Teach Yourself Beginner’s Russian, A Review

I love learning languages and have spent the last five years studying French, German and Russian.

Today, I want to take a look at the excellent language starter “Teach Yourself Beginner’s Russian” by Rachel Farmer (updated 2003). A further update has taken place since, but much of the course remains the same.

The 2003 course consists of two CDs and a book. The pace is manageable (using the CD helps), and the tone light.

The course offers a wide depth of vocabulary over twenty lessons and limits its coverage of Russian grammar to a minimum—generally acknowledged as extremely difficult, anyway.

The book introduces the Cyrillic alphabet and includes both reading and writing exercises. Difficulty increases as the material progresses.

I feel the course takes the student to somewhere in between A2 and B1 of the Common European Framework for languages (CEFR).

The level of grammar required for B1 is missing; however, the vocabulary enables the student to cope in many situations that might arise whilst travelling in a Russian-speaking country.

As for me, I startled a local barmaid from Latvia recently by speaking in Russian and she told me that my command of the Russian language is good.

I’ve had several other conversations in Russian with various people and received positive feedback. The course has certainly helped. I’m also diving into various other sources and attempting to move from basic conversation to more cultural and historical themes.

So in all, an excellent course, affordable, and available from many places, including Amazon.

Still Recovering…

A winter cold. This one has been particularly harsh, dampening my mood and the birthday celebrations on St Patrick’s Day. I spent most of St Patrick’s Day in bed before heading to my local pub with friends to celebrate with whisky and wine – although I felt much better in the morning.

I keep busy with work and language studies (French, German, Russian). At the moment, I’m polishing my piano repertoire with the First Polonaise by Franz Liszt.

My third book, My Musical Journey by Lawrence Estrey, is now available as a paperback and online. An autobiography, the book details my musical aspirations and various struggles along the way. Do consider popping over to Amazon to catch a preview on Kindle!

New Opportunity For Writers

I haven’t posted for a while.  Like a lot of people in the UK, I’ve succumbed to a recurrent winter virus – a cross between a lingering cold and ongoing fatigue.  I’ve continued editing my current novel, though, and practising the piano when one is available.

Recently, I heard of a new opportunity for writers – Amazon’s KDP Paperback Print on Demand Service.  I think the service is still in the beta testing stage, but it does sound like promising idea and I believe it is/will be free (printing costs deducted from royalties).

Anyway, something to think about.

Short Writing Sample: Silent

The Internet connection remains problematic, as do the grey skies and cold weather.  I’ve been working on a third novel, Silent, a psychological thriller set in the north of England. In Silent, main character Gavin has to return to Harlesden Hall, the scene of several murders five years earlier.  One of the survivors has sought Gavin’s help but has disappeared and Gavin is trying to find her.

I text, hey, cheers for your help and sorry to get you up here for nothing, but let me get on with it, okay? Speak soon.  

I switch off the phone and continue on my way, taking in deep air in the hope of catching a scent from those student days of five years ago. A rhythm, the hint of a voice or laughter. Perfume.  But I only catch the silence of the fields and the river and the bleakness all around me, the traces of memories; the echoes of a chilly breeze, despite the fact it’s summer. The abandoned mills and old factories at the foot of the side hill leading up to Harlesden Hall. The overwhelming scent of manure in the air. Thundery clouds reflected in the surface of the river. The silence that is rarely calm. Echoes and traces of death and sorrow  from more than a century of suffering.

The climb up the hill takes me about ten minutes and I have to keep pausing to catch my breath, thankful that I’ve never taken up smoking. I arrive at the long driveway to the house and walk down, past the tall hedges and the bushes, stopping suddenly by the hilly mound at the bottom of the grounds.

Someone’s watching me in the driveway. It’s pretty obvious this time. I hear a branch snap. Feel the intense gaze directed at me.

A game. Cat and mouse.

Except I’m not playing the mouse.  No way.


Meanwhile, my other two novels – Secrets by Lawrence Estrey and EggHead – are available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Check out the reviews for my debut novel Secrets.

Newspaper article on author.

Local musician publishes crime thriller

Cold and Frost

Temperatures have plunged again here in the UK and the pavements have become slippery again.    Plus, internet connection poor again.

Meanwhile, I’m working on a third novel, a psychological thriller set around a stately hall, involving five music students.   The hall has a dark history and one of the students inadvertently reignites the past, leading to fatal consequences.  Five years later, central character Gavin and the other survivor of the hall Lucy find themselves in trouble.  Much of the story comes from Gavin’s perspective in the first person, but some sections are told from Lucy’s viewpoint using the third person. 

In the following sample, Lucy takes on the role of viewpoint character:

‘What’s this?’ she says to herself.

There, lying on the post mat in the hallway, is an A4 packet, hand delivered. She stops short. Glances around.

A photograph drops to the floor.

A photograph of herself, done in black and white.

There are five photos in the package, all of her. 

In one, the photographer has captured a shot of her in central Manchester on her way to a wine bar to meet a girl she knew from Uni. In another, she’s walking past the local church, reading an email on her phone. The next photograph shows her leaving a supermarket. The fourth has been taken near Manchester Piccadilly. In the final snap, she’s heading towards her local pub, talking hurriedly on her phone. The most frightening photograph of all, since the photographer has included the date the photograph at the bottom of the image and she remembers the occasion clearly, the clothes she wore that day….the day former music student Gavin called her back from London and they arranged to meet.

