Is Patriotism the Same as Nationalism?

Recently, in a lamentable [unspecified amount] of time lost while scrolling my Facebook feed, I ran across a post from a person whom I have been avoiding for a while. The reason being that this person’s politics make me angry (perhaps you can relate). Now, I try not to get involved in political debate on social media. It’s pointless and most often bad for all concerned. But this person’s comment was inspired…

The Mythology of Water: Living and Dead Water

Have you ever seen photos of Russians getting in long lines in the middle of winter only to jump into a cut-out in the ice? Have you just thought that they were all crazy? Well, turns out that this fascination with the power of water is something that goes very far back into Russia’s mythological consciousness. As you read these fascinating historical and cultural tidbits, maybe you’ll recognize something from your own…

The Problem of Evil: When Evil Seems Unbeatable…

Have you noticed a strange thing about modern culture? People everywhere are complaining that the world is becoming a more evil place. Much of this is laid at the door of bad politics or religious fundamentalism or some other “great Satan.” But at the same time, if I were to mention that perhaps part of the problem is a blasé treatment of the problem of evil in popular culture, people would probably…

OIga, the Viking Queen of the Rus

It seems that Vikings, and everything Viking-related, is internationally popular right now. Take the multi-season History Channel hit “The Vikings” or the BBC show “The Last Kingdom.” The Swedes got in on it with “The Last King.” Even Russia couldn’t help titling its recent blockbuster about the early years of St. Vladimir’s life “Viking” (A good movie, by the way, but avoid the 18+ rated version. See if you can find the…

A Hero for Our Time: Dimitry Pozharsky

Does the news cycle depress you? Have you lost any hope in the emergence of a hero for our time who might direct our political system and our guide our culture in a better direction? I know I do sometimes. In my writer’s manifesto,I try to describe what I see as a necessary “story hero” for our time. He is not a hulking warrior who puts down hundreds of enemies with his…

How a Two-Week Mission to Alaska Inspired Me to Write

Authors are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Often, it’s a question impossible to answer, and perhaps not for the reason you think. The problem is that we get our ideas from everywhere. Sometimes a kernel of a thought can lead to the plot line of an entire series. Other times, a two-week long trip can end up as a few paragraphs in a book. And both are necessary, because…

Their Souls Grew Together: Anna Dostoyevskaya, part 3

This week, we conclude the amazing story of Anna Dostoyevskaya, the woman without whom Dostoyevsky would never have written his best and most famous novels. Here are Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them. Saving the marriage Although Anna Dostoyevskaya often repeated that she had been only a child when she was married, she adapted to her new position very quickly. She also immediately took upon herself the responsibility of…

Their Souls Grew Together: Anna Dostoyevsky, Part 2

Last week, you were introduced to one of the most fascinating and fruitful romances of literary history. Feodor and Anna Dostoyevsky’s sometimes difficult marriage was also the source of inspiration for the great author’s most famous novels. This week, we go deeper into the first heady days of that romance and the inevitable early difficulties of married life. It’s Good That You Are Not a Man What was happening at that time…

Their Souls Grew Together: Anna Dostoyevskaya, Part 1

This week is my third novel’s birthday. It’s been a long process to get it into print, and the many rewrites and adjustments are testament to it being a real labor of love. I don’t dare put myself in the same class as Dostoyevsky, but when I read about his long hours, his many rough drafts, or his incredible notebooks that served as “idea dumping grounds,” I can’t help but feel that…

Why Do Icons Show Battle Scenes?

It’s a short post today, about as much as a toddler-induced headache can muster. But I found an interesting article about a question that some of you may have had. If icons are supposed to represent holy object and people, why do some of them have full-on battle scenes? Take this one for example: What’s going on? In the Russian magazine Foma, artist Dmitrii Trophimov answered this question. What follows is my translation…