In his own words (and THIS is the short version):
"Jeff Strand was born December 14, 1970 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was an adorable baby but he had a really big head. When he was six months old, his parents moved to the sunny beaches of Fairbanks, Alaska. They did not consult him in the matter, though they generously let him tag along.
"Jeff was reading by the age of three, and very early on discovered an amazing talent for drawing. Well, maybe not a talent per se ... actually, most emoticons show more talent than he did, but the love for drawing was definitely there. A huge chunk of his early childhood was spent drawing Spider-Man comics, violating copyright law left and right without a smidgen of guilt.
"As his school days began, Jeff discovered his passion for writing. His teachers strongly encouraged this passion, but they got really sick of him writing nothing but Spider-Man stories. But he couldn't help it. Spider-Man was just too cool.
"In fifth grade, his first story was published in the youth literary section of the Daily News Miner. It was about the adventures of "Falstaff the Fearless". The editors were probably impressed that a fifth-grader was incorporating Shakespeare references into his fiction, though actually Jeff swiped the name from his Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook. Though not many people found themselves chortling and/or guffawing, this story was meant to be humorous, as evidenced by villain names like Crasher, Crusher, and Creeper.
"Jeff continued writing and drawing throughout junior high, though his only other published piece was a funny poem that appeared on Pizza Hut placemats. But despite several trips to Pizza Hut, Jeff and his family were never actually able to see one of these placemats, and their sorrow continues to this day.
"Right before his freshman year of high school, his parents separated and Jeff moved with his mother, sister, and snorty pug Denali to Kent, Ohio. He acted in several plays and transformed into a horror movie-obsessed geek. He also realized that while he still loved the gag-writing portion of cartooning, he wasn't enjoying the drawing portion anymore. Finally, he gave it up.
"His junior year, Jeff decided to try a screenplay. He did, and the result was "Curses", a fast-paced supernatural comedy that had many creative moments, including a dog-food creature, but still really sucked. He followed that up with another comedy, 'The Making of a Criminal', which also sucked but had slightly better formatting.
"After his 1989 high school graduation, Jeff left home to attend Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He majored in Creative Writing. Unfortunately, the Creative Writing program was almost exclusively focused on short stories and poetry, and even though poets make the big bucks, that wasn't where his interests rested.
"He cranked out another comedy screenplay that sucked quite badly, then wrote a horror script called 'The Blood Runs Cold' that he finally decided was good enough to submit to an actual producer! And he sent it off! And he waited! And he found out that the producer had gone out of business!
"During his remaining college years he completed five more screenplays, but he also started his unholy tradition of abandoning about eighteen projects for every one that he completed. Two of these screenplays made the rounds in Hollywood and were soundly rejected, though occasionally somebody would say that they were kinda funny out of pity, intoxication, or a frontal lobotomy.
"Then, his senior year of college, Jeff got his first agent, to market a thriller called 'Plaything'. Very few college students are fortunate enough to land an agent that early in their writing careers ... however, very few college students are dumb enough to sign on with a bozo of such low agenting quality.
"His innocence lost forever, Jeff graduated and went back to Alaska for a year, where he finished his first novel (and abandoned eighteen others, one of which hit 70,000 words before termination). He then signed with his second agent, who had little enthusiasm beyond 'I feel this work has marketing potential' but only charged $90. Jeff returned to Ohio and began saving money to achieve his lifelong goal ... to get the hell out of cold weather!
"During his time in Ohio, Jeff wrote a young adult thriller and submitted it to a very, very small press publisher. On Dec. 5, 1994, he received his first of many 'we love this but can't use it' rejections. This time, however, it was simply because the publisher had already used up their manuscript acquisition budget.
"During this time Jeff also discovered the Internet! Well, not the REAL Internet, but the online service GEnie, where he got to interact with actual writers, namely, members of the Horror Writers Association. For the first time, he got to 'talk' to people with genuine experience, people who wouldn't have hesitated to tell him not to sign with that bozo of such low agenting quality!
