I Get Empathic and Stutter with Publishing Icon Heather Savage

I met Heather Savage from Staccato Publishing at Romantic Times this past year and she is a nuclear explosion of power and publication. And caring. Can a nuclear blast be caring? Most definitely, if you’re talking about Heather, who like many of us poor writers, started out in life scribbling and when her day job turned slow, started her YA Paranormal novels, the Empath trilogy. Which lead her into the world of publishing, and while most might have turned all their attention to their own work, Heather started Staccato Publishing, to help the rest of us.

When I asked her which she wanted to focus on, the Empath trilogy or Staccato Publishing for this interview, she said one lead directly into the other, so this is going to be a blended interview. Like a Frappuccino. Yum, it’s summer, Frappuccinos. Okay. Must. Focus.

HK Savage has been a voracious reader of anything she could get her hands on going back to the second grade when she would set her alarm two hours early to read before school. Her passion for the written word has continued and flowed into writing going back nearly as far. Her books have fans in twenty countries on six continents with hopes of attracting attention on Antarctica if for no other reason than to check a box.

Staccato Publishing

Currently, HK is a mother, wife and black belt in Karate as well as an avid dressage rider. Her three dogs: a Doberman she uses for therapy dog work and two ancient Doxies keep her busy when she is not writing or working or whatever else.

In addition to editing for the past ten years in advertising, HK has been an editor for several newsletters over the years; her favorite being for Heifer International where her ideas were put into effect and complimented by those on high. Currently her skills are being focused on clients in the writing world.

Paranormal is her favorite genre and science fiction because both address the possibilities we have not yet realized and the darker things we have. Her favorite premise: “what if?”

Aaron: Heather. Hit me. Our conversations started out with what you studied in college. What did you study? How has that helped you in dealing with writing and authors?

Heather: I started in Biology until I realized it was hard so I switched to something a little easier: Psychology. With a minor in Religion I think the combo is a perfect setup for life and the bizarre writer’s mind that now controls me.

Aaron: Like many, when you get sucked into writing, you become extremely focused. No sleep. No food. IV fluids only. Before you know you are going to get into a project, are you ever reticent, or do you look forward to the obsessive madness?

Heather: Funny you ask that. Next week I’ve cleared the decks to start work in earnest on the follow up to my new series, The Path (March 2012). The Empath Trilogy is done and I’ve put it to bed but people are begging for more Claire and James as well as some of their other favorites. I’m honestly having a hard time getting my thoughts straight. Usually I am singularly focused to the point I turn off the phones and if it weren’t for an energetic puppy I would never even put on pants and go outside. I know that once I’m in that mode it will take over and I will have a terrible time pulling out. It’s almost painful to not be able to write once I get started. The guilt is somewhat assuaged by making dinner for the family and spending a few hours with them before packing them off to bed and staying up all night because “I’m on a roll.” My husband is very understanding.

Aaron: If I were the beleaguered father of three triplet toddler boys still mourning the loss of my wife who died in childbirth, how would you pitch the Empath trilogy to me?

Heather: I’m actually really bad at selling my books. If you were that poor man I would probably offer to watch the kids while you went to get a cup of coffee and do nothing but drool on yourself for an hour. No longer though, seriously, three boys? Sheesh!

Aaron: Since you have a ton of experience dealing with writers, which one of your characters from the Empath trilogy do you think would make the best writer? Which one would make the worst?

Heather: I think the best writer would have to be Henry. He’s crazy old and has had tons of experience and has a lot to be sorry for. His deep secrets and pain would make him a dark, brooding type while his revelation (sorry, can’t give you much but you learn WTH in book 3) would make it an inspiring read.

Worst would be Gina. She’s a little more than a bit player in books 1 and 2 but she’s balls-out crazy. It would read more like a manifesto and no one should read those except as case studies.

Aaron: Why did you start Staccato Publishing? Temporary madness? Cocaine addiction? Or did the angels come a-callin’?

