Thursday, 29 November 2012

Toad in the hole

This post is especially for people from the US and is a recipe for a dish familiar in the UK called 'Toad in the Hole'. It's mentioned in our book 'A Vested Interest '

"Yeucht!" you say, "I'm NOT going to eat a toad!"

Don't worry because the recipe doesn't include any toads. Here's the ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 12 oz plain flour (1½ cups)
  • 3½ cups milk
  • teaspoon of salt
  • 6 sausages, thick links
  • vegetable fat eg. Crisco
Put about 3 tablespoons of the vegetable fat in an ovenproof dish and put it in the oven at it's highest setting to melt.
While it's getting hot beat the eggs, flour, salt and milk to make a batter.
When the fat is hot take it out the oven and pour enough of the batter into the dish to cover it to a depth of half an inch. Return it to the oven to start cooking.
In a frying pan brown the sausages.
Once the batter in the oven has set, add the sausages and pour over them the rest of the batter. Return it to the oven to cook at 220 °C / 420 °F for 30 - 40 min.

Serve with onion gravy and sliced green beans.

Easy to make, inexpensive and totally delicious on a cold winter day.

If you like this one, maybe I'll tell you how to make 'Spotted Dick.'

Incidentally 'A Vested Interest ' is a romantic suspense/technothriller and it's free at

An extra bit - Pancakes

Got too much batter? Pop it in the fridge and use it the next day to make some English pancakes. These will be little like those served in the US.

Use a small frying pan on a high heat. To it add a small knob of vegetable fat or sunflower oil. Once it's melted add about a tablespoon of the batter and swirl it round to cover the base of the pan thinly. Let the batter set then flip it over - it should be golden brown on the 'done' side. Of course an expert, (ex as in useless; spurt as in drip under pressure), would toss the pancake to flip it over but don't be ashamed to use a spatula.
I use the old Yorkshire expression 'When it's brown, it's done; when it's black it's bu**&rd'.
When both sides are cooked pop it on a plate in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of the batter.

To serve the pancakes, drizzle on some lemon juice and sprinkle them with sugar. (No-one said this was going to be a healthy recipe!)

Alternatively you could spread on some pie filling and cream before rolling up the pancakes.

Posh name for this style of pancake is Crêpe Suzette

Sunday, 21 October 2012

eBook prices

A little while ago I read a letter in Web User complaining about the prices of books at Amazon and that Amazon was making a huge profit because of this. The complainant said they could not afford to buy books for their Kindle because of these inflated prices. I felt I had to reply in defence of Amazon. Here's my reply which was printed in the 18th October 2012 issue of Web User:

Web User Magazine
    In issue 301 a reader wrote that they were disgusted by Kindle book prices. I have to say, as an author, that is NOT Amazon's fault! With one exception Amazon lets the author or publisher set the price of an ebook. The exception being that they will not allow an author to set a book price of less than $0.99 which in the UK means a price of £0.77 on average.
First there are two different types of publisher: The independent (Indie) author and the conventional publishing industry who make their books available as ebooks. It's the latter who keep their prices high and on occasion you'll find their ebooks more expensive than printed books due to discounting by the retailer. It's in their interest to do so if they want to keep their printing industry alive.
    The Indie authors again fall into two groups: Successful authors with established, best selling printed books and new authors with a limited offering of printed books (or none at all). A proven best selling author can make more money from selling ebooks than from printed books. They keep their prices high but less than the cost of a printed book. The newish indie author has to get their name recognised and climb up the publishing ladder. There are millions of them competing for your money and prices tend to be low.
    To keep indie authors from cutting their own throats, and to allow Amazon to make money, Amazon will not allow an indie author to set a price of less that $0.99. They pay a royalty of 35% on that which on a $0.99 book amounts to $0.35 (about 21p). If the author sets their book price at $2.99 to $9.99 then Amazon offer a royalty of 70% after deducting a delivery charge which covers 3G delivery. On an 80,000 word $2.99 book with a $0.08 delivery charge that means a royalty of $2.04 (£1.26). In the UK that book would cost £1.90 and would include 3% Luxembourg VAT (Note - Going up to 20% in Jan 2015). You would have to pay delivery on top since it would not qualify for free delivery.
    As to the costs of producing an ebook - if you go it alone, the cost can be zero. If you can't do all of the steps yourself you may need to pay for line editing ($0.02 per word), ebook formatting ($80-$150), cover design ($40-$200). Relatively few authors have all the necessary skills and as a result you'll see some poor quality ebooks from authors who can't afford to pay the professional. Conventional printing houses have to pay for a professional to do these tasks. If they cut corners (as some do) - complain loudly!
    Amazon are NOT the only source of ebooks though. You can download ebooks in Kindle format from SmashwordsProject GutenbergAutharium and others. Project Gutenberg books are out of copyright and free. Smashwords allows the author to give away a book free. Authors often give away the first book in a series to encourage the reader to invest in the rest and hopefully to get Amazon to 'price match'.

