Let’s make this book into a movie!

Since “Murder in Wauwatosa” was published, I’ve debated what direction to go. While still promoting that book with various speaking engagements and book signings, I started on another book … a fiction book aimed at kids ages 10-14 or so based on some experiences I had moving to a new town.

I’ve also started a narrative nonfiction version of “Murder in Wauwatosa.” That’s a book based on the facts, but with dialog and action added to make the book read like … well, a book instead of more like a documentary.

I’ve always thought “Murder in Wauwatosa” would make a great motion picture, albeit with some tweaking. Doing some of the narrative nonfiction gave me more of a taste for what a movie on Buddy Schumacher’s killing in 1925 could look like. I hadn’t had anyone bang down my door telling me they were interested in doing a screenplay – and I never asked anyone if they would – so I decided to do it myself.

The thought of doing something I’d never done before didn’t scare me. I know I can do this. Heck, I’d never had a book published until I did “Murder in Wauwatosa.” So, why not a screenplay? I also got a taste of being on the other side of the camera recently, when Bill Dever graciously allowed me to bang my head against a wall in the movie, “Resurrection,” a B horror flick due out in October.

Another step toward my decision to dive head first into writing a screenplay based on my book was being allowed to critique a forthcoming novel by my friend, Michael John Sullivan. Doing that forced me to look closely at someone else’s character development and someone else’s story line to see if it all made sense in the context of someone else’s work.

I highly suggest that anyone who wants to write a book or a screenplay or poetry or song lyrics, or whatever, critique other people’s work. You don’t have to send them the critique, and in fact you probably shouldn’t unless your opinion is explicitly requested. But by divorcing yourself from your own dreams, you can sometimes see what works and what doesn’t in someone else’s. You may not cling as tightly to something in your own story that maybe doesn’t work, but you thought it would be neat to put in a reference to your favorite aunt.

I’ve got the first page or two done on my screenplay so far. I’m calling it “Blackridge” for now. That’s the swimming hole Buddy and his friends were on their way to when the poor guy got abducted. It’ll be slow going for a while as I set things up, get used to formatting properly, etc. But after a while, the story will hopefully tell itself, at least to some degree.

I’ve been studying up on this screenplay business as much as I can online so far, but upon the advice of my brother, Andy Hoffman, have ordered  Syd Field‘s book: “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” and am going to purchase 4×5 index cards that he says you need.

I have a pretty good idea what I need to change story-wise to turn the book into a compelling screenplay. Whether I do it or not will come down to execution and keeping my focus on all the elements that need to be there.

I’m planning on including some information in the screenplay that was not available when the book was published in 2012. I’m always interested in hearing more about the case, what Wauwatosa and Milwaukee were like in the 1920s and 1930s, if anyone’s parents or grandparents were ever told anything about the circumstances surrounding Buddy’s murder, etc. Feel free to email me if you have any comments at phof63@sbcglobal.net

Hopefully, I’ll be able to churn out a screenplay before too long that doesn’t need to be totally rewritten.

I have a Bacon number! But no Erdős number.

My brother, Doug Hoffman, informs me that, like every actor, I am now within Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Actually, he informs me that my Bacon number is a mere TWO!

Kevin Bacon in "Footloose"

Kevin Bacon in “Footloose”

“Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” is a parlor game based on the “six degrees of separation” concept, which suggests that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. Movie buffs challenge each other to find the shortest path between an arbitrary actor and prolific Hollywood character actor Kevin Bacon. It rests on the assumption that any individual involved in the Hollywood, California, film industry can be linked through his or her film roles to Kevin Bacon within six steps. Not everyone can, but most can.

The Bacon number of an actor or actress is the number of degrees of separation he or she has from Bacon,

  • Kevin Bacon has a Bacon number of 0.
  • Those actors who have worked directly with Kevin Bacon have a Bacon number of 1.
  • Actors who have worked on a movie with actors with a Bacon number of 1 but who have not acted directly with Kevin Bacon have a Bacon number of 2 (that’s me!)

