Book Jacket

 

rank 2103
word count 30973
date submitted 16.02.2009
date updated 28.02.2011
genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historic...
classification: moderate
incomplete

Buttermilk Moon

Randy Ray Wise

In 1944, fifteen-year-old farm boy George Cooper goes on a Texas-sized mystical journey to find his father, lost in the Second World War.

 

At the height of the Second World War, George Cooper’s father is captured by the Wehrmacht. After a devastating storm, George leaves behind a mother, grandmother and girlfriend on their Texas farm and joins the Army to search for his missing father in Europe. With no training and borrowed dog tags, he finds himself in a place both foreign and frightening. George finds his way to Germany with help from a Belgian boy and a secret German book, wrecking a plane and freeing a trainload of Jewish prisoners along the way.

Back home his mother struggles to hold the family together. An eccentric aunt and boozing uncle test her patience. A grandmother grieving her dead husband comforts Sarabelle, George’s girlfriend, who has come to live with the Coopers after the storm and the loss of her family.

Set during the greatest struggle of the twentieth century, Buttermilk Moon is a distillation of what it means to be an American—a mythical connection to the land and family and mystic communion with past generations. George’s quest evokes the human will to survive, the human capacity for suffering and the perseverance—at any cost—to be near those we love.

Complete at 88,000 words.

 
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tags

family saga, historical, humor, journey, quest, southern, southern fiction, southern gothic, texas, war, wwii, youth

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230 comments

 

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Raydad wrote 1969 days ago

I'd like to express my thanks to all who have read and commented on Buttermilk Moon. Authonomy has proved to be an invaluable resource for peer criticism and improvement. To help any future readers get a better feel of my book I am providing the following background information. The novel could be characterized as a quest or journey story, closely aligned with the Southern Gothic tradition. It is Southern, and more specifically, Texan. It is small-town Texan and set in 1944, at the height of the Second World War. I've attempted to capture the essence of the time and place through realistic characters, dialogue and dialect. The dialect was easy, as it was plucked straight from my heritage. Like many writers, I have based my characters on real people. Some were famous, some unknown. My attempt was to write a Southern novel, which I believe falls somewhere between literary and commercial fiction. It is primarily a character-driven story, with a strong sense of time and place.

My novel is structured in three acts, with a prologue. The prologue introduces one of the main characters and is written from a distant third-person perspective, much like the prologue from The Divide, by Nicholas Evans. This perspective reserves the more personal POV for the main character, introduced in chapter one. The first act introduces the main characters, setting and has two incidents, which are critical to driving the storyline. The first act ends at the end of chapter nine when George makes a decision and takes action to propel him, and the story, into the second act. The first act covers nine chapters, and might appear quite long; however, I am following a practice of beginning the second act approximately 25% into the book. In the second act I switch between George's quest and home in alternating chapters. This provides parallel storylines, which eventually come together in act three.

I struggled with my ending. I made a spreadsheet of various possible endings. I wanted the ending to resonate, but not be cliché. I decided not to wrap everything up nice and neat. However, I believe my ending provides a sense of satisfaction and completeness. If there are readers who would like to read the entire book, let me know. I am contemplating uploading the entire book. However, I understand that most readers will only read a few chapters in order to provide a comment. That is valid and extremely helpful. Once again, I appreciate all readers of my work and welcome all comments.

Thank you,
Randy

P.S. One other thing--several of you have commented about the cow in the prologue. How did it get there? It came from another farm--notice the snapped fence post. My wife says I should rename the book, The Cow. Ha, I think I'll leave it in. I did take some advice though and "upgraded" my cow. (Oh yes, I also cut the cord—not the cow's—the baby's). A little spoiler—the Prologue is set in 1880, which becomes apparent in chapter four.

