Gifts Out of the Blue

People often ask where I get my story ideas. Once I’ve conceived the series concept, individual stories come from the characters, a lot of brainstorming, and research. My series ideas, however, often come out of the blue like my Wishing, Texas Series.

I was driving home and wondered if my oldest son was on his way to Athens, Texas, to meet his friends from the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University. I thought about how close he and his squadron buddies were, and I predicted they’d still be friends in ten years.

My Spidey sense tingled, telling me I had something special. What if I showed A&M squadron friends ten years after graduation? What if they still met at one friend’s east Texas ranch at least once every year? What if they were there for each other through life’s ups and downs?

When I got home, I jotted down notes. One would run the family ranch. Another would be in law enforcement. Because of A&M’s phenomenal vet med program, one would be a veterinarian. For some reason, I settled on a computer related field for my last hero.

The relationships between these men would provide the series backbone—the heart. Even now working on book three, my favorite scenes to write are when the heroes are together.


Here’s an excerpt from To Love A Texas Cowboy.

“Is there anything else you need, Ty?” The Horseshoe Grill’s waitress Tiffani, a woman he’d known since middle school, asked as she leaned forward showing off her recently enhanced cleavage.

“We’re good,” he said, staring at the pool table as he sorted out his shot.

“Let me know if you change your mind about anything,” Tiffani said before she sashayed away.

Cooper, Ty’s eight ball partner, elbowed him in the ribs and nodded toward

the departing waitress. “Are you going to take her up on the invitation?”

While easy on the eyes, with long, blonde hair a man would love to run his hands through, tall, curvy in all the right places, and good-natured enough, with her marital track record—oh for three—Ty doubted the good sense of any man who took Tiffani up on her offer.

“Anyone else notice she didn’t care if the rest of us needed anything?” AJ asked.

“Mind if I throw my hook into the water?” Zane asked his gaze locked on the waitress as she flitted around the restaurant. “She looks like she knows how to have a good time.”

“Come on. Give someone else a chance. Like maybe me.” Of all of them, AJ craved the connection and belonging that came with a serious relationship. After a six-year stint in the military and traveling around the world, he was more than ready to put down roots, but most of the women he met were leery of getting involved with an FBI agent. Poor schmuck.

“You’ve got more women on the line that you know what to do with.”

After sending the three ball into the side pocket, Zane turned to AJ. “Weren’t you thinking about going exclusive with Megan? Though why any sane man would do that is beyond me.”

Ty shook his head and smiled, feeling like the ring master of a three-ring circus. Despite that, he wouldn’t trade one of his friends for fifty-yard line tickets to an A&M /Alabama game in Kyle Field. Good friends like these could get a man through just about any rough patch.

“We broke up,” AJ said referring to Megan.

Before anyone could comment, “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown band rang out.

“Next round’s on you, Zane,” Ty said even before his cousin reached for his phone.

They’d instituted the cell phones on vibrate rule and the violations penalty two years ago when Zane’s girlfriend of the month drove them nuts with constant calls and texts. The man always had a woman desperate to claim, keep, or regain his attention. Hell, usually more than one. Zane was a master juggler, but that didn’t mean the rest of them wanted to be part of the act.

To read the first chapter of To Love A Texas Cowboy which includes the excerpt above, click here.

To be entered to win the horseshoe pictured, leave a comment on which hero– Ty, AJ, Cooper or Zane–you like best and why based on the short scene above. BTW, the excerpt occurred in Wishing’s favorite hot spot, The Horseshoe Grill. 🙂



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Julie Benson has written five novels for Harlequin American, and her Wishing, Texas series is available from Tule Publishing. Now that her three sons have left the nest in Dallas, when she isn't writing, Julie spends her time working on home improvement projects, rescuing dogs, and visiting Texas wineries with her husband. Visit her at

33 thoughts on “Gifts Out of the Blue”

  1. Good morning Julie- wow this sounds amazing. Gig ‘Em Aggies. I love me some Aggie Football. Well I’m drawn to Ty, but after reading it again I think maybe I’m curious about A.J. and his FBI job. Why he and Megan broke up and what’s in the cards for him.
    Thanks for such a fun blog.