Free Books

Get it at Amazon
Now what I didn't cover in my response was just why an author, who normally wants to make money from their work, would give away some of their books? How can that possibly make them money? The Amazon 'Select' program allows authors to give away a book free for just five days every 90 days. The author hopes it might get their name known a little and if the reader enjoys the book, they might write a review or better still, recommend it to their friends, which will help the author sell more books when the 'Free' offer no longer applies. To join the Select program the author must agree to give Amazon the exclusive rights to sell the ebook for 90 days.

Does this actually work? Well it does and it doesn't. Thousands of authors have added books to the program and millions of books have been given away. The number of reviews written is tiny compared with that number though. Many Kindle readers are still not aware of the free books available because Amazon do not publicise where they are on the site and leave it up to the author to do this. The original letter writer to Web User obviously was not aware of the free books available.

Free books for the reader

If you are a reader you can find free books by searching for 'free ebooks' on the kindle page or you can follow one of these links:
US/Canada ( -
UK -
Navigate to the genre you want at the left of the page and select 'Top 100 Free' at the top.

Free books and the author

If you are an author, it's up to you to promote your free ebook. It will appear as Free on the books page/s and you can then make the link known in your publicity. Do nothing and you are unlikely to see a result from your free offer. A good page, telling how to publicise your free promotion was written by   at

Kindle Select Program

So when does the Kindle Select program work for authors?

  • It works when you have more than one book available for readers to buy
  • It works when the book made free is the first book of a series
  • It works if you heavily promote the free offer in advance, during the promotion and after the promotion
  • It works when your free book contains links to the other books
  • It works when you leave a message to readers at the end of your book inviting them to leave a review at Amazon
  • It works if you don't mind restricting your book to Amazon sales outlets

Alternatives to Kindle Select

Are there alternatives to Kindle Select? Indeed there are. Smashwords allows an author to set their book price as free on a temporary or on a permanent basis. They distribute books to other sites, making them available at iTunes (iBooks), and to Nook, Kobo and other readers. A free book at Smashwords will be made free at these other sites also. Smashwords also allows you to set a price for your book but to give away codes which make the book free to those with the code. Great for prizes, promotions and free review copies. Smashwords isn't the only alternative distributor. Try also. Publishing your book to Smashwords and making it free is a great idea for the first book in a series. Sooner or later Amazon will find out about this lower price and will 'price match' the Amazon copy. It may take months for this to occur though. My co-author and I went through this process months ago with our A Vested Interest series. Book 1 was made free at Smashwords. After about two months Amazon price matched it at  It took more than five months for it to be made it free at though, so for a while we had to set it at 77p there (the minimum allowed). Sales of the rest of the books in the series took an immediate jump once price matched. For a while the reverse was true for where there appeared to be some resentment that the first book wasn't free! (If you live in the UK, it's free now and you can also get A Vested Interest free from a number of sources listed here)

32 cent (20p) Books

One last bit of information. In late 2012 a court case has meant that Amazon can now discount ebooks as special offers. This is good news for readers, who can buy books for as little as 20p (32¢). It's good news for the author too since they get the same royalty as usual and not just a percentage of the discounted price.

How to find them at Amazon? Just type into's search bar '20p kindle books' and scan through the list of books found. If you live in the US and find a book you want then change the in the address bar to .com and you should find what you want.

Found a book that's free in the US but not in the UK?

Try looking the book up at Smashwords. Often a book has been made free worldwide but Amazon have not yet price matched it. If you find it free or at a lower price - tell about it!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

How long should a book chapter be?

Who cares?

