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.
A big-time video game fanatic, Jeff began to create video game ideas of his own and send them to Bally Midway Manufacturing Company, who distributed Pac-Man. His third time out, they were interested enough in his idea for Prodigy that they sent him a preliminary contract. The terms were acceptable (he would give them all rights to the game for all eternity for free and for no credit) and he signed, caring much less about money than the fact that he would have been THE COOLEST KID IN SCHOOL!!! Tragically, six weeks later he received a letter stating that Bally had decided not to pursue the idea, a decision which probably cost them a good $750 billion in revenue.
Jeff continued writing and drawing throughout junior high, though his only other published piece was a funny poem that appeared on a 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. (His congratulatory letter mentioned that the comic device he’d used in this poem, that of repetition, was used by professional humorists worldwide. Spurred by this encouragement, Jeff has continued to stretch jokes far, far past their breaking point to this very 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.
To expand the scope of his writing, he cranked out a pair of 25-page comedy plays, calledPointless Quest and Pointless Quest II: The Drapes of Blath (the play was better than the subtitle). His mother thought they were appalling but his friends loved them, proof that they were a complete and total success. The Pointless Quest series was intended to span for eight installments, concluding with the knee-slapper title Pointless Quest VIII: Eight is Enough, but the third part was never completed.
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. For his third script he decided to try a horror film, and the result was Dark Futures, which had gobs of cool stuff but suffered from the structural weakness of adding a new subplot every two pages. None of these scripts were deemed suitable for submission.
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! And he decided that the script wasn’t really good enough to submit after all!
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. (And while this sounds like an exaggeration for delightful comedic effect, in reality it’s probably an understatement.) 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. Did this agent charge fees? Heck yeah! Did this agent not only make Jeff print out the script copies himself, but buy a copy of Hollywood Literary Marketplace and actually PICK the places where it was going to be sent, then address/apply postage to the envelopes himself? Yes. Did any producers offer this agent huge piles of money to purchase the script? Um, no. (Actually, it appears that only one of them ever bothered to respond.)
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!
Then, 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. He had no job or apartment lined up, but he did have a copy of the Arizona Traveler’s Guide, so he was set!
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. The job was weekend shift, allowing Jeff to work 40 hours between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, giving him the rest of the week to write.
Jeff spent a year in Arizona, where he managed to write surprisingly little for somebody who had Monday mornings through Friday afternoons free. He did complete a comedic fantasy novel which stole the title from his play Pointless Quest, but not a whole heck of a lot else. What a loser.
However, shortly 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. She didn’t remember him that well, either, except that he was wearing a stupid hat. (Actually, he was wearing a baseball cap advertising the movie Speed, one of the greatest motion pictures of all time, but in all honesty Jeff finally had to admit that baseball caps just didn’t suit him.)
(The only reason he took to wearing the baseball cap was because right before moving to Tucson his mother had given him a haircut with some “miracle” clippers. Unfortunately, she used them incorrectly, which Jeff realized when he saw a huge pile of hair pour down in front of his face, accompanied by the comment “Oh sh*t!” He either had to accept a bare stripe across the middle of his head, or let her buzz off the rest of it. She bought him the baseball cap and a box of Raisinets to apologize.)
(This bio is getting a little too detailed, isn’t it? Sorry about that.)
Anyway, at the convention, Jeff met the editor of a really sick magazine called Into the Darknessand 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. (For hours of fun sending e-mails to addresses that no longer exist, use the hyperlink above!) 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. Sixteen 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!
His first sale for actual money followed shortly thereafter: “Scarecrow’s Fate” to Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, a hardcover anthology. After moving to Florida, he began submitting all of the short stories and comedy skits he’d written during his time in Arizona when he should have been working on novels or screenplays, racking up several acceptances.
“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.
The first issue of Twisted Magazine came out…and it looked fantastic! Like a real magazine! He bought lots and lots of copies, which may explain why nobody else ever read it. Horrors! 365 Scary Stories took FOREVER to finally be released, but once it did the book was well worth the wait…has there ever been packaging this cool? (No.)
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.
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.
Jeff wrote a couple more books. Agent #3 decided to cut his losses and closed shop, so Jeff marketed them on his own. He began to fill a bulletin board with “positive” rejection letters. He kept writing and submitting. 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.
But the doofus was wrong, and in December 1998, he decided to quit writing fiction and devote himself 100% to comedy screenwriting. He wrote three new screenplays, two of which were adaptations of his novels. 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. After this relationship, he added a third rule: 3. If you’re an aspiring comedy screenwriter, don’t sign with an agent who is ALSO an aspiring comedy screenwriter and who keeps wanting to put his own jokes into your script.
