I forgot to mention the results of sending my short story (well, technically novella) Where Do They Bury the Survivors? off to Critters: I got eight very thoughtful critiques, almost uniformly positive. This is quite heartening, but I got several times a disheartening criticism: it's too long for a new writer. Very few short fiction markets take 20k word stories, and I'm told that those that do, are highly unlikely to take one from a new author. If they're going to devote that many pages to someone, they want the name to sell copies.
I have a dilemma, then. Do I shorten the story, perhaps using some of the lessons I'm learning from Dame Agatha? Or do I lengthen it into a short novel and find a regular publisher? I admit, I'm awfully tempted to try the novel route, but I just don't think the story will take that much extra text. Even the shortest novels are usually twice the length of this piece.
Of course, this dilemma is false. Nothing stops me from revising the story according to the feedback I got, and sending it out to one or two of the markets that might consider it. I lose nothing but printing, postage, time, and possibly self-respect doing this, after all. In fact, that's the most sensible next step for this story.
I say "this story" -- I've been working on another one this last two weeks, trying to apply some of the lessons I've been learning from The Labors of Hercules. I just finished the first draft, at about 9,000 words -- a much better length. I'll send it to Critters this week, I think. If it gets a similar positive reception I think I'll shop it around while I work on Survivors. If that gets sold, then that will be a significant boost to the prospects of the other.