The adventures of Parker in publishing

— Photo by Louis Torres Photography
Proud family: Michael Parker says his daughters, from left, Sofia, Isabela, and Lucia, and his wife, Angelica, take pride in his recent status as a published author. Parker self-published his first novel, Flabius Flaximus and the Superstars of Antarctica, last month, after it had sat on the shelf for nearly 15 years. Angelica Parker is also a self-published author, having written a children’s book, Isabela and the Sugar Cream Tea, last year.

— Photo submitted by Michael Parker

Image absurdity: Self-published author Michael Parker goes for irony even on the front cover of his book, where Egypt is pictured — the furthest thing from Antarctica Parker could think of.

GUILDERLAND — Michael Parker said he’s always been a sarcastic person, but, like anyone, he dreamt of writing the next “great American novel.”

He found, though, that serious topics never clicked with him, and so he wrote his recently self-published novel, Flabius Flaximus and the Superstars of Antarctica, which he describes as “a tale of elevated absurdity.”

An associate director of communications at the University at Albany, Parker was born and raised in Guilderland, and left only for a brief period, when he attended St. Bonaventure University in western New York. 

He just celebrated 10 years of marriage with his wife, Angelica, also a Guilderland native, and they have three daughters, Isabela, Sofia, and Lucia. 

As an English major at St. Bonaventure, Parker said, he found himself writing a lot of long papers analyzing literary works, and was particularly drawn to Greek classics — Herculean-type tales.

But, again, he wasn’t satisfied with the serious nature of his papers, and began writing “absurd fiction stories,” some in direct response to his schoolwork, others entirely crafted by his own imagination.

Parker also served as the editor of a humor magazine at St. Bonaventure University.

It wasn’t only in college that he found himself drawn to sarcasm and humor. As a child, he said, he loved movies and books, and was heavily influenced by the Marx brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Mel Brooks.

“These are the people that were my heroes as a kid,” said Parker.

The story that evolved into Parker’s first novel began as a series of short writings, which got positive reviews from some of his friends. Over a period of three years, beginning in 1996, he turned the pieces into a novel.

When Flabius Flaximus and the Superstars of Antarctica was finished, Parker sent it off to book houses and literary agents.

“Some expressed mild interest, but I think it scared a lot of them,” Parker said.

Frustrated with the process, he decided to put the book on the shelf for a while.

Then, in 2011, E. L. James — a pen name — self-published her first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, which ended up selling over 90 million copies, topping best-seller lists around the world, and turning into a trilogy.

“She had such wild success,” said Parker. “She went from being a working mom to someone getting $20 million checks in the mail for this book she wrote.”

Rejuvenated by the success of someone else’s self-published book, Parker decided to take control of his own work.

“I figured it was time to finally complete the process,” he said.

Parker used a tool called CreateSpace, from Amazon, which provides free services for authors looking to self-publish.

The only thing a self-published author really needs to invest in, according to Parker, is an International Standard Book Number (ISBN.) After that is acquired, it is up to the author to decide how much professional help to get from CreateSpace.

“They can read it, edit it, and create a customized cover and illustrations, depending on what you want to pay for,” said Parker.

The only thing he used it for, he said, was getting his ISBN and receiving recommendations for setting the cost of the book.

“I got to the point where I was comfortable enough hitting the ‘publish’ button,” said Parker.

As of early November, Flabius Flaximus and the Superstars of Antarctica is available in print and electronic versions on www.Amazon.com and through other leading bookstores.

The book, Parker said, follows several story lines, including that of an evil wizard, bent on destroying the world; a super spy, who could be completely insane and imagining the things around him, or who could be foiling the evil plot; a “Bonnie and Clyde-esque” duo, named Fairy and Fuzz, who run from people across the globe; and the hero, Flabius Flaximus.

Flaximus is tasked with retrieving the four most powerful elements in the universe — four pieces of plastic cutlery — and using them to stop the evil wizard.

“I think anyone could find humor in at least some part of the book,” said Parker.

His wife, he said, is Peruvian, and tells him, “Peruvians don’t get sarcasm.”

“That makes for some interesting conversations at home,” he said. “But even she finds parts of the book amusing.”

His daughters, he said, are proud.

“They like to tell their friends that ‘Dad wrote a book!’ and show them the book when they come over,” said Parker.

His best advice to aspiring authors, he said, is, “Don’t get discouraged.”

“If you don’t expect to make a billion dollars, and you want to be able to share your book, the tools are available now,” he said.

Since the beginning of November, his book has sold only a handful of copies, but Parker doesn’t mind.

“Whether I sell 10 or 10,000 copies,” he said, “I’m happy to be able to complete the process, and share with family and friends.”

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