Before I started writing professionally I really didn't care how long a chapter should be. For non fiction, the answer was simple - a chapter should cover a topic completely. Imagine a world guide to travelling where you visit fifty countries. You would expect each country would have it's own chapter. That seems pretty logical to me.

Fiction is entirely different though. What makes up a chapter? How long should it be? Does the length matter? The more I looked into it, the more I realised that it may be important.

Consider how and when people read.

In the BBC sitcom 'My Family' Ben Harper (Robert Lindsay)
 read Tom  Clancy books in bed, appearing to take a year
to finish each book.

  • Some sit down for an extended period of time and read a book all in one sitting because they are totally engrossed by it. (Please - Powers that be, send me more readers like that!)
  • Some read in bed before they go to sleep
  • Some read in those quiet times of the day
  • Some snatch a few minutes at various times while they are busy
  • Some read to relax and wind down
  • Some read paper books
  • Some read ebooks on an e-reader or their phone
  • Some read ebooks on a computer
Next consider how fast they read. It seems an average reader, reading fiction has a reading speed of about 200-240 words per minute or a little less than a page. This reading speed drops when reading non-fiction, where comprehension and retention is more important. It also drops when reading on a computer screen - e-readers don't appear to suffer from this effect.

If you want to measure your reading speed and comprehension I found a page at http:// which allows you to test your reading speed.

So let's take the scenario of a reader reading a paper novel in a break at work.
  • They have perhaps 10 minutes
  • They read at 200 words per minute
  • It's not vital that they remember everything
  • They don't have a bookmark with them
  • They don't want to spend five minutes finding their place
Under such a situation you need to keep a chapter to 2,000 words or about  eight pages. Less is probably better.

Ebooks have changed the game. They remember your place in a book so there is no searching for your place. There is still that "I'll just finish this chapter," effect though. A good author needs to finish the chapter with a 'hook' to make sure the reader comes back and reads the next one rather than put the book down and forget it.

...and that means

Keep your chapters short - maybe five pages.
Try to finish each chapter with enough of a cliffhanger to make your reader want to continue.

Now the question is am I right? Do you think shorter chapters are better? We've certainly tried to do this in the later books of the A Vested Interest series.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

What's the 'A Vested Interest' series about?

The FREE book Immortality Gene. Immortality can be achieved. People ask us "What are your books about?" often. It's a little difficult to explain because we cover multiple genres. One of our reviewers wrote:

    Not everyone who appears good is actually good—some have dark secrets"It is a story of corporate jealousy at the highest levels, greed, spite, vengence, advanced techonology, medicine, love and betrayal, and the very essence of life itself.

    WOW - that is a lot to cover in one book! Read this book - you will be glad you did."
Thank you Ancient Warlock. That pretty well sums it up. But that only refers to the first book... so here's a list of things we cover in the series in the 12 books so far (some not yet published).

    An ancient message reveals startling secrets leading to stones, stars and solutions
  • Through genetic therapy, immortality may be possible and real for 98%.
  • Through nanotechnology, force fields could be created.
  • For each of us, there is a partner who is a perfect match and several near matches. You'll know when you find your perfect match, and think ou'll know when you find a near match.
  • Ancient documents indicate the Earth has been visited by benign aliens who helped Man and left, because they were not gods, after setting up markers.

  • For trust to exist there can be no secrets. Not everyone who appears bad is bad.Forget governments, there is a secret organisation which is the real directing power on Earth. Politicians take the blame when things go wrong and make good targets to shoot at. There is always someone unhappy at the 'leaders.'
  • With the right triggers, weather could be controlled, but that control would be tenuous.
  • The Earth is doomed - but not yet.
  • Faster than light travel is possible.
  • Teleportation exists. For the moment, Man can't control it, but we have some ideas.
  • There are times when taking a leap of faith is the only way.Telepathy exists, and we know how it works.
  • Psychics may not, after all, be entirely fake.
  • It's possible to totally, and safely convert matter to energy but to do it, a catalyst is needed. Man can't create the catalyst yet. It doesn't occur naturally. There are at least 27 samples of it on Earth 20 of which are lost.
  • Just as there are benign aliens, there are hostile aliens happy to be 'gods'. They would take advantage of man.
  • Everyone has regrets and retribution inevitably followsThree days after death stem cells become active again. Under the right conditions a corpse could re-animate. Zombies?
Finally, here's a complete list of the series in order (because Amazon isn't very good at putting things in chronological order). It includes some books not yet available.