Daisy Anne Gree wrote 1759 days ago

I have found myself smitten with this book. I was smitten at "He counted the telegraph poles and wondered which part of hell or Texas they were passing." The prologue is gorgeous and compelling. As I read on, I was so relieved to find a slow simmering boil of a novel. It progresses at just the right speed, and with every sentence, you show your skill. We are given such well-drawn characters with such authentic dialogue, that we don't even have to try to imagine them. It is effortless and they feel real. I think you have far exceeded what you set out to do. Yes, it is a Southern Gothic tale, but it will resound with anyone. Yes, it is epic, but it will hold even the most fickle of attention spans. A literary classic-in-waiting, this Buttermilk Moon. Shelved.

lawdog wrote 1793 days ago

This is truly an outstanding piece of work. 1944 Texas was in the middle of perhaps the greatest upheaval in the State. The last of the old, real cowboys from the Drives were dying off, LBJ was on the rise, and most of Texas still lived by the lantern.

You've read your Sir Walter Scott, I can see. Characterization is right on. So far my favorite character is Sarabelle. She's the antecedent to the Big Hair, headstrong woman. Your dialogue rocks. It would be amazing to meet somebody who could remember the last big Commanche Indian raids, loved the scene in the cave. A Grandpa's encouraging word and the centering of a community around the church.

I'll read on and comment more perhaps later, but I felt a huge urge to back this one right away.

This has a place amongst the top of the Texas writers. Cormac, Graves, and McMurtry had better make some room.

SHELVED, my fellow Texan. Carry on.

Rocky Lastinger wrote 1976 days ago

Hey, Ray---I wear overalls too! Wife refuses to go to town with me when I do---an added bonus to the comfort...

Riveting opening chapter, moved up to watchlist this after reading the first three paragraphs. The vivid description of the abandoned farmhouse reached out and grabbed me, and the switch to dialogue driven storyline with chapter 2 was nicely transitioned.

Liked the church scene, with Sarabelle's smelly, bare feet and her total lack of embarrassment. The family meal with the buttermilk---conversations were well done. Nice ending to chapter 3, With Micajah hanging off the tractor.

I'll be back as time permits to read more.

Shiloh Yazdani wrote 56 days ago

Due to some computer problem, I was only able to read the prologue. The prologue alone offered an example of your fine writing. You've started a story that is interesting. It has a depth to it that promises a fantastic tale as one reads on. Good job.
Shiloh
"Courage Through Faith"

AndrewStevens wrote 991 days ago

An oldie but a goodie!! I remember reading and loving this back when I was on the site a couple of years ago and it's definitely one of my all-time authonomy favourites. As I said in my original comment, your work is just so 'involving'. Fantastic stuff. Anyway, great to have the chance of another read. Thanks and best of luck. A

Thought I'd reprint my original message to try and tempt in some new readers. It really deserves much wider recognition.

I really enjoyed this, Randy. Definitely one for the shelf.

Your writing is just so involving. I've just read Amanda Adam's lovely book 'Calliput Mountain' and your prose has a similarly restrained but beautifully evocative style about it. The image of the jersey cow with the broken fence post in the prologue is just lovely - quirky and vivid and oddly touching. The sense of time and place is so well conveyed. The detail is excellent - clear and convincing but not OTT. I loved the snake-skinning passage and all the everyday details re food, cooking etc - really roots the reader in the moment. The dialogue rings true - good representation of speech patterns etc but not overblown. And there's a definite sense of broad, sweeping storyline developing (something American writers seem to do so well). Great stuff.

strachan gordon wrote 1105 days ago

Hello Randy , yes you have really captured the Southern speech , I am writing from England , do you know anything about how the Southern accent developed and can you tell the differnce between each state , American speech often seems close to Irish , but few Irish migrated to the South . Do you know any books on this subject? The basic thrust of this book' trying to find the father' is of course very powerful , so I was wondering wouldn't it be a good idea to say much more about that in the first chapter - where he was captured , what shape he was in ,the reaction of the boy etc.I think it is very well written - I will try to read some more. Would you be so kind as to read the first chapter of my book 'A Buccaneer' , which is all about Piratrs in the 17th century,with best wishes from Strachan Gordon (London)

Walden Carrington wrote 1109 days ago

Randy,
The prologue of Buttermilk Moon draws the reader in with richly detailed descriptions to paint the scene in the reader's imagination. This is a harrowing account of great historical value. You have created a sympathetic protagonist in George Cooper whose story is one of extraordinary imaginative depth. It appeals to the deepest human emotions and the epic sweep of this work is one I find particularly appealing.

