Back in August 2021, I wrote in my blog post:

“Once upon a time I had three children who married and had children of their own. Now I have eleven grandchildren. I hadn’t thought I’d have such a bonanza, but four of them came as twins to my older son and his wife. Yes, two sets. That adds up quickly. Once they were old enough to talk about books, I started requesting they give me words to use in my mysteries. Immediately, the twins decided it would be fun to try to stump me. They have since spent time figuring out which words will give me the most trouble in the setting of a fictional, small Illinois town. The harder the better, like ‘tundra.’ Now they’re able to look up words in dictionaries, so I get things like ‘ubiquitous.’”

When I wrote that paragraph two years ago, the girl twins were ten. Now they’re twelve and quite proficient at Google. Josephine challenged me to use “qwerty,” teaching me about computer keyboards. I was impressed that she knew this word and I didn’t. In fact, a lot of people seemed to know it. I tell them they are doing me a great service: keeping my mind going and teaching me new things. It’s true.

Back then, Camille asked me to use her name as a character’s name. So, I made her a podcaster named Camille Whitacre. Camille is a college student who already showed up in The Witch’s Child. She’ll also be in the book I’m writing now since she’ll do another podcast about the goings on in the small town of Endurance.


I’ve noticed this year the tide has turned, and they are becoming more ruthless. Josephine wanted me to use her name as a character, but I couldn’t make her a killer, a murder victim, or a mean person. I decided to make her an attorney. Her name is Josephine Brinkley, and she’s one heck of an attorney. She doesn’t let anyone push her around, including the deputy sheriff, who isn’t a very nice guy. This should make Josephine incredibly happy indeed since she is a strong young lady.

Camille, on the other hand, is out for blood this time. She’s making up rules for me. I can’t use her word choice as a television show title, book title, or documentary title. Each time we do this, she produces more rules.

Wait. Who’s in charge here?


When I went out to Arizona to visit in the Fall, they were waiting for me. I thought Camille was going to unroll her new word


with a marching band. And this was it:  Australopithecus. I wasn’t sure how to say that, let alone spell it. Somehow it didn’t sound like small-town Illinois. It didn’t exactly roll off my tongue, and I searched through my memory for it. Not there. I checked it out. Wikipedia says it is “a genus of early hominins that existed during the Pliocene and Early Pleistocene Periods about 3.85 million years ago.” In Africa. And they’ve found the remains of more than three hundred.

This time Camille was so sure of herself she didn’t even give me any new rules.

But Grandma once again is batting a thousand. Australopithecus is in the upcoming book, and it comes out June 5. Death in a Ghostly Hue. However, some day they are going to come up with a word I won’t manage to use, and then I’ll have to raise my hands in surrender. I’m sure that day will come.


I guess you’ll have to wait to see how I managed to sneak Australopithecus into a setting in the middle of the small town of Endurance in downstate Illinois in this century. And it isn’t a time travel plot. Stay tuned… and a huge thank you to my granddaughters for keeping my brain working.