Anna, nearly falling, grabbed Ruth’s arm and steadied herself. Ben let go and headed for Ruth. But she was too quick for him. She bent down, shot her hands under his arms, and began tickling. Ben fell squirming to the ground, giggling wildly and kicking up even more dust. Ruth dropped to her knees and kept tickling.
I lost my thoughts on the silver star necklace resting within the soft recess at the base of Ruth’s neck. Her neck looked soft as camel cheese and white as goats milk.
A light blue sky hung high above the valley. Trees, bushes, and flowers thrived along the river’s edge. As far downriver as I could see there were red poppies, little yellow flower I didn’t know, date palm trees, and tall grasses—all in radiant color. The lush banks gave way to low grass bordering the road that followed the river. And on the other side of the road, soft meadows gently sloped toward the hills to the west.
The road felt good—it felt like freedom and adventure. I’d missed the feel of the road under my bare feet. Since sandals were for impressing people, and my tough feet didn’t need protecting, I’d tucked my sandals in my tool sack. I took in a slow, deep breath as I scanned the valley around me, and smiled.
Farther down river, as it bent west, buildings slid into view. Clusters of houses huddled between the river and the hills, with a few on the eastern shore. This side of the wall-less village, vegetables and grains sprouted in the fields on both sides of the road. A vineyard nestled on the slopes of the hills, with buds freshly breaking.
I glanced again at Ruth and Anna. Behind them marched a growing band of followers. Some I recognized as those I’d helped in the meadow. I walked faster to catch up to Yeshua.
“You know, Yeshua,” I said as fell into pace beside him, “seeing you heal people is like eating a whole camel—milk, cheese, and all. It’s so filling, so overwhelming, so irresistible. But then I’m empty again, and hungry for more, like I can’t ever get enough.” I looked over my shoulder at the trailing newcomers, “I think they might feel the same way.” Yeshua just smiled, and gazed up into the sky. “How does it feel to have so many people following you?”
“Neri, I welcome everyone, no matter why they come to me. I will never turn them away. But I wish they would follow because of who I am, not because of what I can do for them.” He took in a slow breath. “You know. True friends are those that don’t expect anything from you, those that stay your friend no matter what. But for now, their love for me is conditional—they will love and they will follow as long as I have something to give them.”
Was that why I followed him? For the promise of something more? I felt shame seep into my gut. But I had always strived to be different. And I was determined not to be just another follower.
“Neri, for those following me—if they follow far enough—they will see with their eyes what true love really is.”
Yeshua put his hand on my shoulder and firmly squeezed. “No conditions.”
Looking up, the jackals were at the gate. Where the road entered the village, a pack of brightly colored Pharisees prowled, all staring our way, arms crossed as if trying to bar entry. Like jackals, I felt they were hungry for fresh meat. But there would be no meat for them, not while I was around.
In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ve been posting the first several chapters. Last week I posted chapter 6. Today I give you the seventh chapter, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like.
– Nathan –
Samuel burst through the door, “Nathan, get up!”
“What?” I rubbed my eyes and stretched as the other three shouldered their way in, tripping over each other and crashing in a jumbled heap onto the floor of my bedroom. “Ssshhh. You’ll wake em up,” I whispered, motioning toward my parents’ room. Outside, sunrise was still about an hour away. The rest of the town was sure to be sleeping. Perfect.
Throwing off my blanket, I looked to Jacob, “Got the ropes?”
“Don’t be foolish,” he shot back. “Let’s get going. We don’t have much time.”
Soon we were running up the road toward the center of town. Well, I wasn’t running. My twisted, crippled legs saw to that. I clung to my woven mat, with each of my friends holding a corner as they ran. Zachery and Josiah led the way. Samuel and Jacob, being taller, held the back corners high, allowing me to sit up.
Soft grey light began seeping into the sky. Two tall stone houses flanked the south road where it entered the square—we headed there. Off narrow alleys intersecting the road, outside stairs led to the upper floors and the rooftop terraces.
Samuel quietly climbed the stairs up one house, Jacob the other. Tying the rope to a pillar on the terrace, Samuel then threw it to Jacob, impatiently waiting on top of the other house. With both ends secure, the middle of the rope sagged down between the two houses.
The sky was growing a light blue as Samuel and Jacob came bounding down the stairs, no longer trying to be quiet. Zachery and Josiah sat me on the rope and made sure I held tight. Soon I was swinging as high as the middle of the second floor, my stomach lurching back and forth. As the sun flashed over the horizon, the townspeople woke to crowing. It wasn’t a rooster.
Copyright CJ Penn, 2020
In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ve been posting the first several chapters. Last week I posted chapter 5. Today I give you the sixth chapter, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like.
The morning fog had crept from the lake, slithered through the streets, poured into my hut, and seeped into my bones like poison. Dampness always made the pain worse. I groaned through clenched teeth as I pushed myself out of bed and stood shivering on frozen feet.
“Come on Ruth, unlock the door!” my sister called again, fear rising in her voice. By now, her imagination was probably painting her a picture of my withered corpse. A bittersweet smile crossed my lips. Me dead—if only.
“What?” I yelled, yanking the door open. The effort left me wheezing. I swayed on wobbly legs, nausea creeping up my chest, sweat chilling the back of my neck.
“Finally! Listen Ruth, you remember the man I told you about? The healer? Well he’s on his way to our town and I heard he healed a man of leprosy in the village up north and now he’s on his way here and I’m sure he can heal you so you can finally be healthy again and you won’t feel any more pain and you can leave your house when you want, isn’t that great!”
