Wednesday, March 6, 2013


In the summer of 2010, I got one of the luckiest breaks in my writing career. My good friend Kit Prate informed several of us Western Fictioneers about a lead with a brand-new digital publisher: Western Trail Blazer. The outfit, headed up by Rebecca J. Vickery, was looking for western manuscripts –either original or previously published in print –to make available to the growing number of Western ebook fans. I contacted Rebecca, and wound up sending her several short stories that had appeared in magazines in the 1990s and collected dust ever since, featuring a family called the Blackwells. They were digitally published, followed by most of my western novel backlist (the last book on that backlist, THE TRAIL BROTHERS, will be released by WTB later this year.) And –due to Rebecca’s moxie, drive, and skill, and the extremely talented editors and artists who work for her –my western stuff has been far more successful than it was the first time around!

Western Trail Blazer is a patron member of Western Fictioneers (or, as we call it, a Deputy), and has promoted our organization both directly and by publishing the works of many of our members.

For those reasons, I’ve invited Rebecca Vickery to answer a few questions for us today.

1. Why did you choose to expand into publishing westerns?
Western author Kit Prate and I were bemoaning the fact that good western stories seemed to be dying out. We had discussed our common interest in TV westerns, particularly Lancer, Cheyenne, and The Virginian. We both have grandsons and were saddened that young people growing up now don't have cowboy heroes to look up to. It seemed an ordinary enough conversation, but a few weeks later Kit contacted me again, asking about how difficult it would be to create a new "brand" for Westerns and publish some quality books. Our Chief Designer Laura Shinn and I ran with the idea and Western Trail Blazer was the result. We were fortunate in that shortly after our first westerns were released there was a resurgence of interest from Hollywood and several Western movies hit the big screen.   

2. What have been your biggest challenges?
Our biggest challenges have been in keeping up with the number of submissions we receive and releasing new books and stories on a regular basis. When we started out, as a new breed of publisher -- an Independent Publisher allowing authors more input into their covers and pricing of their work and paying the lion's share of royalties to the author -- we weren't taken too seriously by reviewers or other publishers. As a small operation, which depends heavily on myself and Laura for the bulk of the work involved, my diagnosis of Lupus last year has definitely slowed us down a bit. Rather than continuing to grow and expand, we will now have to be content to remain small and produce quality stories as our contribution to seeing that the love of the American West never dies.         
3. What have been, in your opinion, some of your biggest accomplishments with WTB?
Our number one biggest accomplishment is putting a satisfied smile on the faces of our readers and our authors. Helping the "Dime Novels" or western short story make a comeback has been a terrific success and the most common complaint we receive is that the story wasn't long enough. We take this as a huge back-handed compliment to us and the author -- it just proves the reader is hungry for more. We are also very proud of our authors for having works nominated for multiple categories in the Peacemaker and Spur Western Award competitions and securing wins and places in the Preditor & Editor Readers Poll. I believe we have helped revive interest in Westerns, which was our original goal.  

4. What do you see for WTB in the future?
WTB intends to continue to publish quality novels, novellas, and Dime Novels for as long as the Great Trail Boss in the sky will allow. I don't see us growing as we once intended, but we do want to add more cowboy poetry, some non-fiction in the areas of Western biographies, and perhaps a Camp-out or grilling cookbook or two. We want to draw a variety of readers and to do that we must offer a variety of material.
5. Who are some writers who have influenced you?
As a "tomboy" who was horse and gun crazy growing up, I first read western novels by Will James, Ralph Moody, and Willa Cather (one of the earliest female western authors). Then I snuck my dad's Louis L'Amour (the Sacketts were my favorites), Max Brand, and Zane Grey books when I knew he was finished with them. In my personal writing for romance and suspense, I've been highly influenced by Phyllis Whitney, Kay Hooper, and Iris Johannsen. 