Walden Carrington
Titanic: Rose Walsh McLean's Story

Joshua Jacobs wrote 1139 days ago

I absolutely love your writing style. The first chapter is detailed, vivid, and well-paced. Your word choice (particularly your verbs) is top notch. While the events of the first chapter have more or less been done in a number of stories, the execution and setting are unique. Once we get into chapter 1, the pace slows a bit, but you've done a great job with your dialogue. It's realistic and helps build your characters who are relateable and genuine. I love how they play off of each other. I plan on reading more because this is one of the strongest pieces of writing I've come across on authonomy. Nice work.

sargeant wrote 1207 days ago

This is a great read for a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee. I'm enjoying it.

I had a Texan character in the second book I wrote, A Silent Violence. Being from Canada, I had to investigate the way they talk down there so his speech sounded authentic. You've done a great job with the dialogue here.

I'm backing it.

Nigel Fields wrote 1266 days ago

A very gripping prologue. Excellent. Enjoyed the next two chapters. Loved the stinky feet bit. I expect this book to rise and am happy to starr it highly to give it a nudge.
Cheers!
John B Campbell (Walk to Paradise Garden)

olga wrote 1267 days ago

Hi

Strong writing. Your characters are three dimensional and interesting. This could do with another edit to make it shine.
There are just a few nits that I picked up which are below:
'...passed him to the woman.' Does the woman have a name? Or do you deliberately not name her as she's unimportant to the story?
The first paragraph is a little jerky. It needs a little more so we can visualise the woman.
'His boots turned off the road'. Did he walk off the road too?
'Boots' repeated word.
'his boots fell through to the ground.' Did the boot fall or his foot as well?

'He stepped into the vacant house.' Is he so sure it's vacant from a glance? Suggest you leave out the word vacant.
'...her frantic questioning.' The reader feels left out here as we weren't privy to her questioning. A little dialogue would help.
'...grabbed Abner's hand but he released it.' This doesn't work as she's doing the grabbing. Maybe he pushed her away?
All the best with this. It's a great story.
Cheers Olga

EltopiaAuthor wrote 1315 days ago

The writing is good, descriptive, interesting characters.Good descriptive writing, good dialogue.

Not a fast-paced thriller or anything like that; a little more laconic is how I would describe it. But good strong writing.

JOE ADU-GYAMFI wrote 1357 days ago

Great book with fantastic suspenseful plots. backed with pleasure.

GK Stritch wrote 1410 days ago

Dear Randy Ray Wise,

Pass the chicken and them biscuits as I settle down with this homestyle slice of Southern Gothic -- move over Flannery. Really well done, son, shiny as a harvest moon and thick as buttermilk.

Best wishes and backed.

GK Stritch
CBGB Was My High School

zrinka wrote 1410 days ago

Wonderful writing a real page turner. You captured the time and the characters and the place so well it's hard to believe this word is gone forever. Nicely done!

lisawb wrote 1419 days ago

A lovely premise and eye catching cover. The plot is interesting and you have caught the period so well. The characters are outstanding and the whole book comes across as authentic and enjoyable. My only regret is that I am revising, so only have time for the first few chapters.

backed easily,

Lisa

CarolinaAl wrote 1428 days ago

An intelligent, gritty historical southern epic. You skillfully captured my attention and then my heart. Relatable characters. Authentic dialogue that evokes the era. Accomplished storytelling. Artful writing. Backed.

