Author Spotlight: Mari Tishner

  • Writer * Expat * Pug Owner

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Mari Tishner.

Mari lives in southern Germany with her husband and pug, where she regales others of her adventures as an expat in the Land of Beer and Pretzels on her blog and youtube channel Adventures of La Mari.com. The God Queen is her first novel.

Mari, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Hands down a raccoon. I have wanted one ever since I saw Pocahontas when it came out (I was about 9 at the time). Meeko was the coolest! Although I do own a pug, after falling in love with Percy from the same movie. But my inner nine-year-old still wants a raccoon. They are not native to Germany so you don’t see them often so I have had to resort to following Pumpkin the Raccoon on Instagram

Awww! What a cute choice. I hope they’re as snuggly in person as they are in your dreams.

What do you write and how did you get started?

At the moment, I write sci fi – but I do have plans for a contemporary story based on my experiences as an American living in Germany, which I would like to probably have traditionally published.

I got started very young. I love stories. I have notebooks that I filled with scribbles even before I really knew how to write because I always loved the ideas of having a book filled with my words. When I was in kindergarten, my teacher would bring in 4th graders once a week to help us with writing. It was my favorite thing to do because I had all these stories in my head but I didn’t know how to write it out! I have always had an overactive imagination and being able to write helps me bring these stories and worlds to life. 

While I was still honing my debut novel, I kept my writing up by maintaining my expat blog. It was also a way for my family to keep with up my adventures in Germany, but also forced me to keep a schedule, even if I wasn’t working on my novel – I was always writing!

It seems a lot of writers have been dreaming about it since they were young. It’s great to see your dream coming true! I know from experience that keeping a blog and finishing a novel can be a real struggle. Congrats!

What do you like to read?

Fantasy and Sci Fi all the way! I love one with a good (and healthy) romance. I will literally read anything by Sarah J. Maas and Tamora Pierce. Books that I have reread so many times that I have lost count: A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, The Song of the Lioness Quartet and Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce, The Symphony of Ages of Elizabeth Haydon, Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, and the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.

Oooh! You’re listing a lot of writers on my list, ones that I’d use as near-comps for my own work-in-progress. I’m taking that as an indication that your novel is going to be Right Up My Alley! What a great selection.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write what you know.

I write sci fi and while I do have a science background (biology degree + 9 years as a microbiologist), I can’t tell you the exact reason why faster-than-light is impossible – but I know there are ways around it that can be explained to a non-scientifically inclined person. I don’t what it’s like to fly in a ship and I was never in the military so I am also a bit at a loss when writing about it. So I have to research – thank goodness for the internet!

While I do use this advice where I can, I know it can’t apply to everything. If I did write what I know, I would only write about being Peruvian American living in Germany with her pug….wait I already do that!

So true! Especially for science-fiction and fantasy, we have to think outside the box to write. Luckily, we do know people — we know ourselves. And, I think, the most important part is to have our humanity bleed through into our writing.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Keep writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.

Keep writing. Don’t stop. Don’t worry about it being perfect the first time, it won’t be. In the words of Stephen King: “Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.

Indeed. Persistence is the name of the game, more than anything else in the writing world. And you’ve done it!

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

My debut novel, The God Queen, was released on October 22!

The return of the God Queen is not what everyone hoped…

The God Queen (Rebirth Book 1) by [Tishner, M. L.]

Humans have long since spread their numbers among the stars. Now far, far into the future, war has torn the Tyre Star Cluster into two major political factions. The militant Dominion have gained the upper hand in the last decade when their champion murdered the hope of the progressive Federation: Niklaryn Ettowa. Some considered the war to be almost won.

Yet there are those who claim the war will not be ended by mortals…but by the rebirth of the gods.

Rei lived most of her life bartending on one Earth’s backwater towns. She daydreams of something more, traveling the stars, and destroying the man who murdered her brother Niklaryn. Her dream is within her grasp only if she accepts her fate as the God Queen.

Bronx is disillusioned with being a reincarnated god, let alone a reaper. He pays his penance by keeping people at a distance and taking up the mantle of a combat medic. When the sister of his old mentor Niklaryn storms in to join the cause will he find something worth fighting for?

Together with others, they must help the Federation tip the scales in their favor, but everyone seems to have their own plans for what the gods should do.

Jupiter Ascending meets X-Men in this epic New Adult space opera bursting with star-crossed romance, elemental magic, and an adventure across the star cluster, perfect for fans of A Spark of White Fire.

Here’s a sneak peek!

If you want to read more about TGQ, check out my website: http://mltishner.com

If you want to read about my adventures in Germany, check out: http//adventuresoflamari.com

Challenges and Anecdotes From Acquiring Editors

Whether you’re looking to break into the editing field, or just learn more about the so-called gatekeepers of the traditional publishing world, it’s always good to know more about what happens behind the scenes.

As a reminder, acquiring editors work for the publishing houses and are the ones who actually make those large-figured book deals — in addition to revising and editing manuscripts.

