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A Bloody Business: The Novel Vocal Inspired

Including the link at long last for those of you who have been waiting

By Stephen A. RoddewigPublished 20 days ago Updated 7 days ago 6 min read
Special thanks to Brigitte Criqui Wild for this amazing art

I pride myself on being something of a realist when it comes to this platform. There are plenty of things to like about Vocal, but there are also flaws. Folks in the past have written about this site like it’s a utopia; I’ve always maintained that it’s more of a tool. Perhaps part of that healthy skepticism is because I have mixed thoughts on socialized writing like what we see on Vocal and other sites.

That said, I also believe in giving credit where credit is due, so strap in for what might be my most complimentary take on Vocal to date. I’m not saying these things to try and curry favor. I’m saying them because they’re true.

So, in the spirit of full transparency, allow me to state clearly and definitively:

A Bloody Business would not exist today without Vocal challenges.

Starting with the Ship of Dreams Challenge.

But if you don’t care about the background, then skip all that noise and check out the print, e-book, and audiobook HERE. Don’t worry, I link to it at the end for those who do care about the background.

A comedy set on a sinking Titanic

Sounds ambitious, doesn’t it? And it certainly was a challenge to draft, simultaneously acknowledging the tragedy while focusing on our protagonist Martin Williams, whose first reaction as we join him is to lament the fate of his new shoes now ruined by seawater. The sinking is just par for the course on a work assignment that has failed to go to plan at every avenue.

That assignment? “Take care of business” with another passenger who has drawn the ire of Martin’s employers, the Firm. And since Martin is a hitman by profession, you can bet that his business with passenger Richard Oblensky is of the lethal variety.

And thus, a series is born. I originally planned to have Martin drown with the other passengers after smoking every cigarette in his pack before the sea can claim those, too. Instead, I liked this character too much to let him fade into the annals of history, so he then conveniently spots an overturned life raft floating past and swims for it.

Perhaps I should back up for those unfamiliar. The time was May 2022. Vocal in those days launched challenges far less frequently than today, but the tradeoff tended to be larger prize pots. So just about everyone was dialed in for the next challenge when it finally released.

The prompt? Draft a fictional story set on RMS Titanic. That’s it.

I looked at that and figured they were envisioning stories that examined the tragedy or profiled a hypothetical passenger’s life up to the moment they drowned in the cold Atlantic.

But I didn’t want to do any of that, so I decided to provide an alternative. Light, fun, and just a tad dark.

Only this unique blend of the prompt and my ambition to be different produced “Sinking Prospects.” Otherwise, I doubt I would have ever thought to set a story on Titanic, much less make it humorous. And, by consequence, Martin Williams would still not exist today.

Perhaps that would be for the best, but either way, that’s not what happened. And because Vocal’s challenge inspired this story and the series that followed, that ultimately means that that’s on you, Vocal.

And the wheels were in motion

As I previously alluded to, Martin did not get his single spotlight and fade away. Almost immediately, I decided it would be fun to produce a single-character serial of multiple stories following the same protagonist. Like James Bond or Indiana Jones.

I started drafting Martin’s next historical entry, this time in the trenches of WW1, almost immediately. Ironically, it would take almost a year and a half to come back and finish what I had started. But in that time, “Sinking Prospects” placed as a Runner Up, my first-ever challenge placement outside of some unbadged Vocal contests. So I certainly wasn’t giving up on the breadwinner.

Instead, a couple months later, Vocal launched the Runaway Train Challenge, requesting fictional stories where a character wakes up aboard a (you guessed it) runaway train with no memory of how they got onboard and no knowledge of where they’re going.

So I gave them what they asked for, only jumping 31 years ahead from the Titanic sinking. The year is now 1943, and Martin awakes aboard a train with a pounding head to find a Nazi officer standing over him. He is swiftly informed that he was captured after sneaking aboard the train in a captured rifleman’s uniform and shooting their commanding officer from the back of the train.