Heather: If only I did coke then I could refuse to ever succumb to sleep. No, I started Staccato out of a need to help. It is the double-edged sword that I endlessly cut myself with. When I started down the writing rabbit hole I learned a lot. Not all of my mistakes were bad and I’ve learned a ton. Hearing other writers struggle as they navigate the landmines made me think that since I came from print advertising and editing, had a decade’s knowledge of printing, and now could add figuring out ISBNs to my repertoire, this progression to full on publishing nut was natural.

Aaron: In the writing community, there are those who read all their reviews, good and bad, and there are those who don’t. Do you read your reviews? I read mine, and I hate them all. The good ones aren’t good enough, the bad ones not scathing enough. But my grasp on reality is tentative.

Heather: I don’t think any fiction writer has a solid grasp on reality. Otherwise they are the Nicholas Sparks of the world and they blow. Did I say that out loud? Sorry. I prefer my mindless drivel a little more, I don’t know, bitey. In the beginning I read them all. The first fifty or so were great and then I got my first 3 star and was inconsolable. Yep, serious neuroses here. If they found a flaw then certainly I was a failure. Nothing I wrote was worth the megabytes it took to store. I’ve stopped reading reviews and have done some signings. The most recent one, a fan drove over an hour in a rainstorm to come see me and said that I was her favorite author and made me pose for a picture; possibly the only picture of me as HK Savage in existence, by the way.

The most meaningful review/comment though came from my husband. He was traveling and wanted something to read. He’d read my trilogy and loved it as well as my standalone, Life Blood (written for my mom who hates paranormal- it’s a paranormal disguised as a thriller). But he took The Path with him. I was thinking of fulfilling a lifelong dream and enlisting in the Navy, going for an Intelligence position. He said that I couldn’t stop writing because I’d found my voice and it was good. Really good. Whether he didn’t want me to go away on deployments, knew I was struggling, or just wanted to be kind I don’t know. But his voice comes back to me when I worry I’m not good enough and the kind people who read my work are out there writing god awful things I’m not reading. Someone likes what I’m saying so if nothing else, I’m writing for him.

Aaron: What is the best part of working with writers and getting their stories out in the world? Notice, I didn’t ask for the bad parts. I’m all about the positive.

Heather: For me it’s about the positives too. Trust me, there are negatives but I see them as obstacles. We are in this to build careers and develop audiences. The first book might take a little while to catch on, but we will find the audience whether it’s out on the internet or hiding in the back room of a Joann Fabric. My favorite part of publishing is sending the advance copy of an author’s first book to them and getting that call or email. We send out bookmarks for each author to hand out as business cards and I ask for a signed bookmark for myself and each member of our staff. They are some of my most prized possessions.

Aaron: Here is where you tell me everything Staccato Publishing can do to make the world a better place. I started with nuclear holocaust, let’s end with a voice of hope and happiness calling out in the wilderness. Yes, hope. Better living through Staccato Publishing. What services does Staccato offer us?

Heather: Staccato Publishing can paint your house, weed your garden, walk your dog. Wait, we’re holding off on that until they threaten to turn the lights off. For now we offer editing (yes, you need professional editing, not Aunt Edna who “reads a lot.”) We’ve recently participated in a local book festival and run both a publishing workshop as well as an editing workshop with our lead editor, Sara Johnson. Both were full and got great feedback. We told them the same things I can tell you. Edit professionally, have someone do your promotions and develop your online personality. Be a reviewer, don’t just pimp your books or people will see you coming and run the other way, calling you a spammer. Staccato edits for those who we publish as well as offering our services freelance. Additionally, and equally important, we do promotions. That’s getting you locked into over 350 bloggers and reviewers and sending out to them weekly. We don’t just hit all of them in the first month. We prefer to build you up so we promote for about 9 months and then let things cool so that when we come in again with book 2 and hit them they say, “oh, I’ve heard that name.” It’s all advertising. You are your own brand and we help to manage that.

Aaron: Thanks so much, Heather!