  1. Blood of the Rainbow- Raging Storm - a prequel written by Shelia
  2. Every action has consequences. How is one to make the right choice?Blood of the Rainbow II - Roses and Regret - the second of the prequel trilogy.
  3. Blood of the Rainbow III - Choice and Change - the final book in the prequel trilogy
  4. A Vested Interest - The original book 1, and a good place to start. It's free everywhere! (occasionally not free at Amazon UK/Ca)
  5. Dark Secrets
  6. No secrets

  7. Even with the best of motives your choices can have dire consequencesStones, Stars and Solutions - Another possible starting point - especially if you like puzzles
  8. Leap of Faith
  9. Regret and Retribution
  10. Consequences
  11. Ashes to Ashes 
  12. Dust to Dust 
  13. String to the Stars (in development)
Of the currently available books we suggest you read them in order 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 11,12
Three days after death 'dust to dust' might not be so final.

The first book is FREE at, Smashwords, Sony, Barnes & Noble and iBooks.  Click the book thumbnails to find them at Amazon.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Getting the best from your Kindle

I recently read a letter from someone in the UK who moaned that he couldn't get library books in ebook format suitable for his kindle. If he had bought a reader such as the Kobo which uses epub format he would have been able to do so. The writer went on to complain he couldn't afford to keep buying ebooks from Amazon.

It struck me that this was a reader who wasn't using his Kindle to best effect. He may not be able to borrow Kindle library books in the UK (That service is available in the US) but there are a huge number of free ebooks available on the Kindle, some from Amazon, but many more from other sites. With the addition of the free Calibre e-book management software you can install these books on your kindle, convert them from other formats and even make your own books from a word processed file or web page. Email the file to your Kindle e-mail address or use your Kindle power lead to connect it to your computer and use Calibre's Send to device button. Not know your Kindle e-mail address? You can find it from  the Home screen using menu > Settings > Send-to-Kindle E-mail (2nd page).

So where do you get all these free e-books? Let's start with an easy one - Amazon itself. Amazingly many people can't find the freebies because Amazon don't make the links obvious. Here's a start:

Notice the 'Top 100 Free' at the right? Check also the links at the left which allow to refine your search for free ebooks.

If you want an older 'classic' book there's no need to buy it. Look for it at Project Gutenberg. This site aims to make electronic copies of all out of copyright books. For most countries that means more than 70 years old books. Their books are available in multiple formats including the Kindle .mobi format. If you find a book not available in .mobi format get it in another format (though preferably not as a .pdf) and use Calibre to convert it to Kindle format.

Smashwords is another source of free e-books. Look for the 'Free' link at the top of the page in the Price row. Again at the left you'll find a menu allowing you to select the genre and there's a search box to find a specific book or author. Once you've found a book you'll need to register at the site but Smashwords won't ask for payment details if the book is free.

Is that enough? No? Try This site allows you to download free ebooks direct to your Kindle - no sending by wire from your computer needed

Still not enough? Then do a search for 'free kindle ebooks' and find more sources.

Now for some things you may not know about the original Kindles.

  • They work on a limited version of the Linux operating system and some of the original Linux items are still there. On a Kindle Keyboard, press Alt Shift M on the home screen and you'll get a game of Minesweeper; If you are in Minesweeper press G and the game will change to GoMoku; In the search box you can get the Kindle to act as a calculator. Just type in what you want it to evaluate; 
  • Want to read in the bath, on the beach or at a pool? Put your Kindle in a ziplock plastic bag. In the UK Tesco sell a small bag pack of 25 which are perfect. If you are concerned about the zip leaking, use two bags, one inside the other with a bit of kitchen towel between them at the back. Your standard Kindle or Kindle keyboard and Kindle Fire will work just fine but to get the Touch to work you'll need to blow in a bit of air to keep the bag away from the screen. No more soggy paperback books!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

If humans were immortal...

