Natalie Allan


Egyptian mice and all things nice

It’s been yet another month since I last updated this site. Yes, I know, I know. You’re bored of me telling you how busy I am, so I’ll just cut to the chase and get on with this update.

As the title might suggest, we welcomed a trio of Egyptian Spiny Mice into our family two weeks ago. A firm favourite with my 3.5-year-old daughter, these mice are bigger than the usual pet mice, have faces like possums (with big eyes and saucer ears), and they have spines on their backs like hedgehogs, although they are less sharp and prickly. They are found in Egypt and other parts of Africa and, probably most interestingly of all, is they can strip their entire outer skin and fur/spines when they feel endangered! Thankfully, our three brothers — who are named Tut, Senet, and Ra — feel quite safe with us and have so far kept their furry skins intact! Our three little furry friends are curious and brave and full of mischief. Trying to get all them all out of the cage and into the play pen without one — or all three — making a dash for it up the curtains/leaping across the room/generally disappearing is rather a fun…er…task.

We made some muffins last week, a big batch of triple chocolate which, I was told by my happy husband, were ten times better than big gooey-middle ones he enjoys in Starbucks. Apparently, they were the only muffins he’d ever had that were better than those life-long favourites. A complement indeed! My daughter also enjoyed (read: polished off in a couple of days) a batch of her very own skinny blueberry and raspberry.

As for me, I changed my hair again — I got it cut into a cute bob with bangs, and then got a raven black dye job. Even though I say so myself, it suits me better than the huge fluffy mess I had before, and it’s so much better in this hot weather than a thick mane hair down my back! Although, I’m still not used to having bangs on my brow.

I attended a meeting at my daughter’s future school a couple of weeks ago, and we’re all set for nursery this September! She is raring to get out of my clutches and up to mischeif for three hours a day, and I’m raring to spend my mornings in bed get plenty of writing done — something that falls along the wayside every summer because there always So. Much. To. Be. Done.

Like we’re all really busy — oh, dammit, there I go with that word! — with art and craft projects. I’ve started another cross stitch project (I’m surprised I still have room on the walls for more), and I’m continuing on with my autumn blanket, although I’m quite a bit behind for finishing this year, now. I’m also making my daughter a landscape board for her train set, while my husband continues making his LARP swords and a real chain mail hauberk (which I keep pinching for research!). I also painted and re-purposed a pair of candle sticks by giving them a paint job at the weekend. I paint a lot these days, as well as sketch and all my crafts that keep me going.

I often find myself asking the age-old question where has the time gone? and then I think over all the things I do on a single day, in a week, over the course of month, and it exhausts me just thinking about it. I blinked on January 1st and now we’re seven-and-a-half months through this year!



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Florals and Peroxide

It’s been two weeks since I last checked in here on my blog. All is well at Manse Allan, and life, as usual, is about as busy as it gets.

Adding into the usual mix of I-have-so-much-stuff-to-do, I recently enrolled with Charis Bible College in the West Midlands, where I am currently studying the first year course via correspondence from home. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bash you with my bible and my books are not going the route of Anne Rice in the early 00’s. I am still a writer of trashy vampire fiction, and I will remain so. That does not mean I don’t have personal religious interests. Which I totally do, but books are business and religion is personal. And we all know we don’t mix business with personal, right?


Good. Moving on. My hair is also one of my top interests other than writing, and a week ago I gave it the dye treatment meaning it’s now a luscious copper tone. Like, the colour of new pennies. I dig it. I dig it a lot. And speaking of orange things, I finished my cute foxy cross stitch three nights ago, and he’s now hanging on my wall. I should really get my camera out and show you these things, because I’ve bought a load of really nice looking house plants, and I’d love to show them off before they’re pronounced dead.

Really, I’m that bad. The poor things were shaking in their pots when I bought them home. And with good reason. I’m like the Jack the Ripper of flora. Plants die when they look at me.