6. What is the most important thing you look for in a western story?
To me one of the most important things in a western is a unique "voice" by the author and good storytelling ability. I don't want each story to be a carbon copy of the last one. And each must be a delicate blend of dialog, action, and setting. An exciting opening (rather than lots of back story), in-depth characters with a definite hero and villain, no middle slump, and a satisfying ending which successfully completes the tale makes for an excellent read whether it's a full-length novel or a short story. 
7. What are some of WTB's new titles?
We just released a new book of Western poetry by John D. Nesbitt titled Thorns on the Rose. Cheryl Pierson's third novella in her Kane Trilogy, Kane's Destiny, is now available. Rodeo Man by Celia Yeary, for our Western Romance readers, is already a bestseller as is Madeline Baker's latest release, Seize the Lightning, part of her Lightning Time Travel series. For those who enjoy the unusual western we recently released The Fangslinger and the Preacher by Bret Lee Hart. We will soon publish a collection by Troy D. Smith containing several tales of his Blackwell family, a 3rd in the Bowen & Baile western detective stories from Frank Roderus, and two other poetry collections. It's going to be a busy year.       

Many thanks to Rebecca for those comments! And there are more comments to come… we’ve asked several WF members whose work appears under the WTB imprint to give us a few words about their experience with Rebecca and Western Trail Blazer…

Frank Roderus
This is a quality outfit, easy to get along with and offering print books in addition to their e-book distribution. Rebecca works with her authors about text and covers, consulting all the way. WTB does it well.

Cheryl Pierson
I've known Rebecca from "back in the day", before she was a publisher. We (along with several other authors) were victims of an unscrupulous publisher, but Rebecca is a master at taking lemons and making lemonade with them--and just look what she's done! Through much hard work, her conscientious diligence to detail, and her desire to try something new, she owns a very successful publishing company that has been built on all these things along with something you don't find often in the world of publishing: her willingness to help others.  Rebecca is one of the most honest, good-hearted, helpful people I have ever known. She is one in a million with all she does not only for her family but her friends, and even complete strangers who need information, guidance and direction. She has a special way about her that some would call "tact"--I call it sheer magic. It's one of the things I admire most about her--the ability to work with authors of all levels and genres and maintain her professionalism at all times, with diplomacy. They say there are no coincidences, and I believe that. I believe that we who know her have been introduced to her during our lives for a variety of reasons, and I'm proud to say that Rebecca is not only my publisher, she is my friend.

Les Williams
I can’t say enough about Western Trail Blazer(WTB) and in particular Rebecca for the outstanding job she has done on my three stories she has published through WTB. I have found Rebecca to be very easy to work with. Once a story has been submitted, she responded to my questions in a timely manner. I’ve been able to make a number of inquiries about publishing and Rebecca has always come through with an answer, suggestion, thoughts, or ideas. She does an outstanding job of keeping her authors informed on not only what is going on with WTB, but in the publishing industry as well. I would highly recommend any western writer interested in E publishing, be they a new author or one with many published works under their name, to seek out Rebecca and her WTB imprint. They will not be disappointed.

Wayne Dundee
Rebecca Vickery and her staff at WTB are a pure joy to work with. Totally professional yet at the same time capable of providing a personal touch that makes you feel --- and I know it's gonna sound corny, but I'll say it anyway --- like part of a big family. In short, Becca treats her writers the way every publisher ought to, but so few do.

Tom Rizzo
Rebecca ranks as a true partner in publishing. When I came aboard WTB, less than a year ago, I was a bit overwhelmed by a lot of the moving parts that make up the publishing business. But, her guidance has made all the difference. I'm a big fan of Rebecca's for three reasons: (1) her quick responses to questions or issues that need answered, (2) her diligence at keeping us all informed about changes - good or bad - of the publishing business, and (2) her ability to embrace we authors as family. Creating a "family feel" in a business enterprise today is a lost art, but Rebecca does it with style.

