Author * Speaker * Editor

Excellent storytelling, accurate historical reporting, and gritty, persevering characters

February 6, 2018

The Story behind The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

Here’s another treat for you this week! Sarah Sundin joins us to share the story behind her brand new release (by brand new, I mean today!!), The Sea Before Us. Before we dive into what inspired her to write it, here’s a little bit about the book.

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, who pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France—including those of her family’s summer home—in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt turns into naval bombardment plans for D-day.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn into something more. But both of them have too much to lose to give in to love . . .

Why did you decide to write this particular book?

D-day continues to fascinate us as a pivotal moment in modern history, and I’ve longed to tell a story revolving around that event. Then I read about the bold and dramatic actions of the destroyers of the US Navy off Omaha Beach, and The Sea Before Us came to be.

On the afternoon of D-day, Gen. Leonard Gerow radioed Gen. Omar Bradley, “Thank God for the US Navy!” The GIs had been pinned down on Omaha Beach. They’d lost most of the tanks they needed for artillery support. They’d lost most of the radio operators and radio equipment needed to call in naval gunfire. But the nine ships of US Destroyer Squadron 18 observed the chaos on shore, and they charged close to the beach—some even scraped bottom!—to fire at German gun positions. Their courage and ingenuity helped the GIs break out of Omaha Beach.

So American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton comes to London to prepare naval bombardment plans for D-day—plans he’ll implement.

Although that history drew me in to my story, the human element made it come to life. In London, Wyatt meets British “Wren” (Women’s Royal Naval Service) Dorothy Fairfax.

The British people suffered greatly during World War II. By 1944, they’d been fighting for almost five years and had endured the Blitz as well as numerous battles worldwide. Dorothy’s story allowed me to explore the effects on one family shattered by the war. When the German air raids return in the “Little Blitz” in 1944, their problems become magnified. Since Wyatt is estranged from his own family and misses them greatly, he is drawn to Dorothy and her father and longs to help them. If he can win the lovely Dorothy’s heart in the process, even better.

Wow, it sounds so good. I can’t wait to read it!

Sarah Sundin is the author of ten historical novels, including The Sea Before Us. Her novels When Tides Turn and Through Waters Deep were named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award and won the INSPY Award. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California. Please visit her at

Sarah is also giving away a copy of The Sea Before Us. Follow the directions below to enter.
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Thanks so much for joining us, Sarah. As always, it’s been great to have you!

January 31, 2018

The Story behind Where Treasure Hides by Johnnie Alexander

This week we’re welcoming my fellow Midwest Almanac blogger Johnnie Alexander to the story behind the story. She’s written in several different genres, including WWII. Today, she shares the story behind her book Where Treasure Hides. First, a little bit about the book. It’s a bonus for me, because it’s set in the Netherlands!

Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.

Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.

As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

It’s such a good book, Johnnie. What inspired you to write it?

My fascination with World War II history began with a book.

While browsing through the stacks of my local library, I found an intriguing title: Hitler’s Soldiers in the Sunshine State.


Oh, yes, it’s true.

German POWs were imprisoned in Florida where one intrepid soldier tried to make a pet out of an alligator. He got bit.

Others collected snake skins.

Florida wasn’t the only state where German POWs waited out the war. But as a longtime Florida resident, these were the stories that fascinated me.

My interest in WWII grew. Eventually I came across two documentaries, both available on DVD, that sparked the story line for my debut novel, Where Treasure Hides.

The first documentary, The Rape of Europa, discusses the massive looting of Europe’s art treasures by Hitler and others. After watching it, I read everything I could on this topic, including The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War by noted researcher Lynn H. Nicholas.

I also read The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel. The similarly named movie, starring Matt Damon, Bill Murray, George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, is based on Mr. Edsel’s book.

The second documentary, produced by PBS, is called The Hidden Child. It primarily tells the story of Maude Peper Dahme who was sheltered during the war by a Dutch Christian. Maude, who was six at the time, and her younger sister are two of the estimated ten percent of Jewish children who survived the Holocaust. (Such a sobering statistic.)

These two major wartime events—the hiding of art treasures and the hiding of children—touched a deep place in my heart. I knew I wanted Alison, the heroine of Where Treasure Hides, to play a part in protecting both.

As the story took on a life of its own, the art took center stage. But Alison managed to smuggle two young children out of Holland, and Ian, the story’s hero, also saved the life of a young Jewish orphan.

I’m still enthralled with WWII history and its aftermath. It’s an era of great pain and even greater courage.