In the world of writing, which is the part you probably want to read about most, Dead On Arrival is coming along nicely. I’m a couple of chapters in, and I’ve hit that sweet spot where I’m locked into character and setting, I have a vague idea where the book is going, and I’m writing ten or so pages a day (except weekends). This is great progress for me, since I have a three year old in the house and so many other things I need to be doing. At the start of this year, I was lucky to hit 200 words a day. Now, I’m closer to 2,000 so it’s full steam ahead over here.

On an unrelated note before I go: The hubs and I watched the WARCRAFT movie last night. Oh my goodness, whatever you do, you need to see it! I don’t care if you don’t like games or orcs or Travis Fimmel’s hair. You. Need. To. See. WARCRAFT. Right. Now.

Got it? I’m going to sign off and let you go watch that movie now.

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Life and stuff…

There’s never enough hours in the day for writing. Ever. Doesn’t matter if I wrote for 23-and-a-half hours a day and survived on 30 minutes a day sleep (wait, how is that different to having a three year old?), there would never be enough hours in the day for writing.

Problem is, I’m this whirl of inspiration who can’t get it down on paper fast enough.

Ha, ha, ha…

Things, as always, are busy around here at Manse Allan. I’ve been swept up in appointments and childcare and dog walking, and things crop up that make life difficult. Like my lovely little Bissel vacuum cleaner that I’ve had for 2 years decided to break down. A broom is not a good look on me, let me tell you, especially in this warm weather with a hairy dog shedding all over the place.

I decided to give the Gtech Air Ram a try. It has suitable enough bells and whistles to draw me in, mostly the fact it’s not a manual broom.

I’m also still working on my autumn blanket — I should post some photos at some point — and I started cross stitching this cute folksy fox a few nights ago that’s almost finished — should post a photo of that, too.

Also, it’s a three day weekend, thanks to Monday being a Bank Holiday. I’ve got lots planned and lots to do, and probably won’t squeeze any writing in until Tuesday.

Yes, I’m a slob. Nope, I don’t care…


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Tying ends and fun stuff

It’s the end of another writing week here at Manse Allan. Since I’m not on the books as a writer at the minute, it means I get weekends off and a pick-and-choose schedule. Hopefully, someday that with change and I’ll be one of these cool deadline-fretters. But you’ve got to take the cherries with the pickles — what concerns me right now is that I have a book to write and for once the book is writing itself. Having a three year old knocking around the place, I’m unable to put heart and soul into the process. Stealing two hours of a morning while she plays in her room — read: tantrums and makes a mess — is all the schedule I can stick to right now. As of September, I’ll have three morning hours while she makes mess with a whole herd of small loud things, and if I’m lucky an hour in the afternoon while she stomps around her bedroom declaring vengeance on her toys.

Right now, I’m at that point where I don’t want to switch off. When I’m not working on my computer I’m working in my head, clutching the throats of fleeting ideas and brain-raping them into something they’re not. I have to write all this stuff down, or Sharpie it on the walls, or carve it into the flesh of my right arm — yes, I’m left-handed — or all those things that happen in my head get forgotten by the next morning. Or over the weekend.

I love spending Friday afternoons tying ends. For most people, that would mean finishing the little niggly things off so they can enjoy their weekend. For me, it means doing all the things I should have done in the week but really couldn’t be arsed to do. Tying ends? More like chucking everything into a bin bag and tying it up and throwing it outside.

No, really. The dishes, the laundry, and everything.

Okay, well maybe I’m not that bad…

I finished off a couple of cool things this week: I finished the third row of my autumn blanket and have already fallen two rows behind. I think I should be on row five by now. But hey, so long as it keeps me warm in time for winter that’ll be okay.

The second thing I finished off was the second page (that’s a lot of seconds there) of my current cross stitch project. It’s called Morning in a Pine Forest and is based off the painting of the same name. The whole thing is massive. Each of the fifteen pages in the pattern are A3 in size, and a page takes me just over a month to get through. I love stitching these big works of art. They look good on the wall and they’re cheaper than a print of the original.