Here is how I got my Bacon number of 2:

Lloyd Kaufman

Lloyd Kaufman

Paul Hoffman played the part of “Head Banger” in “Resurrection” with Lloyd Kaufman.
Lloyd Kaufman was in “Super” with … Kevin Bacon.

Now, here’s something interesting: There is a similar numbering system for people who worked with mathematician Paul Erdős, with those numbers called Erdős numbers. Because some people have both Bacon and Erdős numbers because of acting and publications, there are a rare few who have an Erdős–Bacon number, which is defined as the sum of a person’s independent Erdős and Bacon numbers.

Wait, that’s not the really interesting part.

"The Man Who Loved Only Numbers," by that other Paul Hoffman author

“The Man Who Loved Only Numbers,” by that other Paul Hoffman author

I read a book about Paul Erdős a while back called “The Man Who Loved Only Numbers,” which was written by another author named Paul Hoffman.

Whoa! Now that is interesting.

But wait, there’s more.

Someone who went to the same high school I did (Wauwatosa East in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin) and is now married to a woman who when in high school used to babysit me and my brothers, has an Erdős number of 3. Gene Hanson also used to have the world record for memorizing the most digits of pi. So, if I wrote a mathematical paper with Gene, I’d have an Erdős number of 4 and a Bacon-Erdős number of 6.

That would put me in some select company. There are not a lot of people known to have Erdős–Bacon numbers of 6 or lower. Astronomer Carl Sagan has a Bacon-Erdős number of 6.

The lowest known Erdős–Bacon number is 4, possessed by Steven Henry Strogatz an American mathematician. He has a Bacon number of 1 and an Erdős number of 3.

Hank Aaron's 1962 Topps baseball card.

Hank Aaron’s 1962 Topps baseball card.

Hank Aaron, my favorite baseball player of all-time, could sort of be considered to have an Erdős–Bacon number of 3, as he and Erdős both autographed the same baseball (for which he is jokingly referred to as having Erdős number of 1), and he also appeared in Summer Catch with Susan Gardner, who was in In The Cut, with Kevin Bacon.

Other celebrities who have low Erdős–Bacon numbers are

  • Danica McKellar, most famous for her role as Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years, has an Erdős–Bacon number of 6, with an Erdős number of 4, and a Bacon number of 2.
  • US actress Natalie Portman has an Erdős–Bacon number of 7. She has a Bacon number of 2 and an Erdős number of 5.
  • British actor Colin Firth has an Erdős–Bacon number of 7.

So, I’m sure that’s more than you wanted to know about Erdős, Bacon and numbers. But, that Winnie Cooper thing was cool.

Sterling North official announcement


Here is the announcement on the Sterling North Book and Film Festival website announcing my appearance there on Sept. 27.

For more information on the festival, which will be conducted in Edgerton, Wisconsin, click here.


Date change for Tomah Festival

Autographed copies of “Murder in Wauwatosa” will be available for purchase at the Tomah (Wis.) Rotary Brat and Beer Festival on Saturday, Sept. 13. I won’t be able to attend, but I’m sure you’ll all have a swell time in Tomah! And thanks to Martin Murphy for getting the books to the festival!

The event had previously been scheduled for May 3, but was moved due to a scheduling conflict.

The first Buddy T-shirt


The first Buddy T-shirt

I just received the first T-shirt featuring the cover of my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher.” I’ve got the cover on the front and back of the shirt. I also got a QR code put on the front, in case people who have that sort of reader on their smartphones and want to purchase a book immediately, can do so. I got premium, super soft shirt from Vistaprint, which I’ve also used to print business cards, a mouse pad and a coffee cup. If anybody wants something like this, let me know and I’ll check into pricing. Vistaprint offers specials now and then, so we might be able to do it pretty inexpensively.

Update on my next book

The follow-up to “Murder in Wauwatosa” will be something much different. My first effort was a true story that involved tons of research, interviews and days spent in front of a microfilm machine reading gobs and gobs of newspaper articles.