Johnnie Alexander imagines heart-tugging stories in multiple genres whether she’s at home in Florida or Tennessee. Her award-winning debut novel, Where Treasure Hides, is a CBA bestseller which has been translated into Dutch and Norwegian. She’s also the author of the popular Misty Willow Series: Where She Belongs, When Hope Arrives, and What Hope Remembers.

Since talking about writing is so much fun, Johnnie hosts Novelists Unwind, which features videotaped interviews with inspirational authors, and Writers Chat, a weekly online show. She also teaches at writers conferences and for Serious Writer Academy. Johnnie also volunteers as marketing director for the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference.

Sharing Johnnie’s vagabond life are Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, her raccoon-treeing papillon. Connect with her on her website or on her Facebook Author Page.

Thanks for joining us! I couldn’t agree more about it being an era of great pain and even greater courage. Johnnie is giving away a copy of the book. Follow the instructions below to enter.

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Thanks so much for joining us, Johnnie!

January 23, 2018

The Story behind Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke

This week, we start a new series of stories behind the stories from WWII authors. I’m so excited about the line-up. And we couldn’t have started it with a bigger bang than with Cathy Gohlke. If you haven’t read her books yet, run out and get them. They’re fabulous. Today she shares with us the story behind her latest release, Until We Find Home.

First, a little bit about the book:

Reconnaissance, smuggling, the French Resistance—words Claire Stewart found so romantic in fiction . . . impossible and dangerous in life.

As the German army plows its way west, Claire Stewart flees France with five Jewish children—children meant to be rescued by a Resistance contact who never shows.  Desperate to return to Paris and the work and man she loves, Claire begs an estranged aunt to take the children into her magnificent home in England’s storied Lake District.

Linking the world’s most beloved children’s author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter, with C. S. Lewis, England’s voice of reason during WWII, Until We Find Home brings life full circle for each of its characters, giving us reason to rethink those we call family, and embrace a new form of home.

What inspired you to write Until We Find Home?

Alarmed by the plight of young refugees fleeing gangs in Mexico to cross United States borders, and heart heavy for victims and refugees worldwide who’ve suffered and continue to suffer under oppressive regimes, I looked for a moment in history to tell their story as I wish it could play out.  I didn’t have to look far.

The Kindertransport of 1938-1940, brought 10,000 predominantly Jewish children to Great Britain for refuge from Nazi oppression.  Accounts abound of men and women who rescued children through resistance, often at great cost—even life itself.

But what happened next?  What happened when those children entered countries of refuge?  I wondered about the average person and what role they might have played once the children were out of immediate danger. . . and what role we might play in refugees’ desperate need today.

World News reported that in 2015, 51% of the world’s refugees were children.  Scripture tells us to care for widows and orphans.  How do we do that from where we live, and as Christians, how do we reconcile this directive with the world’s reality and our need for safe borders?

Characters were partially inspired by people I know (the youngest refugee, Aimee, was inspired by my young granddaughter).  Some of the children’s creative antics (embarrassed to say), and some of the older characters’ life struggles were inspired by my own childhood antics and life stories—including Miranda’s journey with cancer.  Bluebell Wood’s “secret garden” and many of the books and poems Claire loves in the story are based on books and poems I grew up learning and loving—thanks especially to my dear English grandmother, who read to me.

Until We Find Home embodies a great many things dear to me.  It is, in many ways, my victory book through battling cancer.

Three-time Christy, and two-time Carol and INSPY Award-winning author, Cathy Gohlke, writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons from history.  Her stories reveal how people break the chains that bind them and triumph over adversity through faith. Visit her website at and find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.

Cathy is giving away a copy of Until We Find Home. Follow the instructions below to enter.

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Thanks for joining us, Cathy! It’s been great having you.

January 18, 2018

Meet Patricie Kadlec

I’m so excited that The Melody of the Soul has now released and that you can get to know these characters on the pages of the book. But we still have two main characters to get to know a little better. We first meet resistance worker Patricie Kadlec as she is stepping off the train in Prague after visiting the countryside to procure food for the Jews she’s helping to hide. Nazi officer Stefan Jaeger notices her, and her life is never the same.

Patricie grew up as the daughter of a shopkeeper in Czechoslovakia’s capital city. She had a promising career playing the oboe for the symphony in Prague, but that career never took off because of the German occupation. Still, she loves music and it’s a huge part of her life. As you read the book, you will discover that she has a connection to Anna, the heroine.

Georg, the man she had loved since they were children, became involved in the resistance movement after the occupation. She went to him one day and asked that he put her to work. Although hesitant at first, Georg granted her request after she assured him she knew this work could cost her her life.

