Monday, June 24, 2013

Fifty-seven year old Robert Malone is the CEO of a successful clothing store chain and married to a former model. When his doctor tells him he is dying of cancer, he refuses to go quietly. Instead of death, Robert chooses cryonics. He knows it’s a long shot. His frozen body will be stored in liquid nitrogen for the next seventy-five years, and then he’ll wake up in the future. Maybe. If technology figures out a way to bring him back. He’s willing to take that gamble. What he doesn’t realize is that he won’t lie in some dreamless state all that time. His soul is very much awake, and free to move about, just like the others who were frozen before him.

He discovers that he can ride in the cockpit with the pilots, but he can’t turn the page of a magazine. He can sit in the oval office with the president, but he can’t prevent a child from dashing in front of a car. He doesn’t work, or eat, or sleep. These obstacles make it difficult to fall in love, and virtually impossible to reconcile with the living. Over the next several decades, Robert Malone will have plenty of time to learn The Ups and Downs of Being Dead.

At first, he’d done what any intelligent man would do when the doctor folded his hands on his desk and quietly said, ‘You have cancer.’ Robert got a second opinion.

That noted oncologist laid it out in a way Robert could not deny. Like an advertising campaign, the doctor presented images from an MRI and pointed out the large mass in Robert’s liver. Then he produced colorful brochures on the finest cancer treatment centers, pamphlets touting the latest pharmaceuticals, and of course, the bar graphs and pie charts that estimated how long Robert had to live.

For the first time in almost thirty years, Robert took the rest of the day off. He struggled to get through the telephone conversation with his secretary canceling appointments, rearranging meetings. By the time he ended the call, Robert felt so weak he’d braced his arm on the roof of his car and rested his forehead on the sleeve of his hand-tailored suit. Struggling for breath, he was unable to even stop the drool that oozed out of his gaping mouth and dribbled down the window of his Mercedes.

Stale exhaust fumes in the parking garage choked Robert, the low clearance closed in on him. He was practically running when he came out onto the open top level. The heat of the day washed over Robert, and his body sagged. He lurched to the edge of the roof, and looked out over Atlanta, the classic query drumming in his head. ‘Why me?’

When Amanda heard he was dying, she rushed home from her shopping trip in New York. Robert was in his office, on the phone, when she burst in, her cheeks flushed, her eyes aglow. If he had to describe her expression in one word, it would have been exuberant.

Almost overnight, she transformed into a loving, sacrificing wife who put everything on hold for him. She drove him to his chemo appointments. She waited patiently outside the bathroom while he puked his guts out, then helped him back to bed, tucking brand-new sheets under his chin. Death sheets, he’d called them. He was certain she’d agonized over just the right shade and design to go with cancer.

She volunteered for the American Cancer Society, masquerading as a pillar of strength in front of other spouses of dying partners. She even participated in one of those walks – Amanda, who probably hadn’t worn a pair of sneakers since she was ten. And she never went anywhere without that goofy pink ribbon pinned to her clothing.

Robert was sure the only reason she got so involved with the cancer organization was to get first-hand information on how soon he could be expected to croak. She couldn’t wait to get her hands on his millions.

Wouldn’t she be surprised?

The Ups and Downs of Being Dead was a surprise treat, which started out somewhat slowly, but was still interesting enough to keep us reading until the storyline picked up a bit. 

After Robert Malone is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he opts for being preserved cryonically until a cure can be found. He's willing to do anything, spend as much money as he needs to spend, to cheat death. He does not realize, however that he won't simply go to sleep and wake up when there's a cure. Ironically, he finds (to his great disappointment and chagrin) that there actually is life after death, and he'll be spending the next 75 years as a disembodied spirit. What will he do with all that time?

This book is about Roberts journey from being a shallow, selfish, self-centered man to one who understands the value of life and love, both romantic love and unconditional love for family. There are also many humorous situations and conversations in this book, which we enjoyed immensely, and the growth of Robert's soul during his cryonic state is a truly engrossing read.

We received this book as a free download from Pixel of Ink.

We're giving The Ups and Downs of Being Dead a 5 Moon Review - It's definitely going on our favorites shelf!

5 Moon Review

The only contest Marsha Cornelius ever won was when she was eight years-old. The prize was a Dale Evans cowgirl shirt, plaid with pearly snaps. She doesn’t remember how she won the prize, but she’s sure it wasn’t for writing. Other than growing up in the unique position of having an older brother, older sister, younger sister and younger brother, her childhood was pretty much a yawner.

Flash forward to 1969. The war in Vietnam was escalating and students on campuses across the country were protesting U.S. involvement. Cornelius wrote for a campus newspaper, not at Columbia or Berkeley or Kent State, but at Purdue University in Indiana.

Unimpressive? Definitely. But the time Cornelius spent at the Exponent newspaper had a significant effect on her otherwise unremarkable life. No longer satisfied with a small-town mindset, she switched from a major in home economics to journalism, transferred to Indiana University, and received her BS in 1972. She paid for school by working part-time at the local Herald Telephone newspaper, although not as a reporter, but in the advertising department.

Upon graduation, she packed all of her belongings into a rusted out Camaro with a leaking back window and drove to Atlanta where she lived for a short while at the YWCA, also known as Church’s Home for Businesswomen, on 11th Street.

Taking advantage of her graphics experience, Cornelius found a job at an advertising company west of Atlanta in the suburb of Smyrna. No, it wasn’t J. Walter Thompson or DDB, it was Shea-Rustin, who’s premier account was the Sears Sunday inserts.

One sparkle in an otherwise dull career history is the two years she worked at the innovative but short-lived alternative newspaper Southline. As production manager, Cornelius worked alongside some of Atlanta’s creative elite. Plus, from her second story window, she could watch homeless men sleep on back issues, under the shade of a large oak tree.

She has spent the last 15 years as a lunch lady at various elementary schools. For most of those years, she managed two metro-county school cafeterias with enrollments of 1000+ students. One of her fondest memories is dressing in a floppy hat adorned with plastic fruits and vegetables, and a colorful apron with big pockets. She filled those pockets with penny-items like stickers and erasers and wandered through her cafeterias bribing students to eat their fruits and vegetables.

So how did such an inauspicious life lead to writing a book? At first, she dabbled in freelancing for magazines, and wrote a couple articles for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Topside Loafing. She moved on to fiction, trying to write screenplays, before finally finding her niche in novels. Like thousands of others, she thought she could write romance, but soon discovered she was a dismal failure. She did increase her repertoire of adjectives such as throbbing, pulsing, thrumming, vibrating, hammering, pumping . . .

Her first novel, H10N1, is a post-apocalyptic thriller about a flu pandemic that has already wiped out most of the world’s population. Coming up? A fifty-seven year-old man dying of cancer chooses cryonic preservation over death.

Cornelius lives in the countryside north of Atlanta with her husband, Bill, and two molly-coddled cats. Her two college-aged sons visit regularly for food, clean laundry and cash.

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