"hen, armed with a woefully insufficient wad of cash and an '85 Plymouth Caravelle, he drove from Ohio to Tucson, Arizona (with his grandfather hitching a ride, relieving Jeff's family of the worry that Jeff would get lost along the way and end up driving into the Pacific Ocean). He'd picked Tucson because he wanted to live in a big city ... but not TOO big, and it had to be warm year-round. Tucson fit that criteria.
"Well, he found a studio apartment. And he found a job, working at a group home for developmentally disabled adults, where he discovered the joys of having somebody screaming 'I'm gonna [bad word] kill you, [more specific version of bad word]!!!' on a regular basis.
"[S]hortly after he'd moved down south, he flew to Atlanta for the 1995 World Horror Convention. There he met Janice Hansen, who he vaguely "knew" from GEnie. She was one of several people who signed his barf bag, but Jeff didn't remember her afterward.
Anyway, at the convention, Jeff met the editor of a really sick magazine called Into the Darkness and bought a copy. Upon his return to Tucson, he noticed that Ms. Hansen had a story in there, so he read it. It was about a pre-school teacher who educated her students ... IN DEATH!!! It was one creepy story, and he sent her an e-mail saying so. She wrote back thanking him. And thus began approximately 73,811 exchanged e-mails, and millions of hours of GEnie chat time.
"Jeff's financial system worked as such: The first paycheck of each month went to pay rent and a utility or two. The second paycheck went to food, the rest of the bills including the $%@ magazine subscriptions some jerk of a telemarketer had conned him into, and the occasional movie.
"But one month it worked out that he had THREE paychecks! It threw off his whole accounting system. What was he supposed to do with this extra money?
"And so, Jeff flew to Florida to visit firstname.lastname@example.org. Four months later he packed up the '85 Plymouth Caravelle and drove to Tampa to stay. A year and a half later Jeff & j.hansen16 were married. Eleven years later they're still married. They have yet to procreate, which is best for all involved parties. But we're getting ahead of the biography.
"Before departing for Florida, Jeff made his first sale (well, had his first acceptance ... no money was involved). 'The Private Diary of Leonard Parr' was accepted for the first issue of Twisted Magazine. He was hap-hap-happy! Woo-hoo!
"'This Skit Is Extinct' became his first officially published piece, if you exclude school literary magazines, The Daily News Miner, and Pizza Hut placemats. It appeared in Liquid Ohio, which saw its stock plummet 394%, but he was still hap-hap-happy, though he was wise enough not to phrase it that way in casual conversation.
"For his day job, Jeff had entered the evil world of large corporations. He wrote another comedy novel, 'Off Balance', worked on various other projects, and began marketing his novels full-force. A lot of publishers really liked 'Pointless Quest. None of them thought it fit with their lists. A lot of publishers really liked 'Off Balance'. None of them thought it fit with their lists. But one of them suggested that 'Out of Whack' might be a better title, and was absolutely right.
"The pile of rejection letters grew, and then finally he signed on with Agent #3. This agent basically said that only a complete idiot would take on a book like 'Pointless Quest', which had racked up plenty-o-rejections and was a humorous fantasy at a time that nobody was buying humorous fantasies ... but he liked it too much to pass up.
"He wanted to change the title 'Pointless Quest', fearing that people would say 'If it's pointless, why should we read it?' Jeff's opinion was that people that stupid didn't deserve to read the book, but after much back-and-forth discussion the title ultimately became 'How to Rescue a Dead Princess'.
"Jeff wrote a couple more books. Agent #3 decided to cut his losses and closed shop, so Jeff marketed them on his own.
"An editor at Harcourt Brace said he loved 'Out of Whack' so much that he kept reading the entire manuscript through to the end even though he knew after about seventy-five pages that he wouldn't be able to buy it. Jeff knew he was on the verge of a breakthrough.
"Query letters for 'How to Rescue a Dead Princess' were sent out to several publishers. Two days after they were mailed, Princess Diana was killed. The book did not sell.
"Then he got an e-mail from an agent who'd read 'Out of Whack' on a critique site and wanted to market it. And thus began his relationship with Agent #4, which was simultaneously rewarding and really, really, really frustrating. After his first and second agents, Jeff had developed two rules: 1. Don't sign with any agent who charges fees. 2. Don't sign with any agent who isn't extremely enthusiastic about your work.