“Yes. Great.” I marveled less about her words, and more about how my squirrel of a sister could say so much in one breath. “Now. Let me go back to bed.” I tried to close the door.
“No!” She wedged her leg against the door jam, knowing I didn’t have the strength to resist. “You need to go to him, so he can heal you.”
“Okay, I will. After he gets here. Now leave me alone.”
Copyright CJ Penn, 2020
In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ve been posting the first several chapters. Last week I posted chapter 4. Today I give you the fifth chapter, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like.
“Neri, over here, I’m thirsty,” I tugged on his sleeve and pulled him toward an inn on the edge of the square. Several hours after leaving the village where I found Neri, we arrived at another town … a larger town.
“Good, I’m hungry,” Neri replied.
We climbed a few steps to a collection of low tables scattered over a raised terrace. A canopy of different colored fabric provided shade, casting a faded rainbow shadow all around us. We selected a table near the edge of the terrace.
“Hungry Scamper?” Neri said, lifting Ben off his shoulders and dropping him on a cushion.
As I sat down, Ben crawled into my lap and fell asleep. I smiled as I caressed Ben’s soft brown hair, comforted by the idea I’d made the right decision bringing him with me. The town, on the south shore of the lake, was the farthest from home I’d ever been. The distance helped me feel safer.
The innkeeper walked over, knelt on a cushion, rested both hands on our table, and said, “Well?”
“Tea please,” I replied, as Neri gazed at the menu painted on the wall. He had the look of love in his eyes.
“Let’s see … I’ll have a large plate of fried locusts, the fish stew, goat milk cheese, some of the lentil with curry, barley bread, charoset, and Egyptian beer.”
“No charoset,” the innkeeper said, as he stood and left.
“A bit hungry Neri?”
“A little. But, no charoset!”
The crowd below us grew, all straining to see Yeshua as he worked his way toward the center of the square. There must have been hundreds of them. Yeshua was more popular than I’d thought. A strange feeling stirred my stomach and rose in my chest—I think I knew, but refused to admit what it was.
Copyright CJ Penn, 2020
Last Sunday my editor gave me the first 80 edited pages of my novel We Called Him Yeshua, cheerily marked up with red and blue ink, with a few post-it notes where more explanation was needed. Well, it was a bit of a strange feeling realizing I was about to delve into the world of my novel for maybe the last time.
My hope has been that We Called Him Yeshua will not only prove to be a gripping story, but also show people a side of Jesus they may not have fully understood before—his human side. And in coming to know his humanity, I believe people will naturally feel closer to him. For it’s easier to feel close to the human, than to the divine.
Anyway, Monday morning, 5:00-ish am, work began on the FINAL draft. Wow, hard to believe I’m using that word “final” after working on this book for over four years. How’s it feel? Well, my innards are filled with a mixture of excitement, fear, and a bit of sadness.
To me, writing sometimes feels the way carving marble felt to Michelangelo—he said carving was just a process of removing the extraneous marble until the image that slept inside the block was revealed. And believe me, I’ve piled on lots of extra words and garbage that has been gradually chipped away. And now I’m down to the final polishing.
I can’t express how exciting it is to have the final draft of this book slowly reveal itself as I go through my editor’s mark-ups and do the polishing. And the more revising I do, the more excited I get, for my editor is a gem and she’s come up with improvements that, I think, are taking this book to a whole new level.
But yes, there’s fear. Maybe fear of all the work still to do, in finishing the book as well as all the marketing and self-publishing and navigating Amazon, and on and on and on. Lots of unknowns along the path ahead, this being my first novel. But I think there’s also fear of the day when I set the book free, and let it go out alone into the world. Almost feels like those painful days each time my wife and I drove off and left one of our sons to go forth alone into their first days of college. A weird feeling when applied to something like a book.
And I think that’s where the sadness comes in. I will soon say goodbye to the characters I’ve lived with these past four years. At least in my head, they’ve taken on their own unique personalities, and I’ve grown to really care about some of them, and also despise a few of them. Have you ever felt this way about characters you’ve written?
Anyway, my journalist niece continues to spin out gold as she edits her way through the rest of the book. And my artistic niece will soon produce some sketches of her cover design ideas. I love the family project feel of this. My hope is to have a final draft ready to launch a paperback and Kindle version on Amazon around the middle of March, 2020. In some ways, I’m not looking forward to that.
If you want to know more about the book, or sign up to be notified when I post sample chapters on my cjpenn.com site, please go here. And by signing up, you’ll receive a link to any chapters that have already been posted.
In support of publishing my first novel in a couple of months, I’m now launching my new author website, at cjpenn.com. The site went live late yesterday. This is a big step on my writing path, and I’m a bit nervous about it.
Regarding my novel, I had previously posted a little something (link), and now I’d like to tell you a bit more.
We Called Him Yeshua
You know him by his Greek name, Jesus Christ. We see a lot in the Bible about Jesus’ story and his messages, as written by some of His closest disciples. But we rarely see the point of view of those outside the inner circle, whose lives Jesus changed with his acts of love and compassion. This soon-to-be-published novel tries to see Jesus and those times through the eyes of such people.
They knew Jesus by his Hebrew name, Yeshua. (read more on my new website)
In the weeks leading up to the book launch, I’ll be posting sample chapters on my cjpenn.com site. Once the book is live on Amazon, I’ll post a notice for a promo week, where the Kindle version will be free, and the paperback will be priced as low as Amazon will allow. If you’d like me to notify you about these upcoming events, please follow the link (cjpenn.com) and sign up to receive book launch email notices.