Stefan’s interest in her complicates matters. How can she continue working with Jews while she dates and enthusiastic Nazi officer? Because Stefan is a friend of Horst, she meets him. When she discovers his secret, where will her loyalty lie?

When Patricie first appears in the book, she is carrying a tote bag filled with food for the Jews in hiding. This week’s giveaway is a musical note tote bag. Follow the instructions below to enter the giveaway. Also, don’t forget to stop over at Litfuse and read the reviews for The Melody of the Soul and enter the giveaway there as well.

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Thanks for visiting! Next week we have one more character to meet, and I start a series of blog posts by WWII fiction authors, so you’ll want to stop back.

January 10, 2018

Getting to Know Horst Engel

Horst Engel is the hero in The Melody of the Soul. He is the Nazi officer billeted in the flat below the Jewish heroine. As the story moves along, you’ll find that Horst has a tortured past. Much like David’s harp playing calmed King Saul in the Bible, Anna’s music soothes Horst.

Horst’s father was a committed, high ranking Nazi who longed to see his son succeed in the party. He pushed Horst to work harder and take a more hands on position in the military. Horst, however, has different plans for his life. He is an architect and is thrilled with his new assignment as Minister of Architectural Preservation in Prague. While this position is one that I created myself, it does make sense in the story. Prague boasted many fine examples of architecture. Because the German army entered the city without a battle, no bombs destroyed the beautiful buildings. The Germans were interested in the city’s architecture and didn’t want to see it destroyed. It’s conceivable that they would have marked the buildings they wanted to save in case it became necessary for them to bomb the city.

While he does not play an instrument like Anna does, he does appreciate good music. When he was a child, his mother took him with her to symphony concerts. At first, he didn’t care for them, but as he grew, he learned to appreciate the music. He is very familiar with the selections Anna plays. It is the music that draws them together despite their different backgrounds.

He is also artistically gifted. In the story, you’ll see him sketching different buildings around Prague. He also keeps a sketchbook nearby and draws in that from time to time.

He’s a gifted man, protective of those he loves, and wanting to do what is right to make up for the crimes of his past. Though he and his father have a tumultuous relationship, he and his mother are very close.

When you read The Melody of the Soul, you’ll fall in love with this Nazi officer who turns out to have a sensitive side.

Because Horst has a journal, this week’s giveaway is a beautiful Scriptural journal. Follow the directions below to enter.

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Thanks for stopping by!

January 3, 2018

Getting to Know Anna Zadok

Today I’m starting a new series here on the blog that will take us through the release of The Melody of the Soul. There are four main characters in the book, and I’m going to give you a chance to get to know them a little bit before the book releases. And if you read all the way to the end, you will see an opportunity to win a music-related item.

The first character I’d like to introduce you to is the heroine, Anna Zadok. At the opening of the book in 1943, Anna is a Jewish Christian living in Prague. She comes from a very musical family and was studying to be a concert violinist when the Nazis invaded in 1939. After the invasion, the Germans closed all of the music schools and prohibited the Jews from owning instruments. That didn’t stop Anna, and she bravely continued to play her violin even when Nazi officer moved into the flat below hers.

Even more important to Anna that her music is her family. Her parents have charged her with caring for her elderly grandmother, and this is a responsibility that she takes very seriously. She grew up in a very happy home with her father, mother, older brother, and two younger sisters. She also spent much time with her grandmother, who was herself a pianist. The one heartache for Anna and her family is the fact that her brother, David, has wandered from the faith and has been influenced by the liberal philosophers that filled Prague at that time.

More than anything, Anna wants her family to be reunited someday. Until then, she loses herself in her music. It is her escape, her comfort, and her reason to keep going. But when she is faced with losing her music, she must find her hope elsewhere.

You’ll have to wait until the book comes out and read the dedication to discover why I chose to name my heroine Anna. I’m very excited for you to read more about Anna’s journey of hope in The Melody of the Soul.

Follow the directions below to be entered to win this musical notes scarf! And if you haven’t already subscribed to my newsletter, please do so! It will earn you an entry into the contest, and you’ll get to read the prologue and the first chapter of The Melody of the Soul.

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Thanks for stopping by!

December 14, 2017
Comments Off on Giveaway Has Winners!

Giveaway Has Winners!

Thank you to everyone who helped me get the word out about the upcoming release of The Melody of the Soul. Ellen and Anita were the winners. I’ll be contacting them privately for their information. Keep watching here and on social media for more fun to come as we approach the release of The Melody of the Soul.