Shakespeare's Talking Head wrote 1433 days ago

You have some very fine description here, Randy. I also thought (even though I wasn't alive during this time) that you captured the voice very well. Great dialogue and characters.

Eunice Attwood wrote 1434 days ago

Great story which flows well. Great writing. I love the cover and the pitch was well done. Backed with pleasure. Eunice - The Temple Dancer.

mvw888 wrote 1451 days ago

Looks like you're not hanging around here more but wanted to add my voice belatedly to the chorus. Excellent, excellent work. I hope you find a way to get this in print.

---Mary
The Qualities of Wood

Bookster wrote 1470 days ago

This is a nicely written book that moves forward at a measured and enjoyable pace. The characters are well-drawn and the dialogue believable. Good job.
Eric Wilder - Prairie Sunset

brinskie1 wrote 1526 days ago

Yellow Moon is so well written and structured and such an excellent story it's difficult to come up with anything constructive to say. My only thought, and it isn't really a criticism, but more of a personal thing, is the use of dialect wore on me after a time, but it is important to the telling. Maybe some minor modifications? Or maybe not. Shelved for all the good reasons - definitely one of the most polished, well written works here.
G
Einstein's Road Trip

Robert Mourningstar wrote 1527 days ago

Read parts of your book about a week ago. Don't remember all the details, but do remember it sounded really good.

CraigD wrote 1528 days ago

Great opening. Great use of dialect and keeping it consistent. Authentic Southern voice and nice wit. I can't think of anything to criticize. Easy to back.
Craig
The Job

Andrew Burans wrote 1543 days ago

A finely constructed, well paced and well written story. Your use of imagery throughtout the book is excellent, I especially liked counting the telephone poles, the character development is solid and the dialogue realistic. Backed with pleasure.

Andrew Burans
The Reluctant Warrior: THe Beginning

Micki Attridge wrote 1553 days ago

Raydad- usually I have a bit of an issue with dialogue written in accents but I think you have pitched that about right. This is a compelling storry which you have carried off very well. You evoke the time and place(s) very skillfully and present a father-son relationship (or should that be bond) in a genuine and honest way.

Your use of the inner voice is also well handled and not obtrusive. This is some very solid, enjoyable and engaging work.

Micki Attridge (Dear Sir or Madam)

M. A. McRae. wrote 1554 days ago

I found the 'dialect' dialogue somewhat irritating, but recognise that you may have felt it necessary. I enjoyed the first chapter more than subsequent ones for that reason. I think that most people will agree you have a good book here and I wish you success with it.

Mooderino wrote 1561 days ago

Good opening scene, very well written.

Abner legged up the open door...
This para confused me. It wasn't clear to me where they were or what they were doing. Getting off the train, judging by what follows, but I got a bit lost. I also didn't understand what 'laid the child amidst the uniform' meant.

The dialogue us extremely good, the pace is a bit slow but intentionally so I think. It does move forward but in a fairly gentle way. I think you managed to keep the first few chapters engaging, if not riveting. Having Micajah die (and so soon after he was born!) was a nice way to keep the plot interesting.

Overall a very polished piece. Happy to back.

carlashmore wrote 1563 days ago

This read like a classic. Your themes are so broad yet relevant today, there is enormous power in your words and George's story just seems like one that should exist. I am in awe of this work and found it incrdibly powerful writing. You are a master of the craft and i salute you. I found nothing to nitpick and read four chapters. Excellent
carl
The Time Hunters

Lockjaw Lipssealed wrote 1564 days ago

Hey Randy,

This is simply good writing. Don't know how much time you get to play the 'game' here on the site, but this deserves a look from the Editor's Desk. I could see this getting reviewed on NPR or in the NYT.

Lockjaw

A Knight wrote 1565 days ago

It's not very often that I come across a piece like this: enchanting, eerie and just a little frightening. You do a fantastic job with descriptions - I would say they are the crowning glory, and you give everything a truly unique turn of phrase. Wonderful. I have nothing helpful to say, but that I enjoyed it, and would pay good money for it.

