Thursday, April 5, 2018

We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt | Excerpt


We Own the Sky is a tender, heartrending, but ultimately life-affirming novel that will resonate deeply with anyone who has suffered loss or experienced great love. With stunning eloquence and acumen, Luke Allnutt has penned a soaring debut and a true testament to the power of love, showing how even the most thoroughly broken heart can learn to beat again.


I'm excited to host an excerpt of We Own The Sky by Luke Allnutt. If this brief peek into We Own The Sky entices you, make sure to grab your own copy HERE.

Note for clean readers: I've only read about 30 pages of this so far and, from that snapshot, would likely recommend this to 17+ due to some mature themes/ideas. 


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CHAPTER TWO


In the morning, it is cold but sunny, and I walk down from the parking lot, past the Magic Merlin gift shop and the sandwich boards advertising King Arthur tours and two-for-one cream teas. With my equipment strapped to my back, I head down into an earthy hollow and then cross a small rocky walkway that connects the mainland to the island. To my right, there is a sloping baize of grass that leads down to the cliff edge, bro¬ken up with rabbit holes and occasional patches of sand. 

I didn’t sleep at Charlie’s. She stirred as I was leaving, and I could imagine her, one eye open, pretending to be asleep, waiting for the click of the latch. The guesthouse was only a few doors down. It was strange to be sleeping in a hotel when I lived close by, but I wanted to be able to drink without hav¬ing to worry about driving home. 

I clamber up the rocky path, my head pounding, the taste of Red Bull still on my breath. Moving slowly as the incline sharpens, I climb the steep wooden steps up to the ruins, the camera bag heavy on my shoulder. Close to the edge, I can feel the spray of the sea, and I stop to rest and watch the tide com¬ing in, quickly now, ruthlessly sweeping away sand castles and seaweed dumped by an earlier swell. 

I climb farther up the hill to the site of the old lookout point. There are no tourists up here, just the wind and the squawk of seagulls. I find a piece of flat ground and place my wooden board down to secure the tripod, to add extra weight so it is not easily dislodged. I fix the lens and then attach the camera, testing to see if the rotation is smooth. 

The conditions are perfect. The sea, sand and grass are so vivid, unreal; in the morning light they look like the colors of a child’s rainbow. With my back to the sea, I can see the natu¬ral camber of the hills, the slow descent into the valley, down toward the bric-a-brac town. It is an incredibly visceral place. From up here, you could almost reach out and run your hands over the land, feeling the bumps and indentations as if read¬ing braille. 

The wind is slowly picking up, warm gusts that blow up white crowns on the waves, and I know I must start soon. I set up the first shots for the panorama, looking northeast toward the headland, and then slowly rotate the tripod disc, stopping at regular intervals to take bursts, until I have gone round the full 360 degrees. 

When the camera has stopped its gentle whir, I check the little LCD screen to see that all the images are there and then pack up my equipment and walk back down to the parking lot. The house is about an hour’s drive down the coast. The village is deserted as I drive through. The corner shop is still closed, shuttered down for the off-season. I drive past the church and then along the winding road across the dunes, past the National Trust information center, and then up the unpaved track toward the edge of the cliff and the house. 

It wasn’t just the cottage’s solitude that attracted me, but was the way it was exposed, utterly at the mercy of the ele¬ments. Perched on an outcrop of rock, across the bay from St. Ives, it is the only building in sight. There is no shelter, no val¬ley to break the ferocious Atlantic wind. When the rain lashes at the windows, when the sea winds refuse to let up, the house shudders, and it feels like it is crumbling into the sea. 

As soon as I am in the door, I pour a large glass of vodka. Then I go to my office upstairs, sit at my desk and stare through the dormer window that looks out across the bay. I log in to my profiles on OKCupid and Heavenly Sinful to see if I have any messages. There is one, from “Samantha,” a woman I was messaging a few weeks ago. 

Hiya, you disappeared. Still interested in meeting? 