    • Tonya, glad you liked my post. It’s fun writing about this group of friends. Cooper’s been the toughest character for me. I don’t know why, but he hasn’t wanted to open up to me. Thanks for stopping by this morning!

  2. I’m going to pick AJ. A former military man and now FBI agent sounds like an exciting man who could keep any woman safe. And, what woman wouldn’t want to feel safe in the arms of a strong man? I enjoyed your excerpt and post today. Thanks for the chance to win your giveaway!

    • AJ is the poor guy who receiving the let’s be friends speech from the women he dates. He’s the hero in To Catch A Texas Cowboy, and there I reveal that he lost his father when he was younger. His father, also a military man, was killed while serving our country. The driving force in AJ’s life is to live up to the example his father set for him. I admit, AJ’s story has a special place in my heart. When I was writing it, my oldest son was deployed in Kuwait.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and casting your vote. I’m thinking tomorrow along with the winner I’ll have to post how many people liked each hero best. The results should be interesting. 🙂

    • Debra, you’re a girl after my own heart! Zane is the charmer of the group, that’s for sure. He is set to be the last story in the series, and I can’t wait to make him suffer. He’s so confident, so self-assured and so sure there’s isn’t a woman he can’t charm.

  3. Oh my this sounds Wonderful. I believe AJ is my favorite because of his wanting to but down some roots and wanting to belong just reached out to me. I will definitely be putting this series on my TBR list and at the top

    • Glenda, I’m so glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Make sure you check out my website You can read the entire first chapter. The scene is much longer and was one of my favorites to write EVER! I had trouble picking what part to post, because I wanted to put the whole thing out there.

      You hit on exactly what I love about AJ and what makes him special. He wants to belong so desperately, wants to be loved and in a committed relationship so much, and yet, keeps dating women who “just want to be friends.” His story is To Catch A Texas Cowboy and you can also read the first chapter of that book on my website. If you do, let me know what you think.

      Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment today.

    • My oldest, second from the left on the picture, is an Aggie. Yikes, I almost typed was! And you know those Aggies–once an Aggie, always an Aggie! The guys pictured are most of his Hellcat 21 squadron buddies. They graduated in 2012 and are still close today. I miss going to Aggieland to visit him. It’s definitely a special place.

      All my heroes tug at my heartstrings, but since my oldest is in law enforcement now and was in the military, AJ has a special place. His story is To Catch A Texas cowboy, and it was a ton of fun to write. If you go to my website you can read the first chapter.

      Thanks for leaving a comment today. So far AJ’s in the lead with 3 votes!

  4. Ty sounds mature, grounded and very special. I enjoyed this lovely excerpt and meeting these interesting men.

    • Ellie, boy did you describe Ty well! In To Love A Texas Cowboy, he and Cassie butt head because she is an emotionally driven character. She makes decisions based on her heart and instinct. Ty always wants to go with the logical choice. Cassie is named guardian of her orphaned niece and Ty is left in charge of the finances. They have an interesting time trying to work out compromises.

      Thanks for stopping by today!

  5. Good Morning! Kudos to Tonya Lucas for clueing me in on this series! After reading the excerpt above, I have to say Ty sounds intriguing. It doesn’t seem like he lets razzing get to him and he seems a bit more selective than the other three when it comes to the ladies.

    • Janie, I thought I replied to you earlier, but it somehow got lost. What the excerpt doesn’t show is Ty was left at the altar not too long ago, so you’re right. He’s way more selective when it comes to women. These men all razz each other, but watch out if someone else tries to complain about one of them. A little later in this scene they make bets on why Zane broke up with his last girlfriend. It has kind of become a running joke, them betting on things. If you want to read the entire first chapter, you can find it on my website Thanks for stopping by and a big thanks to Tonya for recommending my series. That’s the best compliment an author can get!