The officer then demands to know how Martin knew they were stealing this train, at which point Martin realizes he’s aboard a train of Nazi deserters. He is horrified to realize they are running this train in broad daylight through occupied France, warning of the swarms of Allied warplanes that will not hesitate to strafe them. The officer shrugs off his fears, only for the interrogation to be cut short as the drone of piston engines drowns out the rattling of the train cars.

Want to read more? You can below!

In fact, something like 80% of the book is available on Vocal. Where you can read it right now. For free!

But if you want to read what I consider the greatest chapter in the whole book, you have to buy it. Not to mention the ending and epilogue, also exclusive to the book.

I wrote out this pillar post that catalogs the chapters available on Vocal and the print-exclusive ones if you want the full breakdown:

I also included signposts at the end of each chapter pointing to the others.

And that paradigm of writing challenge entries that also doubled as Martin Williams chapters continued until I had most of a book. That meant all I had to do was write a couple additional chapters to fill in holes/give the thing an actual ending, complete with epilogue. Then all was left was a Foreword, some sappy Acknowledgements, and a little bonus chapter pointing toward my next Vocal-inspired book(s).

Yes, books, plural. Stay tuned for Dick Winchester in… The Opening Salvo: Volume 1 of the War for the Arlington, Virginia Online Food Delivery Business coming later this year.

The Official Link

But before that, pick up a copy of A Bloody Business in physical, digital, or audial formats if any of this background or the associated installments on Vocal caught your eye. Or all three if you’re feeling adventurous:

What? Did you really think I was going to lay all that out and not link to the actual product of all this labor? Well, get ready for this Amazon product page to appear on every Martin Williams story and affiliated property on this site. I have to give the public what they want. My hands are tied here.

But if you're still on the fence, you can also check out the dedicated landing page I built for A Bloody Business for some more details:

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I give a heartfelt thank you to the creative team that helped me bring this together in “A Bloody Business: The Novel I Created with My Friends.” A subject I planned to get into here before I realized this post was in danger of becoming its own novel.

Until then, get reading/listening!

And if you enjoy it, leave a review. Amazon, Goodreads, or Audible: every bit helps!

Part 2:


About the Creator

Stephen A. Roddewig

A Bloody Business is now live! More details.

Writing the adventures of Dick Winchester, a modern gangland comedy set just across the river from Washington, D.C.

Proud member of the Horror Writers Association 🐦‍⬛


Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (9)

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock18 days ago

    Congratulations, Stephen! I'm quite a ways behind on my notifications through Holy Week, but look forward to devouring the whole novel soon.

  • Kendall Defoe 20 days ago

    Well done, sir! This reminds me that I'm on the fifth chapter of something I've been meaning to finish for a while... 📖 📕

  • Caroline Jane20 days ago

    This is so cool!! Congratulations Stephen!! I shall get it on audible! Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant!

  • Paul Stewart20 days ago

    Well done, sir! I shall add this to my reading pile and get to it as soon as I can! Well done and congrats on your achievement - exciting exciting exciting and more exciting. So happy for you, dude. See...I got through that with all genuine pride and happiness for you, fellow writer, you! They better also bloody make this Top Story so it gets even more eyes and fingers and wallets on it! :)

  • Matthew Fromm20 days ago

    congrats and added to my booklist

  • Mackenzie Davis20 days ago

    Eeek! I am very excited to buy this, Stephen!! You must be so thrilled to have it out. So official! Plus the landing page looks stellar. 💜💜💜

  • Bri Craig20 days ago

    Congrats Stephen! This is a big accomplishment!! 👏👏👏

  • Lamar Wiggins20 days ago

    I forgot to mention before that I love the cover. 🤩 It’s finally here! You did it! It’s a huge accomplishment and will make your portfolio zip and zing! I plan to buy it this weekend when I have time to sit at the pc and decide which version I want. I’m honored to share this proud moment of yours! Many congrats!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Christy Munson20 days ago

    Congratulations on publishing your much anticipated Vocal Challenge inspired book! You must be so (deservedly) proud! Enjoy the moment. You've earned it.

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