I joined a critique group for the first time in late June. Looking forward to the group having a go at my latest book which is in draft form. They meet only twice a month, meaning it will take three or four months to get through my novel, but I'm in no hurry. After the two meetings I attended, I think it'll be a fine experience. We'll see.
Here is a short excerpt from Chapter 9: The Merik house, which they saw from the trail was another quarter-mile set in a clearing surrounded by cedars and pinon trees on the flats. Nearing a gate, the Kid and Bobby were jolted out of their silence by shots from a rifle that whizzed by a couple of feet over their heads.
"Hold up there and don't come any closer!" a female voice carried through the darkening night. "Who are you and what do you want?"
"Is that you, Miss Merik? This is Kid Ferry and Bobby Chase-the-Lord," the Kid yelled. "We came to see about a cabin that we heard was empty. We need a place to stay for a while. We're coming on in."
"Don't try any tricks or I'll let you have it with this rifle," said Daphne. "Come ahead slow and stay on your horses."
"If you shoot, you'll kill the new sheriff of Idle Springs or his deputy," said Ferry, approaching the front of the house. "Trace Schneider said you may have a cabin we could rent, and we're desperately in need of a place to take off our boots and grab some shut-eye."
"It's you, all right, Mister Ferry," said Daphne, rising from her position behind the bushes planted along the front next to the hitch rail. "I'm sure glad it wasn't that useless gang of thieves of Serge Castinat. Two of 'em came by here and threatened to burn us out if we didn't pack up and get out of Idle Springs. Pa told 'em we weren't going anywhere and they knocked him down, jumped on him, and hit him with bare knuckles. I don't know why anyone would want this place."
"Why don't you put down that piece of artillery and we'll dismount and take a cup of coffee with you, said the Kid, "or if you haven't had supper, we'd sure like to join you. How's Mister Merik doin'?"
"Pa is still in bed licking his bumps and bruises them cowards put on him, but he'll be up and around in a day or two," she said and opened the front door. "Come on in and I'll warm up some beans and throw in some bread and a cantaloupe fresh off the vine. That's about all we have to eat."
"Sounds like a biblical feast to me the way my stomach has been growlin'," said Bobby, rubbing his midsection. He took off his hat and followed her into the cabin.
"Can I talk to your father a minute, Miss Merik," said Kid Ferry. "Maybe he can help identify those skunks that beat him up."
"He's probably sleepin'. His room is down that hallway there, the first door on your left. If he's awake, he'll talk to you."
The house was an oblong, five-room affair with the front room taking up the area from wall to wall. The hall was on the right side of the house that led past three rooms and to the kitchen. The kitchen was the same size as the front room and held a wood-burning stove in one corner on which always sat the coffee pot. A large dining table and eight chairs made up the bulk of the furniture. Against one wall were the cupboard and a smaller table for food preparation or other use for which there was a need.
Bobby followed the lady of the house to the kitchen, where she told him to take a seat at the table. She disappeared through the back door and returned carrying a cantaloupe and some raw potatoes.
"They was the Castinat twins, Willie and Wylie. that beat me up," uttered Mister Merik from his bed. His face was white where it wasn't bruised or cut. "They both had beards covering their faces, them cowards. I was just finished milkin' my cows when they rode up, sayin' they wanted to parley. They began cussin' at me, telling me I better hightail it out of Idle Springs. Wylie yelled that his father wanted this no-good ranch for his cattle. And when I told 'em I wasn't movin' fer anyone, they both climbed off their horses and Willie knocked me to the ground. They both jumped on top of me and I couldn't do nothin' with Wylie holdin' my arms pinned to the ground and Willie hittin' me with his fists. I was about to pass out when Daphne shot at them and missed. They jumped up and shot back, but nobody hit anything, thank God. They hopped on their horses and rode away with most of my cattle. Daphne said she thought she winged one of 'em, but couldn't tell for sure. She helped me up and led me to my bed, and here I lay. That's about all there is to tell you, Sheriff."
"Whey them dirty, rotten, low-down skunks, pickin' on an ole man," said Kid Ferry looking at the beat up face of Merik. "First thing tomorrow, me and Bobby are goin' to make a call on the Castinats. How many are they anyway? I thought we was up against only that Serge after Bobby shot his brother. We heard he went back into town with a gang. Who are they, Mister Merik?"
"Probably Willie and Wylie and their cousins, the Barnetts. There's a passel of them, too."
"Where is the Castinat's ranch from here? said Ferry "It must not be far if they want to take over your place."
"It's only about three miles west along the trail you came up here on," said Merik, with his good eye half-closed and the other one swelled up so he couldn't open it.
"Thanks. I'll leave you alone so you can git some rest," said the Kid, patting Merik's left shoulder and leaving the room. End of excerpt.
I'm planning to make my short stories available on Kindle or maybe even in print, and have been compiling them so I can layout the book. Don't know how long this'll take, but they will all be in one place so you don't have to search for 'em.