Heather’s author page at Staccato Publishing
On Amazon

From Amazon, I grabbed the Empath summary:

Claire Martin is a young woman with the unwanted talent of empathy. She’s lived her entire life as a slave to a constant barrage of emotions that aren’t hers. Leaving for college, she hopes simply to blend with the crowd. Instead, she meets Stephen Andrews, a fragile-looking boy who instantly recognizes Claire for what she is. Through Stephen, Claire meets James, a vampire with a talent of his own. As soon as they touch, their abilities connect in a way that has not occurred in over three hundred years, forming a bond that cannot be broken.
Empath is book one in the Empath Trilogy.

Mondays Are Hell – The Demons I Met at the 2012 RT Book Lovers Convention

Demons were everywhere at the 2012 RT Book Lover Convention, no really, the place was full of them, smoking, dripping hellfire, eating Chicago-deep dish, and at the bar, oh lord, at the bar, drinking cranberry juice before heading out onto the dance floor to wiggle it with LMFAO…

“I’m a demon and I know it!”

Here are just some of the demons and devils I met at RT.


Embrace the Blond

Of course, I have to start with the blonde demon that captured my heart, the blonde demon that is Elizabeth Cheryl.  Actually, she was a demon, but then a Wiccan priestess cast a spell and transformed her into an angel.  She’s my BFF at RT until the end of the world and beyond.  I heart her so much.


And then, this one time, at RT, I was in the big Saturday Book Fair, and demons were everywhere, but then Kathryn Falk walked in, the woman who started RT, and the demons took one look at her and fled because she is the personification of power, poise, grace and has been in the book business a long time.  And once you’ve wrestled with authors, reviewers, agents, editors, readers, and aspiring writers, well, demons are easy after all that.

Being a writer is sometimes like walking through hell.  Lucky I have friends.  Jeanne C. Stein and Jodi Thomas were at RT.  They help me with the demons.  And they’re bestselling authors.

Kendaaron. Oui.

Hey!  Is that Kendall Gray?  It is Kendall Gray!. SHE WRITES BOOKS ABOUT WHALES!  Whales, elementals, brave battles to save the world.  With her brassy humor and her hard-girl bravado, well, I thought she was possessed by a demon at first because her hair was green, and green-haired demons are common in Chicago.  But then, when she talked about her book, and how passionate she is about whales and life, well, I knew, she was another angel, and green-haired angels are common in my books.


We’re Kendaaron when we’re together.  Kind of a big deal.


Ciara Knight had a hard time with a demon for a minute, but then she pulled through.  Writers conferences are all about laughing, crying, and the bar, oh lord, the bar.




Lynn Rush, Kendall Grey, Jordan K. Rose, Cole Gibson

And Cole Gibson, who is awesome, also had a run-in with a demon, and it was hard, but this world can get hard, and  we’re just writers trying to make it through another day to string words together on a page.  Which Cole does so well.

And then Liz Pelletier, who is cool and calm, stared down a demon at the bar.  Liz is one of the co-founders of Entangled Press, and we chatted.  All the while, she stared down that demon until it slithered off.  She is a warrior.

Liz In The Middle

Mark Johnson, who has a CD out, and who was a cover model, well, we talked God, Jesus, demons and he bore witness to his beliefs and I haven’t heard a good testimony in awhile, and it felt good.  Like walking in a clean, spring rain, warm with summer.  I hope he reads my book.  I’d like to talk to that guy about it.

 Lori Witt.  Lori, Lori, Lori.  Lori doesn’t believe in demons.  She believes in working hard, writing books, and living in Omaha.  Believe me, it takes faith to live in Omaha.  We talked and she turned out to be incredibly quotable.  “I don’t like flesh people”.  Ha!  And, “Writers are expected to be rock stars, but they’re designed to be roadies.”  Except for me.  I am the rock star writer of the 21st century.  Hmm, the balding rock star writer of the 21st century.