The book I’m writing now is a fiction kids’ book focusing on a sixth-grade boy who moves to a new town, tries to fit in and encounters a haunted house. Tentatively called “The Hillcrest Heights Kids,” the manuscript is about halfway done … at least the first draft of it anyway.

The main character, Donnie Hart, moves to a middle class suburb from a big city and finds some things about his new town aren’t quite like what he left behind. He tries to adjust to his new school, new kids and new neighborhood, with varying success.

Donnie gets befriended by a boy named Robert Underwood, who is known by most everyone as Woody. Donnie’s new friend isn’t very athletic nor really all that intelligent, two traits Donnie sees himself having an abundance of. But Woody seems to have Donnie’s back pretty much from the start at John F. Kennedy Elementary School, which endears him to Donnie.

He also makes friends with a girl in his class, Annie, a bright, level-headed compassionate soul.

In addition to his own sometimes misguided thoughts about himself and the world around him, Donnie’s main adversary is the school bully, Lloyd Goldberg III, who pretty much doesn’t seem to like hardly anyone.

Here’s the part I haven’t written yet. But I think it’ll go something like this: Donnie and his friends somehow end up going to the creepy old Howard Mansion, the old house owned by and old man and his old wife. Strange things have been going on at the Howard Mansion for years, and our heroes investigate.

Donnie will probably live happily ever after, or at least with a clearer view of himself and the people around him.

Much of this book is inspired by real events that happened in my hometown of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, when I was young. But I stretch the truth, inserting events, places and characters for my own amusement and/or your entertainment.

Most of the characters are based on people I’ve known, sometimes quite loosely. Some characters are even a conglomeration of several people, and some of those folks aren’t even people I knew when I was a kid.

It’s been a fun trip so far as I’m up to about 24,000 words. I’m aiming for close to 40,000, at which point the story better have concluded. Then, I’ll go into editing and rewriting mode. I reserve the right to change the names of characters, streets, schools, towns, as well as change story lines and pretty much everything I’ve done thus far … all in the name of entertainment, of course.

When I feel pretty good about the manuscript, I’ll start looking for a publisher and perhaps an illustrator. I think this book needs some drawings.

I’ll try to update everyone as developments occur.

Thanks for your interest and support!


Tomah! Tomah!

There’s a new event planned for west central Wisconsin this spring at which folks will be able to purchase autographed copies of “Murder in Wauwatosa.”

The first Tomah Rotary Beer and Sausage Fest is scheduled for 2-6 p.m., Saturday, May 3, 2014 at the Tomah Recreation Park.

I was invited to attend and sell autographed copies of my book. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend due to a previous engagement. But the host said he’d be willing to promote and sell autographed books at the fest as long as I supply him with said books. So, that’s what we’re going to do.

Tomah is southeast of Eau Claire, east of La Crosse and northwest of Portage and Wisconsin Dells. 

If they run out of books, just send $20 to me at PO Box 2611, Columbus, IN 47203 and I’ll get you an autographed copy.

We’re back in the top 1%

It’s been a while, but “Murder in Wauwatosa” has jumped back into the top 1% of books ranked by Amazon’s author website. Of more than 8 million paperbacks listed on the site, “Murder in Wauwatosa” hit spot No. 62,660 on Feb. 12, 2014.

We’ve only finished a day ranked that high three other times since the book came out in July 2012:

38,028 on Sept. 23, 2012

40,637 on May 8, 2013

46,660 on Dec. 1, 2012

Thanks for all your support!


Scrapbook of the Book

For Christmas 2013, my wife spent endless hours making a scrapbook of my journey of getting a book published, then going around to all sorts of presentations, book signings, and whatnot. She sprinkled in inspirational quotes, author-type artwork and more. thought it was kind of cool, so I’ll share some of what’s in it.

100_3311 100_3319 100_3320 100_3321 100_3322 100_3324 100_3325 100_3326 100_3327 100_3328 100_3330 100_3331 100_3333 100_3334 100_3335 100_3336 100_3337 100_3338 100_3339 100_3340 100_3342

2013 in review (Thanks!)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.