  6. Hi Julie!

    I want to say AJ. I relate to his craving connection and understand the sense that who you are is too much for some to take on. Him an FBI agent or like me a woman in ministry.

    But I think I will stick with Ty – the one who oversees. Is he the glue of the group? The one who is tuned in to each of their band of brothers? Maybe I am projecting there too…I connect with that dual perspective – being both inside and outside of things.

    Love your stories. Your heroes are human, authentic, relatable. Keep writing!

    • Jennifer, I have a female friend who is also in the ministry and she has mentioned the same issue you have. Men, and even some friends, are afraid to be in her life because of the demands of the ministry. She also has people who appear to be friends, but are really searching for more of a personal minister. She’s learning to set boundaries and tell who are true friends. Being a minister, needy, sometimes very emotionally unhealthy people, gravitate to her. I admire you for your calling, but it can be so hard on the personal life. I guess that was another reason, I too, identified with AJ because I struggle with those issues as well because I’m a former social worker.

      As to Ty, you pegged him spot on. He is the glue that holds them together since they often get together on his ranch. He’s the reliable, sensible one, a guy who took on responsibility earlier than he should’ve had to. He plays this role with everyone in his life. One thing he realizes in To Love A Texas Cowboy is how much being this person for everyone is weighing on him.

      And you saying my heroes are “human, authentic,relatable” is such a compliment!

    • Zane is a hoot. He popped up in AJ and Grace’s story To Catch A Texas Cowboy and really surprised me. He did something I never would’ve expected. I can’t wait for a heroine to send him on a merry chase. He thinks he can charm any woman into seeing things his way, but he’s going to meet his match.

      Thanks for stopping by to chat today!

    • Jerri Lynn, thanks for leaving a comment. Ty is a man who had to grow up early because of his home life. I think people with that kind of childhood often are more aware and more mature than their peers.

    • Kim, Zane came to me so easily. We’ll see if he’s as talkative when I start his story. Sometimes when a character is so vibrant in another story, when I give him the lead, he clams up on me. He has been incredibly fun to have in scenes. I can have him do and say some outlandish things. Thanks for stopping by today.

    • Thanks Caryl for your comment. As the line goes in It’s A Wonderful Life, Ty was born older. He took on responsibility as a teenager. That shapes who is as an adult. Cassie sends him on a merry chase. He’s so logical and she’s so driven by her emotions and her gut instinct. It was fun putting two such different personalities together.

    • Linda, AJ’s definitely got that military gentlemanly air. Grace gives him a run for his money in book two. If you want to read the first chapter of his book, To Catch A Texas Cowboy, head on over to my website. Thanks for your comment.

  7. You had me at Athens, Texas. I have lived 18 miles south of Athens for the past 17 years. I’ve had/have many family members that went to Texas A&M. Texas and cowboys in a book is always a big attention grabber for me when it comes to books! AJ interests me the most, he was military and to me that signifies he has a certain level of self discipline. FBI or or other forms of law enforcement always interest me. I’m just not so sure I want him to end up with this waitress though! I love horseshoes and this one will make a great win for someone!

    • Stephanie, I used Athens as the inspiration for Wishing because that was where my son went with his friends. When I went there to do research, I fell in love with the area. For me, Aggies and cowboys just go together. Even if they don’t live on a ranch, so many Aggies hold that cowboy code and sense of right and wrong. It’s part of who they are. That and the strong connection to other Aggies. That helped me form the bond between these men.

      I’m glad you like the horseshoe. I enjoyed making it!

  8. Being Th was the first hero I read U was drawn to him but I love how AJ’s desire to settle down and have his own family touched me. Love t h an all in their own way. Thank you for the post.

    • Thanks, Carol for your comment. The toughest hero from the very beginning has been Cooper. The other three walked onto the page, said here I am, and told me who they were. Cooper has always hung in the background. He’s still giving me fits!

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