Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, March 11, 2016

"Love to Read but Short on Time, Read Shorter Things" a Guest Post by M. R. Nelson, editor and founder of

Official Bio of M. R. Nelson, Editor and Founder of 

I am a scientist by training, and may finally be using the liberal arts portion of my education. I discovered a love of short form writing when two young children and a busy career interfered with my lifelong reading habit. I started the website Tungsten Hippo ( to attempt to recruit other people to my newfound passion, and eventually started publishing short writing through Annorlunda Books, a publishing company that I own and run.

Tungsten Hippo is a site dedicated to making it easier for people to find good short eBooks to read. It does not attempt to provide an exhaustive list of short eBooks. Instead, it lists only short eBooks that I enjoyed reading. Each book is assigned to one or more categories- and a look at the categories will tell you what sorts of books I tend to read. I may eventually make it possible for other people to contribute to Tungsten Hippo, but right now, the books are all ones I have read and enjoyed.

The site consists of short summaries of books, blog posts about topics related to short eBooks, and quotes from short eBooks.

"Love to Read but Short on Time, Read Shorter Things"

By M. R. Nelson

It all started with a book about a goat.

Okay, that’s not completely true. It all started with a novel that I started reading five times, because I kept getting a few chapters in, then having my reading time gobbled up by my young children and the demands of work. By the time I got back to the novel, I’d forgotten so much that I had to start over. The effects of sleep deprivation might have played a role in this, too. My first child was a terrible sleeper as a baby.

Frustrated, I gave up on reading books for awhile. I  read magazines and websites instead. But I was missing something. I have always been an avid reader, and 700 word articles weren’t satisfying that urge. Worse, most of the short articles I was reading weren’t about anything I really wanted to know. I’d finish them and feel like I’d just eaten a bag of Cheetos: it was enjoyable, but clearly not nourishing. I like a bag of Cheetos every now and then, but I want my regular snacks to be a little more substantial. Similarly, I want what I read to enrich my life in some way. I want to learn things I feel good about knowing, and read stories that make me think.

I don’t remember how I heard about Midnight’s Tale, the aforementioned book about a goat. However I came across it, the blurb caught my attention, and the book was only $0.99. I bought it on a whim, and read it in a single evening. It isn’t really about a goat. Well, it is: the main character is most definitely a goat. But it was also about love and happiness, and how hard those things are to find in life. It was quick to read, but left me thinking for a long time.

I was hooked. Short ebooks were my new reading fix. They were long enough to tell a full story, but short enough that I could actually finish one in the short bursts of reading time my life at that point provided. I starting searching for more. 

The search was not always easy. I was happy to try self-published books: in fact, Midnight’s Tale is a self-published book. But my initial simplistic searches on “novella” demonstrated that this length of book is dominated by romance (a perfectly fine genre, but not one of my favorites) and self-published stories that often read like part of a novel, not a stand alone work. I wanted complete stories, not longer works that had been chopped up into shorter books to game Amazon’s algorithms.

Browsing Amazon’s Kindle Singles helped me find quality things to read, but I also wanted a way to find things to read that didn’t depend on the policies of Amazon or the whims of Amazon’s algorithms, whether or not they were being gamed by a savvy self-publishing author. I went looking for independent sites that would recommend short ebooks. I didn’t find what I was looking for, so I decided to build one. 

Tungsten Hippo is the result. Every Wednesday, I post a recommendation for a short ebook or collection of short writing. Every Friday, I post a quote taken from one of the books I’ve recommended. On Sundays, there are often blog posts, which might be a guest post from an author introducing a new short ebook, a “taster flight” post about three or four short ebooks on a similar theme, a “read together” post pairing a non-fiction short ebook with a fiction short ebook that explores a similar topic, or something else I feel like writing.

My hope is that Tungsten Hippo will provide the same sort of random discovery of new reading material that used to be the norm when we found books by going to the library or the bookstore and walking the aisles. I don’t mind algorithms suggesting things for me to read. Sometimes, they make good suggestions! But the algorithms work from similarity, so if I am relying only on algorithms, I risk missing some great things that are just outside their view because they are unlike anything else I’ve ever read. 

Given my love of short ebooks, it was perhaps only a matter of time before I started publishing them myself. I now also run an indie publishing company called Annorlunda Books, which publishes short ebooks and collections of short writing. My criteria for publication are simple: I like the book, and it taught me something or made me think. 

I’ve published three non-fiction books. The first was my “trial run,” a book of job search advice I wrote from my viewpoint as a long time hiring manager. I thought I should try out publishing on my own work before asking others to entrust me with their books. I enjoyed the publishing process and was successful with my book, so decided to go ahead and solicit books from other authors. This led to two wonderful books:  Unspotted, a book by South African author Justin Fox that takes you into the Cederberg Mountains to search for Cape Mountain Leopards and meet the scientist trying to save them, and Okay, So Look, a humorous retelling of the Book of Genesis by professional comedian and amateur Biblical scholar Micah Edwards. I have also published two “taster flight” collections of classic short stories, Missed Chances and Love and Other Happy Endings. These were so much fun to put together that I’m sure I’ll do more. I have three original more books coming out this year, too: two non-fiction and one fiction. 

My kids are older now, and they both sleep through the night. My work life is as hectic as ever, but I have found my stride as a working parent and have more time to read. Novels and full length non-fiction books are back on my reading list. However, I still love short ebooks. I love how I can fit them in around my life when it gets busy. I love that they are the perfect “palate cleanser” when I’ve finished a longer book and am not quite ready to start another. I love that they let me try out more new authors, and also make me willing to give new genres a try. I love how a good short story can distill some aspect of the human condition down to its absolute essence.

If you’re tempted to try short ebooks, too, here’s how you might start:

Browse to and pick a genre that sounds interesting. Or, try the “Quirky Stories Involving Animals” genre, where you’ll find Midnight’s Tale and several other delightfully offbeat things. Buy a book and give it a try. Repeat. Meanwhile, follow @tungstenhippo on your favorite social media. I maintain a presence on Pinterest and Tumblr, but I’m most active on Facebook and Twitter. 

If you want to be sure you don’t miss any books I post—and get a bonus random recommendation from the archive every week—sign up for the Tungsten Hippo Weekly Digest. It will arrive in your inbox every Sunday. I will never share your email address, not even with the other list I maintain, which is the Annorlunda Enterprises mailing list. Sign up for that to get announcements of new short ebooks from Annorlunda Books, and to get notification when I’m looking for advance readers for my upcoming releases. Annorlunda Books is also on Facebook and is on Twitter as @AnnorlundaInc.

Happy reading!

Here is the link for the page about Midnight's Tale:

And here is the link for Annorlunda Books:

Those are the two most important ones, I think- the first so people can find Midnight's Tale, and the second so that they can find my publishing company.

Here is the one for the Tungsten Hippo weekly digest page:

And one for the Annorlunda Enterprises mailing list:

And here are the social media links for Tungsten Hippo:

And for Annorlunda Books:

End of Guest Post

I offer my great thanks to Melanie Nelson for this very interesting and timely guest post.  Even if you have only fifteen minutes a day to devote to reading, in a year you could read 365 short stories, way more than most allegedly educated persons read in a life time.

Mel u

1 comment:

Suko said...

This is such an interesting idea! So many of us are pressed for time, or unable to read for long periods of time, even though we'd like to. This really does seem as if it would be of value to many readers, especially those who enjoy short stories (such as the author of this blog), and other shorter works.