That’s all the news I have from Manse Allan this week. I’ve got some fun stuff coming up this weekend, like visiting my dad and more clothes shopping. Maybe I’ll have more ideas and forget to write them down. Who knows?

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The glamorous life of me

Right now I’m sick as a dog, and I’ve spent the last two days doing DIY and I’m covered in dust and paint and everything else. Seriously, the writer’s life ain’t a glamorous one, don’t let those bestseller types fool ya.

We’re undergoing a myriad of improvements here at Manse Allan. Not the me being sick — that’s the opposite of improvement — but the house is getting its fair share of TLC. At some point this year, we’re finally getting a gas connection and central heating system/combi-boiler installed. And that’s great, we’ve needed one for eight years and I am so so happy to finally be getting one installed. However, I’m already having a massive clear out and making space for the boiler to live and there’s so much clutter that needs re-homing. I’m already having a meltdown, and we’re still months off the install date.

One thing I’ve learned is that having a husband and kid is really great, but they come with so much unnecessary stuff. Like, so much unnecessary stuff. The second thing I’ve learned is not to suggest they throw some of that stuff away, or give it someone else who needs it. I almost lost my head six times in the last 24 hours.

But I can’t complain too much. I did manage to bag myself two new outfits, a pair of boots, and a hoody — sweet, sweet hoody, wrap yourself around me and keep me huddled and sweaty while I write — yesterday. Occasionally, the gods of fashion smile on me and I manage to bag a few things all in my size from the same store on the same day. This is a huge win for me, because I’m short and round with tiny feet, and I have the inside leg measurement of a Peter Dinklage plush doll.

And I can’t complain in the writing department either. The new bookie wookie is growing up fast, and I’m constantly day dreaming new little plot devices — read: sarcastic dialogue and evil things to torture my characters with — then instantly forgetting them before I have chance to write them down.

Erm…that’s not a good thing, right? 

No, I didn’t think so…

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Storms a-brewin’

I’m at that great place in a first draft — the 10,000 word mark — where things started out bad and are just starting to get worse and worse. It’s the point where the proverbial storm in the plot is brewing, and you just know the heroine is about to run right out the door into it.

This part of the writing is always really exciting for me — it’s virgin territory, things are happening but I don’t know how they’re connected to the story yet or what’s going to happen next. I’m writing this book by the seat of my pants, the only plans I have for it are the sketchy, half-formed thoughts in my brain.

For a long time I tried planning out my books, but that just didn’t work for me. It lacked the excitement and uncertainty that has me revved up like the well-oiled writing machine I am. If I know exactly what’s going to happen around every corner I lose interest. I’ve quickly learned that I need to write like it’s the first time I’ve ever read it — spoiler free!

There’s going to be thunder, lightning, and a whole lot of rain. But as for what form that’ll take or how it’ll unfold? I’ll just have to wait and see. And so will you. 😉

Speaking of brewing storms, spring sprung here a few weeks ago yet the weather has taken a sudden turn — we’re back to hail storms and snow and lots of rain. As I type this, I’m cosied up in my living room, watching a thunder-and-hail storm outside as I contemplate autumn.

Autumn is my absolute favourite time of the year. Okay, so I like birthdays and Christmas as well. Whatever. The fact is, I never look forward to the hot and humid doldrums that’ll no doubt drag it’s sorry arse and make me sweat between now and September. But autumn? Sign me up right now and give me my crunchy leaves and my Pumpkin Spice Latte.

In fact, I’m so looking forward to autumn this year that I’ve already started making a winter blanket for our bed in the five tantalising shades of camel, gold, copper, crimson, and walnut. I’m crocheting hundreds of tiny little squares –625 squares, in fact — so the end result will look like we’re sleeping under a carpet of super-cute fallen leaves.

And if that doesn’t give me that snuggly and warm — ha! Excuse the pun — feeling all year round, then I don’t know what will. Maybe a bunch of Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Can someone tell Starbucks to start serving them now? I don’t want to wait another five months…

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