Madeline Baker
AKA Amanda Ashley
I love working with Rebecca. She's easy to get along with, open to suggestions, and always accessible. I'll always be thankful to Laura Shinn for putting me in touch with Becca, and grateful to Laura for her terrific covers. I've recommended Becca to several of my critique partners, and I'm happy to say she is publishing most of them!

Celia Yeary
It was my lucky day when Rebecca asked me to contribute to one or two or
the anthologies she was putting together. I had joined her Yahoo Group,
Romance and More Promotions, barely knew her, but really liked the group
and her easy, kind manner. Soon, I was writing the Dime Novels and that
was the real beginning of a wonderful working relationship. I feel very
fortunate, indeed, and look forward to more years with her.

Kit Prate
I was first introduced to Rebecca through my contact with Cheryl Pierson, and it has turned out to be a delightful and fruitful relationship. I found Rebecca to be a truly remarkable woman, determined to right the wrongs she had experienced with "traditional" publishers. She is totally dedicated to that task, and to the authors who are fortunate enough to work with her.

I've found her to be extremely compassionate and understanding regarding not only our efforts; but also willing to work around issues that occur when real life gets complicated and problems occur. Her patience and encouragement is remarkable.

I consider it a blessing that fate brought us together, and that the relationship has extended to include so many others who had become frustrated or discouraged with what was occurring elsewhere with the western genre. She continues to do an incredible job for all of us.

Charlie Whipple
AKA Chuck Tyrell
For a woman with Lupus, Rebecca is absolutely amazing. I just read a book published by another mini-publisher and was surprised at the number of typos and mistakes that a copyeditor would surely catch. Which tells me that publisher let the books go just as they came in, with no proofing whatsoever. Becca doesn't do that. Plus, she's got some of the best writers in the genre under her banner of Western Trail Blazer. She keeps us informed about what's going on in the industry, and makes it easy for us to promote our books (like getting coupons from Smashwords that allow us to give away books on promotion). I'm glad I've published with Western Trail Blazers. Rebecca is not my only publisher, but if I had to choose just one publisher, it could well be Western Trail Blazers. Kudos to Laura Shinn as well.

Our thanks to those commenters, and our hope that Western Trail Blazer helps Western Fictioneers keep the traditional western flame alive for many years to come!

P.S.: My apologies to anyone whose comments or books I missed!


  1. After banging my head against a wall with a previous publisher and overcoming a battle of writer's block in the middle of writing a western, Cheryl Pierson encouraged me to get in touch with Rebecca Vickery to submit Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride. It was one of the best things I ever did. Thank you for that, Cheryl.
    The Western Trail Blazer team is so fantastic. For once in my writing career I truly feel heard and the input I'm allowed is amazing. From covers to editing and marketing, Rebecca's team works with expertise and heart.
    When I was diagnosed with cancer last May, I knew I couldn't produce enough work to keep up with more than one publisher. I made the decision to work only for Rebecca under her three imprints. I couldn't be happier. I survived cancer and I have the best publisher I could ever want. It's a joy to be associated with the talented authors of Western Trail Blazers.

  2. I'm not a Wesstern writer but I just want to add my thanks to Rebecca for being the best editor and publisher I've ever had. And to Laura and all the cover arttists for their good work as well. This is a wonderful group to be associated with and I'm so glad to be a part of it.

  3. Glad I pulled my head out my current WIP in time to comment about Rebecca. She has my undying thanks for giving my quiet little western a home among all the fine western stories she publishes. Rebecca and Laura have both been great to work with professionally and personally. When you can make doing business with people a pleasure as well, you know you have a winning combination, and Rebecca has done that with warmth and grace. Not only that, she makes you want to give it your best effort, not only for your own personal gain but to see her hard work pay off in benefits for her and WTB. We all want to produce quality writing, but knowing its going to be for one of her imprints inspires one to try just that much harder each time. I hope to live up to the high bar, she as a publisher and author, has set for WTB. You couldn't ask for a better individual to be associated with.