December 12, 2017

Giveaway Rules

Are you ready for this easy giveaway? You have the chance to win one of two hand-blown, hand-painted Czech ornaments just in time for Christmas. The contest runs from twelve a.m. central time on Wednesday, December 13th until 11:59 p.m. central time the same day. Just twenty-four hours. All you have to do is share how excited you are for the release of The Melody of the Soul in January.

I’m even going to make it easy for you. Here are some sample social media posts. You can use your own, if you’d prefer – they’ll still count. You’ll get one entry for every social media platform you post on. Don’t forget to tag me – that’s how I’ll know you posted. I’ll enter you into a random winner generator, and announce the winners on Thursday. Winners must be U.S. residents. No overseas addresses, please. I reserve the right to substitute the prize for one of equal or greater value should the one shown become unavailable.


Just a little over a month until Liz Tolsma’s new book, The Melody of the Soul, releases. I’m getting so excited for it! The book has received a 4 1/2 star review from Romantic Times and is one of their top picks. You can find out more about it here. And if you visit her website at and subscribe to her newsletter, you’ll get to read the book’s prologue and first chapter.


So excited about Liz Tolsma’s new book The Melody of the Soul coming in January! 4 1/2 star review from Romantic Times. #MustRead #WWII #Christianfiction


Can’t wait to get my hands on this book come January!! Liz got a 4 1/2 star review from Romantic Times, and it’s one of their top picks. I might even gift it to myself for Christmas! #WWII #amreading

Here’s the graphic:

That just about does it! Good luck to everyone, and happy posting!

December 5, 2017

The story behind The Gift of Christmas Past by Cindy and Erin Woodsmall

It is my very great pleasure to host Cindy and Erin Woodsmall to the blog this week. They have a new release just perfect for the season. Here is a little bit more about their book The Gift of Christmas Past.

Arson wasn’t the only fire that ignited between them.

Young love…
Promises made.
Lies spoken.
She was arrested.
He returned to the safety of his wealthy parents.

Almost ten years later, Hadley and Monroe are both specialists in the field of speech therapy. They meet again . . . thrown together to help a four-year-old-girl rendered mute after being rescued from a fire.

Years of secrets and anger beg to be set free as Hadley and Monroe try to push aside past hurts and find common ground in order to help the traumatized child and her family.

Can the love of Christmas past drift into the present, bringing healing and hope for all?

Sounds like a great read! What brought you to write it?

Cindy here. 🙂 My daughter-in-law Erin and I just released our co-written Christmas novella, The Gift of Christmas Past. This is such a special story to us. It’s my first non-Amish book and our first that we released together. (We wrote one before this for Random House, but that one won’t release until fall of 2018.) What a joy The Gift of Christmas Past was to write!

The beauty of love takes my breath away, and the opportunity for second chances is one of its most powerful aspects. Nothing can stop the power of love—not time, disability, sickness, or even death. Seeds of love sown by a person who died will grow and produce fruit, and the people they loved will pass love on too. And on it goes.

I see family life as a metaphor for Christ’s love. His great love came into a fallen world, and nothing could stop it from spreading and growing in people’s lives. In the same way, love in a family spreads out and grows—to the family members and to everyone they touch.

Part of the storyline in The Gift of Christmas Past is about a little girl with apraxia of speech. Children with speech apraxia have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words because their brains have issues planning to move the mouthparts. My 3 ½-year-old grandson Kaden has apraxia, and seeing him try to talk, witnessing his sweet eyes reflect the desire to communicate and yet being unable to do so, was heartbreaking. Some think that sign language is the answer, and it can be a great tool. But sign language can’t fix the issue when children can hear the words they want to say, need to say, but can’t make their mouths form the words. After navigating Kaden’s first year of speech therapy with his loving parents, and with me attended a few of those sessions, I longed to share my heartbreaks and insights through a fiction story.

This poem is printed in the forward to the book. I’d like to share it with you here.

To sweet, precious Kaden

Right from your first day’s start,

You stole your Mimi’s entire heart.

Days of kisses, joy, and laughter,

Toddling carefree, with Mimi chasing after.

Eyes full of joy, your happiness light,

Your love of life was so very right.

You babbled and cooed as little ones do,

But at the right time, your words couldn’t come through.

You wanted to speak, and oh how you tried.

We wanted to hear you and many times cried.

But love does not fail to give its best.

Mommy and Daddy searched for answers without rest.

Therapies frustrated you after they had begun,

But now the hard work you do is often fun.

We couldn’t leave our buddy with a mouth that couldn’t speak.

The battle continues, but you win victories every week.

One day you’ll be able to voice what you think.

Your mouth and your brain will work in sync.