At WorldCon 2019’s “Editors’ panel: Challenges and Anecdotes”, I got to hear industry veterans Michael Rowley, Eleanor Teasdale, Ginjer Buchanan, John R. Douglas, and David Thomas Moor talk about their experiences.

The Strangest Part of the Job

  • When you’re doing it right, they pay you. – John R. Douglas
  • The need to cheerleader in-house to sell the book you’re working. – Ginjer Buchanan
  • The job is to find joy and passion and beauty and personality. And edit it out. Then, digest the book down to a single line. – David Thomas Moor.

The Biggest Challenges

  • Authors who don’t want to take edits
    • Usually – they don’t want to
    • Occasionally – they try to counter-argue the grammar or the rhythm, etc.
  • When you give your heart and soul and rah-rah to a book and it just didn’t work out. (Thanks to timing, a bad cover, or just fate).
  • The book(s) you didn’t get — that end up best sellers.
    • Other divisions of the same company over-bidding you
    • Get told ‘no’ at the publisher’s meeting (by Marketing/Sales/etc)
    • Ones you passed on
  • Getting the right cover
  • John Douglas tried to win the Game of Thrones proposed series at auction, but George RR Martin accepted the deal that offered $75k in marketing, over the book deal with more upfront money.

Favorite Book They’ve Worked On

Several of the editors refused to “pick between their children”. But, we got a few answers.

  • Maybe Mike Brooks’s Dead Sky – Michael Rowley
  • John M. Ford’s The Dragon Waiting – John R. Douglas
  • Charlie Stross’s Halting State duology. Also, media tie in novels for Quantum Leap. She read fanzines and hired the best writers. Asked them to pitch her — the writers loved the source material and it showed. Working on that was ‘nothing but fun.’ – Ginjer Buchanan

Practical Advice On Breaking In As An Editor

  • Move to London or New York
  • Get any job at a publishing house and work your way up
    • Private assistant
    • Intern
    • Marketing/Sales/etc
  • Take a job at a small press to build your resume
  • Get a degree in English/editing
  • Earn the “Society of Editors and Proofreaders” certificate [UK]
  • Network (conventions/etc)
  • Look on bookseller websites for jobs or [UK] the IPG
  • Luck

As with everything book or writing related, hard work and luck seems to be a large part of it.

Thanks for tuning in. I’ll be back again soon with more writing tips and writerly musings.

Building An Online Community

The internet can be a cesspool that promotes the worst of humanity. But? It can also bring people together. Depending on where you hang out and who you hang out with online determines if you’ve found a supportive group of friends who share your hobbies/etc or a group that will bring you down.

At WorldCon 2019’s “Building the SFF Community Online” panel, Christopher Davis, Heather Rose Jones, Elio García Jr., fromahkyra, and Kat Tanaka (oh-cop-nick)Okopnik shared tips they use to help the online communities they moderate thrive.

For most of us, when we reach out online, we’re looking to connect. Unfortunately, not everyone online is full of good intent. Some people are intentionally trying to disrupt things — for the kicks.

7 Ways to Suppress Trolls

  1. The common phrase “don’t feed the trolls”, which advises people to just ignore antagonistic comments, actually turns into a way of ceding space to the trolls and letting them take over.
    • Instead – you should make clear rules and explicit punishments for breaking them, escalating as necessary:
      • delete threads
      • temporary bans
      • permanent bans
  2. One way to discourage trolls is to be in a space that requires a consistent name for the log in — and can attach a reputation to that. Reddit does this very well – (depending on the subreddit). The more reputation and following a username has, the less likely they’ll act to destroy the community they’ve helped build.
  3. Delete comments/threads whose topics or language are banned. Don’t memorialize bad behavior.
    • If it’s a discussion that should happen – open up a new channel for the topic, but keep a close watch on it for people crossing that line.
    • Remember that comments are coming in real-time, and it can be challenging to tell who escalated things after-the-fact. Especially if the discussion is split between multiple threads.
  4. Remember that a push to enforce ‘civility’ can be used to hold the status quo and inhibit growth. Sometimes, people need to be called out.
  5. People will find ways to break the spirit of the rules, even if they don’t break the letter of it. That’s why human moderators need to be there, to draw a line — right or wrong.
  6. Warning: if you speak up to strongly defend a person or group you are not a member of, you can cause a strong push back against the very people you were trying to defend. Back them up, show support, but going on the attack can backfire. So, be careful.
  7. As a moderator, be careful who you stop an attack thread with. If you shut down the attacker, without letting the defender reply, you’ve effectively given the attacker the last word.