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!” He’d looked at a couple e-publisher sites, which consisted of “Give us $200 and we’ll slap your unedited, unproofread book up on our poorly-designed site that nobody ever visits because we offer nothing but unedited, unproofread books by authors dumb enough to give us $200!” But since surfing the web gave him an excuse to procrastinate on his screenwriting, he checked the links out.
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! He immediately began submitting those novels of his which hadn’t been banished from human eyes for all eternity.
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.
Graverobbers was published on May 1st, 2000. Reviewers foamed at the mouth over it, and most of them were treated for rabies shots against their will. How to Rescue a Dead Princess was published in August 2000. Elrod McBugle on the Loose was published in October 2000. A sequel to Graverobbers, called Single White Psychopath Seeks Same, greeted the world in March 2001. Out of Whack was technically published in November 2001, but he didn’t tell anybody and didn’t renew his contract.
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). Fortunately, Hard Shell Word Factory took the series, which were released in paperback in 2002 and 2003. This was pretty cool.
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. Though Jeff has yet to see the movie, it seems safe to say that Jeff could have kept his original title without a single person ever saying “Hey, wasn’t Infested the name of a killer fly movie?”
In 2003, brand-new publisher Mundania Press took the hardcover rights to four of Jeff’s books. (They didn’t even ask. They just broke into his house in the middle of the night and stole the hardcover rights out of the coffee can where he was keeping them.)
Suddenly, Jeff realized that he hadn’t updated his bio in well over a year. So he added that in 2004 he published Out of Whack and Casket For Sale (Only Used Once). It was fun.
In 2005, the slacker didn’t publish a new novel, but he did publish several short stories, including the chapbook “Socially Awkward Moments With An Aspiring Lunatic.” However, he sold his first “serious” novel, a thriller called Pressure, to Earthling Publications, and he sold The Sinister Mr. Corpse, a zombie comedy, to Delirium Books.
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, though the several hundred miles separating them during the writing process probably contributed to his safety.
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 his short story collection, Gleefully Macabre Tales, followed shortly after that from Delirium Books. He’s still promoting it even as he updates this bio, so why not order a copy for yourself and those you love, hmmm?
Then he sold the mass market paperback rights to Pressure to Leisure Books. That was pretty cool. The book came out on time (May 2009) and was followed by Dweller (March 2010) and was almost followed by Wolf Hunt but things went bad. The irony that e-books finally began to achieve genuine respect at the same time that his work finally became available in bookstores everywhere was not lost upon him. While the mass market paperback editions hit the shelves, he also published two novellas (The Severed Nose and Kutter) and a novel (Benjamin’s Parasite).
Identity Films optioned the film rights to Pressure. If they actually make the movie, he will be rich enough to hire an assistant to update this bio.
The first foreign language editions of his work horrified German-speaking citizens everywhere, asGrabrauber Gesucht (Keine Besonderen Kenntnisse Erforderlich) and Alleinstehender Psychopath Sucht Gleichgesinnte brought the adventures of Andrew Mayhem to a whole new audience, and Jeff’s four years of high school German proved woefully inadequate to read any of the reviews.
He wrote 25% of the novel Draculas with JA Konrath, Blake Crouch, and F. Paul Wilson. Maybe a bit less than 25%. He gets 25% of the royalties either way. He also wrote Fangboy, and after seven years of fans saying “When are you going to write the fourth Andrew Mayhem novel, you lazy bastard?” he wrote the fourth Andrew Mayhem novel, Lost Homicidal Maniac (Answers to “Shirley”), which met his “It’ll be out in 2011!” promise with two days to spare.
Then he became a Young Adult author with A Bad Day For Voodoo. Then he became a Young Adult author again with I Have A Bad Feeling About This.
He wrote this one novella called Stalking You Now, and this one other novella called Faint of Heart,and a second short story collection called Dead Clown Barbecue, and he was Master of Ceremonies of the Bram Stoker Awards banquet five times! Five! Do you know what the previous record was? Two! And he looks way snazzy in his tux, if he does say so himself, which he does, because he still cannot afford to pay somebody to update this bio for him, dammit.
He wrote a script for the first issue of a comic book called Town of Turmoil but hasn’t really done anything with it yet. He wrote a mainstream comedy novel called Kumquat and sent it off to his agent, but no word yet. Will these be key moments in his career, or obscure footnotes relegated to a paragraph in a bio that readers are certainly skimming by this point?
But then tragedy struck…or will strike…real life hasn’t caught up with this bio yet, but most likely there’ll be some devastating tragedy to screw everything up. Otherwise it’s a boring story.
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…