Suppose you became aware that through genetic therapy almost all humans were now immortal (but not vampires). Not only that but disease virtually disappeared and tissue regenerated so that, over time, everyone appeared about age 25. We suggested this in our book series 'A Vested Interest '. What would be the effect?
  • The book suggests a lifetime of 1729 years. That's not immortal but assumes a human will stay healthy until killed by an accident, starvation, war, an 'Extinction Level Event' (ELE) or some other overwhelming event. According to insurance tables that would happen on average in 1729 years.
  • Damaged tissue would be regenerated. An amputee would re-grow a limb, hair would re-grow on the bald, lost teeth would be replaced and body parts lost through surgery would be replaced. That includes contraceptive surgery! Cosmetic surgery would be stable if it was to repair physical or age damage but would reverse if it were done to change appearance.
  • What would happen to the population of the world? The population could be expected to soar initially putting a huge strain on the food supply and the demand for resources and energy. Many millions would starve. However, gradually the desperate 'urge' driving us to reproduce and replace ourselves would be brought under control - we would, after all, have plenty of time for that 'later' when we felt more secure. Eventually the population would be brought under control at a level a great deal higher than it is now.
  • Food would be scarce initially but again this would be resolved as more areas became cultivated including sea farms, 'arid' areas and underground. It's likely that new food sources would be developed including bacterial cultures, fungal sources and direct synthesis. Cellulose from plants. Wheat straw, bamboo, kelp and grasses would be converted to edible food. Cultured meat would be produced on a large scale - that's real meat grown in a lab without killing the animal it was sourced from.
  • Water would be scarce in many areas for some time. A grid taking water from where it is plentiful to other areas would eventually be created.
  • The natural inclination would be to fight for food, land and resources. Initially that's exactly what would happen but we would eventually learn that cooperation produces better results.
  • Soldiers would think twice before fighting for any other principles - it is one thing to give up 30-40 years of life but an entirely different thing to give up 1000+ years. Those who didn't see things this way would probably not be missed!
  • A career would probably not be a lifetime decision. It would be changed many times. You would not want to stay in a hated job and would have plenty of time to learn new skills. The demand for education would be high as older generations go back to school to learn new skills. As far as normal K12 education was concerned the pressure would be off and there would be more time for 'fun' in school with lessons being devoted to leisure activities. K12 would become K15 or maybe even more?
  • Politicians would want to remain in power for much longer, the climb up the political ladder would be much harder. Maybe we would someday elect 'reluctant politicians' who would see it as their civic duty to serve for a time rather than out of a desire for power. After all; anyone who wants to lead a country is probably the last person you should give the job to!
  • Premeditated crimes of violence would eventually decrease. Those inclined to violence would, over time, be eliminated from the gene pool by that very violence. Crimes of passion would no doubt continue!
  • The urge to move to a better place would be overwhelming - even if that meant transforming a harsh environment to make it liveable.
  • Undersea and underground communities would be set up - anywhere there is space available. The Earth's surface might eventually become a park for leisure.
  • Space would be colonised; the Moon and asteroids first, followed by Mars, the satellites of other planets and finally other solar systems.
  • Raw materials and energy would be at a premium. Both will cause problems initially but will be solved as nuclear fusion, deep robotic mining and resources from space become available.
  • Waste heat would become a major problem. Much of it will be recycled though.
  • Recycling of waste would be a major industry.
  • Concerns about global warming would soar for a while then prove unfounded as people realise that sea levels just are not rising. and the temperature starts to fall around 2040 as we enter the next ice age. (Try reading Michael Crichton's 'State of Fear'). The drive to reduce carbon emissions would continue though since we wouldn't be able to burn fossil fuels needed as raw materials.
  • Technology will continue to develop at an ever faster rate. Computers and nanotechnology especially. Look forward to a personal computer you can talk to, carry with you, display within your eyes and hear through your teeth!
  • The average intelligence of the population would increase slowly. A surprising number of 'Darwin Award' candidates would fail to breed.
  • Most medical staff apart from those dealing with accidents and research would be out of a job. An end perhaps to the ridiculous hours they work?
  • Retirement and pensions would be a thing of the past. The working week would be shorter and holidays longer.
  • There would be less 'haste' in everyday life. You now have 'plenty of time'.
  • Leisure demand would soar.
  • Drug companies would mostly convert to biotechnology, go out of business or convert to supplying chemical resources and producing food.
  • People would have an increased awareness of natural disasters and put more energy into averting them.
  • Languages would be less of a problem, people would have the time to learn them and eventually we could see a common language developing from bits of all.
  • Euthanasia centres would be accepted. Who wants to live a long and unhappy life?
  • We would run out of fossil fuels and resort to biotechnology, nanotechnology and asteroid mining to replace them. Biofuels from products such as corn would prove to be a dead end since the raw materials would be needed to produce food. Algae farming would become important.
  • What about religion? Do you think it would last through 1729 years of life?
Is it possible? According to Aubrey de Grey the first person to live to 1,000 is probably alive now. How would this come about? Well reading my earlier blog post Bio-terrorism and the cure for the common cold might give you a clue but if you want the details, you'll have to read our books.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Did I just get conned by Vista-Print?