4 Ways To Encourage a Supportive Community

  1. Being explicitly welcoming of people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people of different genders, abilities, etc.
  2. Delegate tough topics to contained threads.
    • Easier to track/monitor
    • Easier for those who aren’t up for the discussion to avoid
  3. Not every discussion will end in total agreement, and that’s okay. People can have differing opinions. The important part is making sure that everyone’s humanity is recognized, and that people’s identities are not a target.
  4. Remember that not every member is out there posting. Lurkers may feel just as connected as the regular posters, even if you never see their names. Make it easy for audience members to make the switch to participation. Have semi-regular posts to invite people to delurk.

By promoting the behaviors you want to see, and making the space unwelcoming to those who would seek to destroy it, you can promote a supportive, and friendly community.

Let me know if there are any tips I missed!

What The Writer Needs To Know: The Brain and The Body

Writers do their best to bring life an authenticity of the full range of human conditions. Sadly, however, writers are mere mortals and can fall into some trope-tastic misunderstandings and assumptions.

At the titular panel at WorldCon2019, Daryl Gregory, Dr. Keren Landsman, Benjamin Kinney, Mick Schubert, and Hadas Sloin were there to set the record straight.

On “Team Brain” were Daryl and Hadas. On “Team Body” was our epidemiologist, Dr. Keren. Benjamin, as a neuro-scientist, was claiming seats on both teams. And Mick Schubert did his best to stay out of the fight.

“Favorite” Misunderstandings in Media

  • Dr. Keren – Nosebleeds as a sign of something catastrophic!
  • Daryl – The significant cough. The character thinks they’re on the mend, and they cough once, and everyone exchanges significant glances. 2 scenes later — we’re at the funeral.
  • Hadas – On The Walking Dead, they did an MRI on a zombie. By definition, there should be nothing. They zoomed in to show a single neuron (ridiculous!) And showed the ‘electrical activity’ in blue and the ‘zombie activity in red’. Claiming “it invades the brain like meningitis.” So Wrong.
  • Mick – Magical genetics, with no epigenetics. And timing! They take a blood sample and know exactly what’s wrong in 10 minutes. The tests can take longer, and more tests are ruling out what it’s NOT, than figuring out what it is.
  • Dr. Keren – On Dr. House — Oncologists don’t do surgery.
  • Benjamin – Human minds being ‘uploaded’ into digital form or AI minds being ‘downloaded’ into a body.
  • Hadas – Her career goal IS the digitization of the human brain. The human mind’s computational power is underestimated. It’s firmware — firmly attached to the body and the physical network. It’s fascinating, but we’re further away than we think.

Tips To Get It Right

  1. With sickness, we think we know how diseases work. Wrong. We only know how they affect us. Drugs are far more often to be guess and test, and then backwards derive the science to why it worked.
  2. Our brains’ perception of self is easily deceived.
  3. There’s been some cases of treating phantom pain (from lost limbs, etc) with mirror therapy. But, we’re not sure if it’s more than the placebo effect at this point.
  4. A human body can’t survive by consuming human blood.
  5. When someone is exposed to radiation, they’re far more likely to end up with cancer, like after chernobyl, than super powers.
  6. Super healing would lead to massive scar tissue and cancer
  7. Super speed would require eating more. Much more.
  8. Creating sensory experiences from the brain (i.e. in virtual reality simulators) is hard because it has to be customized per person. And is easiest when we bypass the brain.
  9. Genetics is hard. If changing one gene would change the trait, we already do that. Most are multiple genes with unexpected consequences.

Underused Diseases

  1. Tuberculosis
  2. Black death (not bubonic plague. Research the difference!)
  3. Influenza
  4. Stupidity
  5. Preventable ones (measles, mumps, chicken pox as an adult, tetanus, rabies, etc)

Books/Media That Got It Right

  1. Orphan Black (except the brain uploading)
  2. Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
  3. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  4. Blindsight by Peter Watts
    – He got it wrong. And Bad. But, it’s a great ethical discussion.
  5. Lock In and Head On by John Scalzi

Tips Specifically For Writers

  1. Your job is to be convincing. Read as much as possible. Say/Write as little as possible, to sound convincing.
  2. Write to the limits of your knowledge. Then stop and take out half. That way, you can only be half-wrong.
  3. Write from a layperson’s perspective, then you can claim that the character misunderstood.
  4. Remember that scientists have specializations. Your character doesn’t have to know how everything works.
  5. Making magic ‘scientific’ usually doesn’t work. Understanding why it wouldn’t work in real life might help you get it less wrong.
  6. Pick your premise (zombies/magic/whatever), but be consistent after that.

A Helpful Resource!

The Science and Entertainment Exchange exists to help writers of all forms of media Get. It. Right. Their mission? To connect “entertainment industry professionals with top scientists and engineers to create a synergy between accurate science and engaging storytelling.” The website seems movie and tv focused, but Mick Schubert said it’s for all of us.


When writing about the brain and the body, beware the Dunning–Kruger  effect! A little bit of knowledge makes you think you know how something works, when you’re barely seeing the tip of the iceberg. Do your research and be sure to double-check everything you think you know.

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back again soon with more writing tips and writerly musings.