"The script didn't sell and the relationship ended. Then one of his online friends suggested he submit his novels to an electronic publisher. He thought 'What a stupid idea!'
"Oddly enough, the e-publishers looked like REAL publishers and they didn't want any money. His books weren't doing any good sitting there on his hard drive, making fun of the other files, so he sent 'How to Rescue a Dead Princess' to two of them, promptly forgot that he'd done so, and went back to his scripts.
"Three months later, within two days of each other, BOTH e-publishers offered him a contract for the novel. He ended up accepting the offer from Hard Shell Word Factory. He then began reading everything he could about electronic publishing and realized that this was the perfect outlet for somebody who wrote really goofy, obnoxious, twisted novels!
"'Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary)' was accepted by Wordbeams, a brand-new publisher. 'Out of Whack' was accepted by Street Saint Publications, to be released in electronic and paperback formats! 'Elrod McBugle on the Loose', a comedy for kids and adults who were warped as kids, was accepted by DiskUs Publishing.
"On April 1st, 2001, Jeff became President of EPIC, an organization for electronically published writers, which he ruled with an iron fist and a wooden paddle.
"Tragedy struck at the end of 2001 when Wordbeams closed shop, due to the owner's health problems and the fact that their reputation was forever blemished by publishing 'Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary)'.
"The demise of Wordbeams also left his killer ant novel 'Infested' without a home ... until it was accepted by Double Dragon Publishing. Then he found out that those thieving Hollywood bastards were making a killer fly movie with the same title, so it became Mandibles.
'Pressure' was published in 2006 to big heaping gobs of acclaim. Big-name authors he'd never lovingly caressed under a table were offering up blurbs, and even Publishers Weekly thought it was peachy. The 'Sinister Mr. Corpse' sold out really, really, really quickly, which was good because Jeff had signed a three-book deal with Delirium, and it would've been kind of awkward and embarrassing if sales had sucked.
"In 2007, 'Pressure' was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel, but lost to Stephen King's 'Lisey's Story'. Jeff was at the awards banquet and Stephen King was not, but sadly there was no "must be present to win" clause.
"Jeff co-wrote his first collaborative novel, 'The Haunted Forest Tour', with James A. Moore and at no point did Jim squash him like an anorexic ladybug.
"His novella 'Disposal' was published by Biting Dog Press and extremely well-received, although he did hear the occasional cry of 'The stand-alone hardcover limited edition novella market has gotten out of hand!'
"And now here he sits, typing up this biography for his web page. What new adventures await? What new challenges? What new typographical erroruz will he miss as he enters the next phase of his writing career?
"To be continued..."
You can learn more about Jeff at his website JeffStrand.WordPress.com, where you can read the unabridged version of his biography.
Editor David Warner of Creative Loafing said some kind and encouraging words on page 26 of the August 26, 2009, issue. Partial quote, "At a moment when ignorance is being aggressively defended, Deep Carnivale still respects our intelligence. Imagine that."
Esther Martinez, in a story at The Florida Book Review" says she knows "Deep Carnivale will be 'A Celebration of Words' and not a Bourbon Street bacchanal."
"But logophile that I am, I reason I'll get drunk on language. With over 70 writers and artists scheduled [for the 2008 Carnivale] to perform or read from their works, my beaded necklaces will be strung with verse. I imagine haiku shooters..."
"It is just before 10am when I arrive at the corner of Palm Avenue and 14th StreetóDeep Carnivale ground zero. About a dozen vendor tables are lined up around the Hillsborough Community College courtyard where a band of teenagers [Next Exit] are setting up their instruments."The vendor tables sell books by local writers, HCC publications and baked goods. I grab a Cuban favorite, papa rellena, a potato stuffed with savory ground beef. Belly satisfied, I cross the street and enter the historic Circulo Cubano. A nearly 100 year old neo-classical building of ionic columns and marble staircases, it served as the Cuban Social Club and remains the oldest building of its kind in the country."
"When I look back over 2008, my visit to the second edition of Deep Carnivale was a
highlight. You and your staff did a great job and I loved being part of it, again.
I am sure there will be bigger festivals to come. But maybe not better!!!"
– Darrell House, children's book author and 2008 Deep Carnivale presenter.