  4. Thanks so much for this wonderful interview with Rebecca. I enjoyed learning how the business began, and also how she brought forth the great western novels and short stories for those readers who hunger for such tales.
    Most of the Western authors were already familiar to me, as I spent a couple of years way back reading only Westerns. Louis L'Amour was a big one, but some lesser known authors captured my attention, too. Don't ask me to remember titles, but I do recall Troy Smith and Chuck Tyrel.
    I'm also quite pleased to be included in this post. Thanks from the bottom of my heart, Rebecca, for allowing me to write what and how I see fit, and helping me to "clean them up" during edits, and publish them.
    You have loyal authors, that's for sure.

  5. GREAT POST, Troy and Rebecca! I noticed that Sarah and Kit both mentioned me being instrumental in introducing them to Rebecca--as I stated, there are no coincidences--this was meant to be for everyone, and I'm so glad that I was able to help out. I am so glad that Rebecca decided to start her own publishing company--I admire her for thinking, "I CAN DO THIS" and then doing it! My hat's off to you, Rebecca, with many thanks for all you do! Great interview, Troy--thanks for doing Western Trail Blazer Day.

  6. Thank you Troy for this opportunity to tell everyone how we began. And thank you to all our authors for helping make WTB a "brand" that readers and other authors search for.

    You all have me crying like a baby with all these wonderful things you've said. When I became disillusioned and almost gave up on writing and the publishing industry because of an unscrupulous publisher, my grandfather's lessons saved the day. He always said if you see something being done wrong and harming people, learn all you can, and then put it right to the best of your ability. I hope we have done that and can continue to do so.

    Thank you all for being a part of my very extended family. Becca

  7. Rebecca,
    I enjoyed the post!!

    I met Rebecca through an online yahoo group, and I'm so happy I did. She invited me to join in on a Victory Tales Press Anthology. From there I learned about her venture into Indie Publishing. She makes publishing so easy. I love working with Rebecca, and Laura Shinn, too. Both have been so helpful from editing to creating book covers. I couldn't be more pleased that I'm a part of the family at Western Trail Blazer, Victory Tales Press, and Rebecca J. Vickery Publishing!

  8. I am so excited to read about Rebecca and her diligence in reaching her dream, to see all these gorgeous covers, to read your tales of success, and to see names like an old pal Mandy Baker on your list. Wow! I'm not that happy of a camper right now so maybe I'll need to ride on down the Western Trail.

    Hugs and good wishes...

  9. Hi everyone,
    Great article. Rebecca, you certainly sound like a real gem. I wish I was able to write Westerns. I do love reading them, but unfortunately, we don't ahve cowboys here in Australia.
    Best wishes


  10. Excellent interview and a welcome feel-good story for lovers of westerns. Every success to you.

  11. Hi Tanya,
    Thanks so much for stopping by. Mandy is a wonderful person and talented author. Publishing can take you to the heights or be worse than a cold downpour. I hope you find the right path for you and your work.

    Hi Margaret,
    They may not call them cowboys in Australia, but I know there were stockmen, horses, and cattle in your history after watching The Man From Snowy River (one of my all-time favorite movies) and from your Historical Romances. Thanks so much for coming by to visit.

    Hi Ron,
    Glad we could share a smile and give hope to the continuance of Westerns. Glad you were able to drop in.


  12. Great post! I don't write westerns but appreciated Rebecca editing and publishing my contemporary novellas. She was and is the nicest and best publisher to work with. I'm not surprised at the success and the amazing growth she has had as a publisher.

    Laura Shinn's covers are gorgeous so I see this team continuing on the path to even greater success in the future.

  13. I'm late to the party, but just want to add my comments to the others (even though I'm not a Western writer). I'm just so glad I was 'pointed' in the direction of Becca when I was not happy with my previous editor/publisher. She and Laura are both a joy to work with and make me feel like I really 'belong' to their family of writers.