This will be going on my shelf :)
Abi xxx
" Everyone knows the rule: Stay inside the Wall, but Tisha believes rules are made to be broken."

Famlavan wrote 1578 days ago

Buttermilk Moon

Had to read this just to find out what southern gothic was!
You would have my vote just for the use of sensory predicates in the opening.
You have developed a wonderful character in George. Your storytelling is smooth your voice authentic this is a great story (even with stinky feet). – Good luck

lizjrnm wrote 1582 days ago

I absolutely love this book! So well written and polished with real down to earth characters who don't need ghosts and vampires to drive the story! WONDERFUL and BACKED!

Liz
The Cheech Room

yasmin esack wrote 1588 days ago

Fantastic prologue that captures the essence of ths novel. You have done a great job.

backed

Burgio wrote 1592 days ago

This is an easy to read and interesting story. George is a great hero; his courage to go look for his father was a bold step. Just as interesting as George's adventure is the struggle of those he leaves back in Texas. A good study in character development. Your writing style is clear and always moves it forward. Burgio (Grain of Salt).

dave_ancon wrote 1595 days ago

Very good dialogue. Love the picture you paint. Used to put pennies on railroad tracks myself. Didn't go to war II, though. Viet Nam was my war. I'll put this on my shelf for you. Dave

David Fearnhead wrote 1596 days ago

Randy not sure if I can be much help with the crit, because this one of those books I just read and quickly forget I was meant to be critiquing. It flowed rich with an authentic feel of the past and was a real pleasure to read. It was reading your own comment that I realised why it was so authentic and that was because you used your own heritage, so in a way you wrote about what you knew and that really shone through as nothing in the story felt forced or convoluted. I was more than happy to back it and I wish you well with it.
David
Bailey of the Saints

Wilma1 wrote 1609 days ago

Buttermilk Moon



Hi Ray



Just read several chapters of your book it’s extremely well written. You set the scene beautifully. Your voice and style make me think you have been doing this for some time or have already got published. Your characters really stand out as individuals I love Grandma and Grandpa. I could almost smell the food. You also manage to keep the dialogue true throughout. Very well executed.



Sue Mackender

Knowing Liam Riley

Phyllis Burton wrote 1616 days ago

Hello Randy, Your writing is first class. The Prologue drew me in and your description of the woman giving birth and holding the baby to her breast was outstanding. It is difficult to understand the whole meaning of your story without reading all of it, so I am putting this on my Watch list to continue with it, but in the meantime it is going on my SHELF. Good luck with this, lovely writing.

Phyllis
A Passing Storm (Perhaps you would have a look at this for me please?)

bonalibro wrote 1617 days ago

This is a work of art Randy, love the children's deep south voices, pappy comforting the widows too much, the sentiments expressed all of it. I think I backed this a long time ago, but I'll give it another turn to be sure.

jtgradishar wrote 1621 days ago

I thought this was excellent. Your writing is gripping, and what a scene you give us! Your control of everything is impressive. I like your descriptions, fed to us in just the right does; I like your prose; I find the subject interesting. I think this must be a very good book.

Backed with extreme pleasure!

alison woodward wrote 1625 days ago

backed with pleasure

alison

Jesse Hargreave wrote 1626 days ago

Backed January 15.

Jesse - Savant

http://www.authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=14062

lionel25 wrote 1627 days ago

Randy, I enjoyed your prologue and first chapter. Great narrative and dialogue. I can't fault anything.

Backed

Joffrey (The Silver Spoon Effect)

MarkRTrost wrote 1632 days ago

Exquisitely written prose. I began to read and I instantly heard the echo of Grapes of Wrath. And I thought, damn big shoes bro. Let’s see what you do.

I’ll tell you what you do.

You take marvelous description with impeccable rhythm and you create atmosphere and characters.

This is exquisitely written prose.

