Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Remnants of Kitty

Those of you who have been following the saga of The Bees over at the birdchick blog ( will know that of the two hives we started out with, which we called Olga and Kitty, Olga has thrived, while Kitty did so well that she swarmed in late summer and took off to see the world. We got a new queen, but the remaining bees in Kitty never got her population back up in time for winter.

Which meant that when it got really cold this year, Olga had enough bees to keep the hive warm and Kitty simply didn't. I went out in January and noticed that the snow had melted around Olga, she was removing her dead and, on warm days, bees were nipping out and pooping yellow in the snow, whereas Kitty was just a green box with nothing going on.

So I did what anyone would do. I sent a few thousand dead bees to Lisa Snellings, to make into art.

A couple of days ago I noticed that someone -- probably a raccoon -- had tried to get in to Kitty, and clean out the honey, which meant it was time to do something. I called Sharon, who was down with hellflu, and got the greenlight from her.

Lorraine and I moved the empty kitty hive into the garage.

And then I had to decide what to do with the honey in Kitty. I went onto the Internet to find out if there was anything I could do that didn't involve buying centrifugal honey extractors, and learned that if it was honey I wanted, a bucket and some cheesecloth would do just fine...

So I mashed up the leftover comb and honey into a bucket, tipped the resulting scary-looking gloop into the cheesecloth at the top of another bucket...

Then nipped out to the garage every three or four hours to add more gloop as the honey trickled through the cheescloth into the bottom bucket.

And this morning Lorraine came over and we took the cheesecloth off bucket #1 and poured the honey into jars. Astonishingly, the cheesecloth had done its job, and we had wax and crud on the outside of the bucket and clear honey on the inside.

There's probably the same amount again still in the garage right now trickling through the cheesecloth into buckets.

The honey is wonderful. It tastes like wildflowers and spring. I'd rather have Kitty out there filled with bees (although the Kitty hive that swarmed is undoubtedly fine, in a hollow tree somewhere), but the honey's good too.


The Graveyard Book is pretty much ready to be copy-edited now. I was scared that my editors in the UK and the US would point out somewhere I'd messed up that would need a whole new chapter (much as Sarah Odedina at Bloomsbury did when she read Coraline in manuscript and said, "It needs a chapter where she confronts the Other Father, who in what you've given me just goes offstage and stays off," and I said "oh Bugger it does, doesn't it?" and had to go and write it. I mean, I knew about the scene in the cellar. I just thought I could get away with not having written it.).

But nothing like that happened. Sarah's biggest concern was a scene where a fifteen-year old girl accepts a ride from a stranger (obviously, she shouldn't have, but Sarah wanted it to be convincing that she did) and Elise only had small points -- the biggest change was that she wanted a sentence removed that spelled out how ghouls got their names, which I'd put in slightly under protest because a few people had been confused as to whether the small, leathery corpse-eaters were the real Duke of Westminster, 35th President of the United States, Bishop of Bath and Wells, or not, and I was happy to see it go away again.

I got an email today from Diana Wynne Jones saying "It is FABULOUS, WONDERFUL, TRIFFIC. One of your best! I love it," which is better than gold and rubies (and if Diana doesn't like something, she tells me). Jon Levin at CAA, my long-suffering movie agent, is starting to fend off the phone calls as people call him wanting to see it, and we have to decide who we're showing it to, which is a good problem to have.

Everything's sort of accelerated right now. The book comes out in six months (30 Sept in the US, a month later in the UK), and there's not really much time for the normal routes of book promotion.

I'll see if we can get a countdown to publication date timer for the front page of the website. I don't think I've had one of those since American Gods.

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