The stillness closes in, growing audible. That day, someone was following her, but she didn’t realise it. They know all about her and Gavin.  Although the stalking seems a recent thing, it has been going on for much longer in practice and the person has been tracking her movements for more than three months.

The landline phone rings, startling her.

She grabs the receiver.


‘What do you want?’ she says.          

No answer.

She detects faint breathing in the background. 

Male breathing.

A man watching her, following her about.

Photographing her and editing the images in black and white.

Posting photo packages through the door of her flat. 

‘The police have been,’ she lies. ‘And they’re on to you.’


Cruel, tormenting silence.  She hates silence, always has hated silence. How the person on the other end of the line understands the power of silence.

The caller hangs up.   

Meanwhile, my other two novels – Secrets by Lawrence Estrey and EggHead (teen fiction) – are available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Check out the reviews for my debut novel Secrets.

Newspaper article on author.

Local musician publishes crime thriller

Snow Melting, Rain On The Way

The snow has finally melted here in the UK and rain and wind are on the way.

Below are some more images from my black and white photography album.  Usually, I edit the shots in GIMP, paying particular attention to levels and contrast. 




In the meantime, I’m working on a third novel, Silent, a psychological thriller, and my other two novels (Secrets by Lawrence Estrey and EggHead) are available on Amazon in paperback and e-book.

Happy 2013

Wishing everyone a happy 2013. 

I’m currently working on a third novel, another psychological thriller, and my first two books (Secrets by Lawrence Estrey, EggHead by Lawrence Estrey) are available  in paperback or e-book on Amazon.

In music, I’m currently studying Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata for piano and various works by Chopin and Scriabin. 

I haven’t had much time for photography recently, but here are a couple more pictures from my black and white collection:


And, of course, I almost forgot to add – I successful gave up smoking nearly six months ago!

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Both of my novels are selling on Amazon now and a local reader’s group are reading my debut thriller, Secrets by Lawrence Estrey. 

In the meantime, I thought I’d post a few black and write photos to keep up the spirit of Christmas.  As I indicated in an earlier post, I’ve developed a keen interest in black and white photography over the past eighteen months but didn’t really understand the various uses of light and contrast until recently.   Also, working on a third novel most days meant I didn’t have much time to develop this interest.



Out Of Action For A Few Days

Hi, things are pretty hectic here and the internet connection dismal as usual, so I’m not able to post much in the buildup to Christmas. 

In the meantime, both my novels (Secrets by Lawrence Estrey, EggHead by Lawrence Estrey) are selling on Amazon and I’m working on a psychological thriller set near the Dorset coast, involving a group of music students living in a shared house. 

Here a couple of samples for the new novel Silent:

I hadn’t seen my room yet, so I went up with the bag and laptop, then returned for the cello, steering the instrument round the staircase to the first floor where my bedroom was positioned in between Philippa’s and the bathroom.  On my way up to my room, the stairs kept on creaking, causing me to think of that Humpty-Dumpty rhyme, and for a moment I had the distinct impression that someone was standing at the bottom of the stairs, watching me.  It sent a shiver through me, so much so that I stopped what I was doing, turned and glanced down the stairs – but of course, no one was there.  The house felt unusually cold. Icy almost, as if someone had left the side door open, although I remembered seeing the door shut when I’d passed through the hallway just then. I shivered and thought of the house and its history and the fact that people had died on these grounds. Sick.  

…Philippa’s parents had returned with the cleaning materials and left again, this time for their home in Kent, but I’d slept through it. In the bathroom, I splashed water on my cheeks and brushed my teeth, aware once again of that sense of being watched. It was creepy, but completely illogical, and I returned to my room and put on an extra jumper to ward of the chill. Propping the cello by the bedroom wall, I locked the door and made my way downstairs to the kitchen where Philippa, Paul and a girl in denims were sitting round the table, drinking tea, eating cake.


Check out the reviews for my debut novel Secrets.



Both Novels Available on Amazon

My second novel – EggHead by Lawrence Estrey –  is now available on Amazon.co.uk in paperback form and as an e-book.  

In EggHead, an adolescent boy has to take action when a strangers starts a bullying campaign against him, but the boy’s actions backfire, leading to him having to leave home.  He then settles in a secluded coastal town where he finds himself unable to cope and is drawn into further trouble and danger…

The novel falls into the categories of Teen Fiction and Young Adult, but also crosses over into mainstream fiction.

Currently, I’m working on a third novel about a group of music students living in a house in the countryside.

Meanwhile, my first novel, a psychological thriller – Secrets by Lawrence Estrey – is available in paperback and as an e-book from Amazon.  Check out the reviews.  

A sample from Secrets:

A fresh downpour has started. I make my way down the hill, stopping when I hear footsteps. Nothing. I continue on through the icy wind to the clearing where I’ve parked my car. The dog’s barking gets louder in the distance. Nearby, more branches snap. Silence again. The white van is still parked a few yards from my car. 

I feel it then. An invisible presence, the same one I felt a few nights ago near my flat in London. I hear movement in the trees that separate the clearing from the deserted field and I shine the torch in all directions.

Newspaper article on author.

Local musician publishes crime thriller