You’ll shout and sing and chatter till you’re done,

And you, precious Kaden, will have won.

Erin here. As Cindy stated above, this was a very special book to us. We got to really work together and get in sync both on and off the page. I learned so much from Cindy through this journey. If you have met her in real life, you know what I’m talking about when I say that she’s just a joy. So warm, bursting with creative life, and inspiring on a number of levels. God has truly blessed me to have her as my mother-in-law and as a friend.

In The Gift of Christmas Past, we wanted a strong connection between the two main characters, Hadley and Monroe. But the story, being a Christmas novella, needed to take place over only a few months. We knew them having a history was a must. One of love, but also one of hurt. They had to be pulled apart by multiple forces in their lives, but in the deepest, secret recesses of themselves they needed to still hold each other in their hearts. We came up with the idea of them being high school sweethearts. Fun fact: both Cindy and her husband, Tommy, as well as my husband, Adam, and I, met in high school, dated, and married as adults. At a young age, I realized that I could search my whole life and never find another person I love the way I do Adam. He’s my world and I am his. But what if circumstances beyond our control had separated us when we were teens? It was easy to put myself in Hadley’s shoes in this regard.

Another inspiration for this book was the beautiful setting. When we talked about Cindy writing a non-Amish book, we knew having an amazing location was a must, just like her Amish settings in handpicked spots in Pennsylvania. I suggested Asheville, North Carolina. The surrounding mountains are gorgeous and peaceful. So much of the city has a lovely “Christmassy” feel, especially Biltmore Estate and village. We traveled to Asheville twice for research. We did all the activities that the characters in the book do. In my opinion, this book is like a little trip to Asheville. I hope you’ll take that journey with us!

Cindy Woodsmall is the New York Times and CBA best-selling author of twenty works of fiction. She’s been featured in national media outlets such as ABC’s Nightline and the Wall Street Journal. Cindy has won numerous awards and has been finalist for the prestigious Christy, Rita, and Carol Awards. Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains. She can be found online at

Erin Woodsmall is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of three. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. She is very excited about their first coauthored book.

How fun that you got to work together! Cindy and Erin are giving a way a copy of the book. If you would like to be entered, please follow the directions below.

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Thanks for joining us, Cindy and Erin!

November 28, 2017

The Story behind The Hope of Christmas by Terri Wangard

I’m pleased to have fellow WWII author and friend of mine, Terri Wangard, on the blog this week. And she’s here to tell us about her new Christmas release. Does it get any better?

Here’s a little bit about the book, Typhoon Prompting  in the collection The Hope of Christmas.

A destroyer escort is among the smallest of warships, but the Tabberer has the heart of a giant. A typhoon threatens the US Fleet in the Pacific during World War II, days before Christmas. The men of the Tabberer stand tall as they rush to the aid of their fellow sailors. For Seaman Jerry Collier, the typhoon prompts a greater awareness of what he wants in life. First, though, they have to survive.

Oh, that sounds so good! What led to you write the story?

After eight years of thinking, breathing, researching B-17s for my Promise For Tomorrow series, I was ready to disembark and concentrate on something else. But what? I had a vague idea of three friends who joined the WAC, the WAVES, and the WASPs, but nothing crystalized. Except for the WAC.

I didn’t want to completely turn away from flying, and I prefer topics that aren’t commonly known. How about a grasshopper pilot? My second character was on board.

I had toyed with the idea of a family generational series. A World War II story paired with a World War I story. But no, too unwieldy.

The WAC could have a sister, though, who stayed on the home front and did factory work. Oh, dear. I couldn’t completely stay away from B-17s. She’s building them.

She also needs a husband. He’ll be in the navy, and not on an aircraft carrier. A destroyer! I studied the list of Pacific destroyers and, oooh, the Spence. All kinds of possibilities there.

So there I had it: a sailor, his Rosie-the-Riveter wife, her WAC sister, and a grasshopper pilot. They’re all doing their part to help win the war, but sometimes the enemy isn’t obvious.

While researching the Pacific War, I came across the story of the USS Tabberer, a destroyer escort. I loved it, but I couldn’t use it in Wheresoever They May Be. It had nothing to do with my sailor.

When the opportunity to contribute a short story for a historical Christmas collection came, I immediately thought of the Tabberer.

Wow, can’t wait to read it! The best part is that it’s only $2.99 for the Kindle version! Scroll down for a chance to win.

Terri Wangard grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, during the Lombardi Glory Years. Her first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, she keeps busy as an associate editor of Classic Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984.

Connect with Terri:

Twitter: @TerriWangard

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Thanks for joining us, Terri! It’s been great to have you!