The book, A Spell for Chameleon, first published in 1977 was my introduction to Piers Anthony. I was immediately bewitched by his fantastical vision of a truly magical world, and I loved the fact that he placed it in Florida. His world of Xanth was a place where magic is as intrinsic to life as oxygen, and that notion has intrigued me ever since. The concept of making magic a fundamental requirement for life is one that makes complete sense to me. Not only that, he did it with laugh-out-loud humor using puns and hokey jokes that were transformed into hilarious prose under his pen.
That book was one of the better books I had ever read, and it began a lifelong love affair with the work of Piers Anthony. The Xanth series is one long running pun after another. Besides the witty prose and creative plots in this series, the covers of his books were good. I have been well-known as a person who will buy a book for the cover, and that is exactly how I stumbled onto this series.
I learned several things from Piers Anthony and his Xanth series, the first of which is that Good Covers Sell Books. I also saw that a true artist can take the most common, overused puns and turn them into the framework of an adventure novel. I admit I did lose interest at about book ten, but even so, Piers Anthony still manages to have fun with it, and he still sells books. The Xanth series is incredibly popular, and deservedly so.
The series Anthony wrote that really captured my imagination, and which in my mind still reigns as his best work is the Apprentice Adept series, beginning with Split Infinity, Blue Adept, and Juxtaposition.
Piers Anthony has had one of the most prolific and highly regarded writing careers ever, with more than 150 published works to his credit. The 41st novel in his Xanth series, Ghost Writer in the Sky, will be published in April of 2017. His sharp wit and amazing gift for world building are legendary, and he has won numerous awards for his work.
But what reading his incredible body of work and following his career really has taught me is that even when things around you have gone to hell (as things are wont to do) the author has the craft of writing to provide an escape from the TRUE weirdness of real life.
Anyone who has read his official Wikipedia biography knows Piers Anthony has had a long life with many personal challenges, through all of which I am sure writing was (and is) his refuge. His novels usually end with an author's note, in which he talks about himself, his life, and his experiences as they related to the process of writing the novel. He has the rebellious spirit of an indie, refusing to be bullied by his publishers, suing them (and winning) when things became unworkable. He is a champion of the eBook movement, for which we indies can be grateful.
Every author I know has struggled in their personal life. During the years I was raising my children, I had three failed marriages, worked three part-time jobs, and struggled to find time to write. I raised my kids in a trailer park because I owned the trailer and could afford to live there. Two of my children have epilepsy, and both are “on the spectrum” as they say nowadays. Writing was an escape to keep me sane when nothing was certain except my children were in terrible trouble, and the doctors didn’t know why and couldn’t cure it.
In reality, nothing has changed on the epilepsy front. My children sometimes have seizures, and we have learned to laugh and enjoy our life despite the occasional setback. But those rough years spent in hospitals as my son or daughter recovered from injuries incurred during a seizure forged my writing.
Knowing an author like Piers Anthony has endured the worst personal losses a parent can imagine, yet managed to keep his sense of humor and write brilliant books gave me hope. It drove me to keep doing what I could, trying to make silk purses from the sows' ears of my work in those dark moments when I felt most discouraged.
It’s clear that writing has been the one thing Piers could count on. Life continues to throw curve balls at him, but he still finds the humor in life, which is what all writers must do especially when times are difficult.
Life is a journey, and you never know what lies around the corner, but a sense of humor can be a solace when nothing else is. Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge, says: Gallows humor has the social effect of strengthening the morale of the oppressed and undermines the morale of the oppressors. According to Wylie Sypher, "to be able to laugh at evil and error means we have surmounted them."
Connie J. Jasperson is an author and blogger and can be found blogging regularly at Life in the Realm of Fantasy.
Wikipedia contributors, "Gallows humor," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
(accessed January 30, 2017).