Please be proud. You’ve earned it.

Mark R. Trost
“Post Marked.”

TheLoriC wrote 1636 days ago

Attention-grabbing, intense opening chapter! Also loved the description of the abandoned farmhouse and the switch to dialogue in Chapter 2. The church scene was also written beautifully. This is fine writing as its best! Shelved.

L. Anne Carrington, "The Cruiserweight"

Francesco wrote 1638 days ago

Atmospheric and well written; a class act...so why is it going down the charts?
Backed.

historyweaver wrote 1646 days ago

Hi Ray, Looking around for books on war, I found your Buttermilk Moon. I always appreciate writers that tackle a particular time period, especially WW II. I read about 5 chapters. I think the characters are interesting, capturing the voice and tone of the people of small town Texas. I agree with others that yYour word usage is very nice. I do have a few comments.

One in particular, even though the dialogue and characterizations put me in place,I have no idea that a war is going on or even what year it is. I need clues, like ration books, signage for recruiting, newspaper headlines, technology (I know that it's rural and they have lanterns) but are telephones in the house? Party lines, etc.

The birth of the baby is dramatic, but again, I don't have any clues of the time. Was he born in the 1890s? After the Civil War? Wrapped up in a Confederate uniform tells me about the characters, but again using a word like freight train along with the uniform (I don't know if its' new, tattered) don't jive. I don't think they used that word just after the Civil War. His death a couple of chapters later is confusing. Why is his death signicant if the boy is going to look for his father in Europe?

Did like the scene with looking at the drawings, but I wonder if it should happen earlier when Grandpa was alive. That connection with George would make their bond more significant. The church scene is fun, maybe a little long.

I hope this helps. I write a lot of non-fiction historical articles and have researched WW II for both a novel and through my job at a museum. I think that what you need now is to tighten and shape your story. It's all there.
There are various stages to the war in 1944. Is this after Normandy? Paris is liberated the 25th of August.

Anyway, that's my take.

The back story of the

T Mackenzie wrote 1646 days ago

BUTTERMILK MOON

Wise

Authentically written in a very compelling voice.

This story takes you in gentle grip, but does not let go. For instance, during the funeral I found myself getting lost in all the details, even the flower arrangement held my interest. Many moments such as these, yet you can’t quite put your finger on it. . . .I like this.

(What would you think, however, of putting the flashback to the cave in italics? Perhaps even some others. . .)

I like the entire story premise, and by the 7th chapter I can entirely understand why he will go to Europe to find his father. . .he is chasing more than a father, he is chasing a whole world, making sure none of it falls through his fingers.

Lightning bug heaven - “where your light never goes out” – indeed.

harveya wrote 1646 days ago

Great atmospheric prologue...establishes much--the period, the character, the attachment of the characters to each other...excellent writing. Backed with pleasure.

George Chittenden wrote 1649 days ago

Well written Ray, you have the gift of painting great scenes. I think the pace and characterisation is spot on too. It's a really enjoyable read. The only thing that I could possibly nitpick is the cover; I think if you glance at it without reading the pitch you'd assume it was a book for young children. Anyway backed happily

George Chittenden (The Touch of God)

Paul Heatley wrote 1650 days ago

Fantastic story, loved it, just my kind of book. Your inspirations shine through and I can easily see your name standing alongside their like. The dialogue is a delight to read and I can almost hear the characters conversing in my head. Particularly liked the line in the prologue where he wonders which part of Hell or Texas they're passing through. Shelved.

Niobrara Kardnova wrote 1653 days ago

Randy,
I don't know exactly what Southern Gothic is, but I've seen numerous journals soliciting stories by and about Southerners, and if this one doesn't suit them I don't know what will. Very vivid, accurate and natural descriptions and dialog. A smooth transition from riding the rails across Texas to riding the seas cross to Europe. Not one nit I could pick. Backed with extreme! admiration.
Niobrara Kardnova (The Trouble with Wives)