This post is aimed mostly at writers and artists of all sorts.

VistaPrint's Website advert.
I'm sure you've seen the adverts from VistaPrint - '250 cards for £2.00'. Doesn't seem a bad deal does it? It got me thinking - I could use something like that to design small promotional cards to help promote the 'A Vested Interest' books.

Well I bit and followed through to the design stage.

A few minutes work produced a design for the card. We decided to use the book cover image from book 4 of the A Vested Interest series - Stones, Stars and Solutions. On it we would put the introduction text from our book website and the website URL. Here's the result:
Not bad for £2.00 we thought. We'll be able to give them out and leave them strategically around Hexham, where I live in England. Then we discovered we could print on the other side and a new design was produced with book names, the DNA image from out original A Vested Interest cover and website and contact information. Here's the reverse side:
Of course there was an extra charge for printing the reverse, £9.99 and that made it seem silly to just order 250 cards. I ordered 1,500 which increased the original £2.00 to £11.00. Still seemed reasonable - £21 for 1,500 cards to my own personal design.

Happy with my work I went on to the next step and at that point found I would be paying a little more.
  • 1,500 cards                             £11.00
  • Printing the rear                       £ 9.99
  • Personalised image (front)        £ 3.49
  • personalised image (back)       £ 3.49
The total was now £27.97 a bit more than £2.00 but I was buying 1,500 not 250.
Hey- there was a special offer on available to me. I could get an extra 500 cards for just £2.24 extra with standard shipping. I got the extra 500 cards but shipping? You mean that's NOT included? On to the next step.
  • Shipping offered several options. I chose the slowest 21 day shipping £6.07
  • Tax was added at this point £7.26
My bill was now £43.54 

Whatever happened to that £2.00? Did I just get hustled?

Moreover, could I have gone to my local print shop with my design and got my 2,000 cards a lot quicker for less?

Update 23 Feb 2012
Well the cards finally arrived today. Pretty mediocre quality. You'd need a great deal of imagination to see the stars on the background. I think too that if I was designing them again I'd leave a plain white area big enough to write a brief note or telephone number.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Blog Hop Contest!

So what is a Blog hop contest?
It's a competition amongst writers to write a short section of prose using the picture below as inspiration. You can write a poem, a song or flash fiction but must keep it to 300 words or less. More details at

So here's my entry:

It was deathly quiet. Wein woke suddenly finding himself lying on his back in a forest. He hadn’t a clue how he’d got there. The last thing he remembered was drinking with Gary.

 Wait – maybe that was it? He examined his surroundings carefully. The woodland was quite open with tall straight trees. He couldn't see far though the mist though. The ground was covered with small white flowers; he didn't recognise them but his nose told him ‘wild garlic’.

It was probably early morning since there was a chill in the air. There was nothing really odd except for that complete silence and the single light bulb hanging high amongst the trees.
A light bulb? In the middle of woodland? What was it hanging from? He could only make out a cable disappearing in the mist. He dusted off the forest detritus from his jeans. He was wearing the same T-shirt as he wore last night. He shivered, goosebumps on his arms. He wanted to examine the flowers and trees to see if they were real but needed warmth. Time to find a way out.

He started walking away from the light, since he assumed that would be in the middle – if that’s where he was.

After walking about fifty paces he stopped and looked back. No tracks through the flowers and that light bulb was still in the same position relative to him. If it wasn’t for the trees changing positions slightly, he didn’t seem to have moved.

He dropped to his knees and examined the flowers. They seemed real, the ground wasn’t damp though. He examined a tree and broke off some bark. It crumbled to dust in his fingers. He smiled.

“OK Gary. You win. You can let me out the virtual reality room now.”

In case you're interested Wein and Gary are characters who I borrowed from our 'A Vested Interest' series. 
Wein is an electronics technician with an interest in nanotechnology. Gary is a doctor at the cutting edge of medical research.