Karina Cooper, well, she and I found a dirigible built for two, and we rocketed around the convention center, killing demons with ether pistols, and she drove and worked the gun, and I kept her and the furnace loaded, and we both killed tons of demons until we ran out of coal and crashed.  And when we walked from the wreckage, we pulled off our smoke-blackened goggles, sang heroic Abney Park songs until the hotel staff shushed us.  It was epic.  Epically steampunk!

And do you know who brought us tea after the crash and shushing?  Suzanne Lazear.  It was Earl Grey.  Hot.

You’d think my conversation with Lori Perkins, High Priestess of Ravenous Romance, would be fraught with demons.   Sexy demons who sparkle.  Nope.  Our conversation was spicy, but very real, and demons don’t like reality.  They prefer illusion and deception, and our conversation was anything but that.  She’s another warrior of the industry who understands a thing or two about life and love.

I got possessed by a demon.  I stole Hildie McQueen’s awesome green clickable sharpie.  I owe her one.  I am going to buy a box of them.  But keep the green one.  Because I got possessed by a demon.  Hildie had the brightest smile and best laugh at RT.

Hildie McQueen

Heather Savage, who is the editor-in-chief at Staccato Press, came up to me and told me she was a rogue demon hunter.  I asked her, “What’s a rogue demon?”  She slapped me.  Then returned to slaying demons.  Which is prolly a lot like editing.

Heather Savage and Two Rogue Demons



Jordan K. Rose

Jordan K. Rose tolerated my demoness, which I’m grateful for.  I needed kindness and Jordan was kind.




For the most part, it’s too cold in Canada for demons, but Joanne Brothwell proves that all Canadians have a little evil in them.  She fought to sign books, and she sold books, and she wooed everyone and she walked around RT red hot.  She has a nice smile as well, but if you look closely, you’ll see a little demon when she smiles.

Joanne, A Fairy Demon, A Blonde Demon

I talked with Kayla Perrin, Naomi James, and Mimi Tremont and we talked about how the demons of history can haunt us.  I had a lovely conversation with them all and I’m a better man for it.  If you haven’t gotten out of your zip code in a while, it’s time to go across town and shop at a different store for a change.  Demons look for people who hide in their homes.  Demons love the stagnant and close-minded.

Clay and Susan Griffith, who write steampunk vampire books, talked to me and encouraged me.  I needed it.  I go despairing sometimes.

For a long time, people thought women were demons.  I know, weird, huh?  They even burned some.  I talked with Delilah Marvelle and Maure Clairmont about the 19th century, sexual oppression, dark gothic romance, and lesbian prostitution in post-apocalyptic America.  We agreed.  People can get a little kooky about sex.

For a long time I thought all book bloggers were possessed by the Devil.  I mean, reviewing books and crucifying writers?  Sounds like demon work to me.  But talking with Jackie Morgan and Rayna Scherer, I realized book bloggers love books.  Simple as that.  Can’t be too evil if you love books.  I mean, you can, but it takes work.

Two Women.  Cropped.  I feel snark coming on.

Cecily White and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love her.  She hates me.  The demon who made me steal Hildie McQueen’s pen makes me tell that joke over and over and over at the conference.  Cecily just smiled, snarked it up, which made me love her even more.  Which made her hate me even more.  It’s a good setup.  I think I took a picture with her and Noelle Pierce, but I’m not 100% sure.


Jenna Barton sold a book at the conference.  Which proves that even though there were some demons at RT, there were also the angels of God blessing us all.  Especially erotica writers because God loves sex.  Why do you think He/She/It/They give it to us in the first place?

Jenna? Yes. Sold!

So yes, lots of demons, angels, drama, tears and laughter.  RT was the most satisfying writers conference I have ever been to as a published author and I will keep going back there until I die.  And then I want my ashes scattered there.  I know I missed a ton of people I talked to, and I feel bad for that, so if you feel slighted, next year in Kansas City, you get a free punch.

Thanks for the camaraderie, friendship, support, and love.  Hugs, cuddles, and kisses to you all.

Or was that too girly?  Okay, gotta butch it up.  Beer, football, and grunting to all, and to all a good night.