Writing with Spirituality

Writing with Spirituality

Alternative Theologies, parables for a modern world

Phyllis Irene Radford

Reading a book imbued with spirituality and later trying to write those qualities into my own work has fascinated me for a long time. Spirituality is more than religion. To me it is a spiritual character, someone who lives their faith and has a personal relationship with their beliefs. Their faith guides every decision they make even when they question the advisability of the decision.

For them there is no division between the divine and reality.

I played with these ideas in Guardian of the Vision, Merlin’s Descendants #3. https://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/guardian-of-the-vision/


Griffin Kirkwood is a Roman Catholic priest who must wrestle with the strict teaching of his religion, weighing those truths against the truth of Magical talents in himself and his family. “A spell is nothing more than a prayer.”

I started to see that faith is more than emotion, but it needs to invoke an emotional response from the reader. That is hard to do but begins on a character level. The writer, and the reader need to bond closely to the character and understand what they believe and why.

Then came the Confederated of Star System series by C.F. Bentley. https://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/harmony/

Sissy dove head first into my life and would not go away until I told her story. An undereducated factory worker, our heroine found herself dragged into the Temple Caste and made High Priestess because the powers that be thought she’d be malleable and do as she was told. They learned otherwise. But finally given the right and the means to read the history of Harmony, both goddess and planet, she has questions that she cannot reconcile with her very direct and magical connection to her home and her faith. No one messes with the avatar of a goddess, even when she is forced into exile on a space station.

That series exhausted me, and I went back to more mundane topics. Until…

My best friend and co-writer, Bob Brown, came up with a new anthology idea. We’d already co-edited and written for Alternative Truths, which hit several Amazon bestseller lists, and More Alternative Truths. He published a couple of other books without me while I wrote a couple books on my own. But then I got a phone call. “Want to edit Alternative Theologies?”


How could I say no?

We racked up almost 150 submissions.

In every open call anthology there are a few inappropriate entries. Some in the “What were you thinking?” category that make me head for the hand sanitizers. There are a few that are beautifully written pieces that don’t quite fit the theme. We bought two of those for the next anthology “Alternative Apocalypses.”

And then there is the good stuff. The really good stuff that made us cry when we had to choose one from among four with similar themes.

We hit #1 on Amazon in 3 categories.

In reading the stories I had to sit up and take notice, then I had to think. Think about my own beliefs, think about how the authors presented themes, think about the readers who would also think, even if they ended up throwing the entire collection against the wall. I thought about the stories when they made me laugh, or made me cry, or made my heart swell with new faith and affirmation.

This collection does not bash or denounce religion. It does rail against those who pervert the teaching of their faith. It examines why we believe, crave believing in something bigger and grander than ourselves. And it gives me new foundations for my own beliefs.

Believe what you will, in the deity who speaks to you. And I hope you can read these stories and think.


About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: www.ireneradford.net Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


Writing with Spirituality — 2 Comments

    • I was somewhat amazed myself at how good these authors can be. Some old pros, some brand new baby writers, and everything in between. The culling process was harder than I want to admit. We rejected some powerful stuff as well. We just didn’t have room for it all.