I look at her pictures, skipping through the tedium of pat¬ent shoes and discarded umbrellas and plane wings and hearts on cappuccinos, and there is one of her on holiday somewhere, and I am reminded that she is pretty, a slight, mousy brunette. 

I thought it was you who disappeared! And yeah would love to meet… 

I connect the camera and start downloading the Tintagel im¬ages. When the download is finished, I flick through the pho¬tos, happy to see they are well-aligned and won’t need much retouching. I load them into the rendering program I have written, and the software starts stitching the images together, the pixels fusing like healing skin. 

You can never predict the light. Some days, when I am out with the camera, you think it is just right, but then the shots all end up looking grainy or overexposed. Today, however, it is perfect. The sea shimmers, the grass on the cliffs is as green and tight as snooker cushions. In the distance, I can see the faint outline of the moon. 

When the program finishes processing the panorama, and when the images are joined together like a miniature Bayeux Tapestry, I encase the final image in a layer of code, so that people can zoom in and out and spin around. When all that is finished, I upload the image to my website, We Own the Sky

I am surprised that the website has been popular. It started as a hobby, something to break up my afternoons. But the link was quickly shared on amateur photography forums. People wrote to ask me about my technique, the equipment that I used. The website was mentioned in a Guardian piece on panoramic photography. “Simplistic and beautiful,” the writer wrote and I felt a rare swell of pride. 

People ask me sometimes, in the comments, in the emails they send: “What does We Own the Sky mean?” 

“Is it a reference to something?” And the truth is, I don’t know what to tell them. Because ever since I left London, those words have been bouncing around in my head, and I have no idea why. 

When I am out for a walk on the dunes, or sitting at my desk looking out to sea, I whisper those words to myself— “we own the sky, we own the sky.” I wake to the sound of them, and before I fall asleep I can hear those four words, as if they were a mantra or a prayer that was drummed into me as a child. 

The image has now finished uploading and I look out of the window, drinking my vodka, waiting for the ping. It takes a little longer than normal. Ten minutes instead of the usual five. And then there it is. A comment—always the first comment—by the same user every time. 

swan09 

Beautiful. Keep up the good work. 

The comments are always like that— “Beautiful.” 

“Lovely.” 

“Take care of yourself”—and always so soon after the image has been posted I assume that the user has set up some kind of alert. 

The night is closing in and, before bed, I pour myself another vodka. I can feel the pull of sleep, the anesthetic effects of the alcohol, and I want to hasten it, bring it even closer. 

Sometimes, I like to think it is Jack who is commenting on the photos. I know that he will recognize them, because they are all places he has been, views he has seen with his own eyes. Box Hill, the London Eye, a lookout point on the South Downs. And now, Tintagel. 

Just to be sure that he remembers, that he doesn’t forget the places we have been, I leave him messages, paragraphs of text hidden in the code, invisible to browsers, readable only to the programmer’s eye—and, I hope, to his. It is, I suppose, the things I would say to him if I could. The things I would say if she hadn’t taken him away.

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Book Description 

A triumphant story about love, loss and finding hope—against all odds

“We looked down at the cliff jutting into the sea, a rubber boat full of kids going under the arch, and then you started running and jumping through the grass, dodging the rabbit holes, shouting at the top of your voice, so I started chasing you, trying to catch you, and we were laughing so hard as we ran and ran, kicking up rainbow showers in the leaves.”

Rob Coates feels like he’s won the lottery of life. There is Anna, his incredible wife, their London town house and, most precious of all, Jack, their son, who makes every day an extraordinary adventure. But when a devastating illness befalls his family, Rob’s world begins to unravel. Suddenly finding himself alone, Rob seeks solace in photographing the skyscrapers and clifftops he and his son Jack used to visit. And just when it seems that all hope is lost, Rob embarks on the most unforgettable of journeys to find his way back to life, and forgiveness.

Purchase: We Own The Sky