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.

An evening with the Central Indiana Writers Association

Thanks to all the great folks at the Central Indiana Writers Association for inviting me to serve as a guest speaker Monday night, June 16. I’d especially like to thank Robin Waldron for suggesting to the group that I was worthy of their time and attention. And thanks to Mike Barrett for setting everything up and giving me good directions to the meeting room in Greenwood. Unfortunately, I forgot where I wrote down the directions, so my wife and I kind of winged it. Fortunately, we found the meeting spot in time for kickoff.

It’s always interesting getting together with fellow writers and finding out what interests them. We had a lot of poets the other night. But many other interests, too.

As I discussed my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” we got into several different topics that the book touches on, as well as some that it doesn’t.

Near the end of the meeting, we somehow, we got onto the topic of family trees and I was a descendant of King John, the brother of Richard the Lionheart. You may have heard of King John from the movie, “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” I’ve also been told (by my dear sweet aunt who would never lie) that I’m a descendant of Lady Godiva.

Being a former sportswriter, I was keenly interested in talking to a man there who was a high school football coach for 40-plus years and had written a book full of stories of his time as a coach, “From the Beginning to the End Zone.”  I later found out that Ray Schultz has a much more storied football background than just being a longtime high school football coach. He was an all-state player at Indianapolis Manual, then played varsity football and basketball at Purdue. He was a scout for Butler University and for the Indianapolis Colts and was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

It was great talking to him about people we both know and about football, He and his wife were very nice people. As were the rest of the folks I met that night.

Thanks, everybody!

Below are a few of the photos my wife took during the event.





Breaking News of a Big Author Event in Wisconsin

Just confirmed: I’m going to be one of the presenting authors at the Sterling North Book and Film Festival at Edgerton (Wis.) High School on Sat., Sept. 27. Time of my presentation to be announced. I’ll be giving a PowerPoint presentation, complete with sound, on “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher.”

This is a pretty cool event. Patch Adams (yes, THAT Patch Adams) spoke there last year. This is a FREE family event that promotes literacy and the city of Edgerton, in south central Wisconsin. It consists of a number of interactive literary events. These include featured speakers and authors who share their insight on their writing and the inspiration for their books. The authors include those who have written best-sellers as well as Wisconsin authors.

Sterling North was the professional name of an author born in Lake Koshkonong, Wisconsin, probably best known for the children’s novel Rascal, a bestseller in 1963. In the 1990s, North’s childhood home at 409 W. Rollin St., Edgerton, was restored to its 1917 appearance by the Sterling North Society and transformed into a museum.

I was one of the first authors contacted about presenting this year. All the authors will be listed in the area visitor guide that will go to print on Memorial Day.

Feel free to pass this information along to anyone and everyone.

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.

Jennings County library event


Jennings County library event

Here I am at the Jennings County Public Library Indiana Authors Book Signing Event in North Vernon, Indiana, on March 29, 2014. Had fun mingling with the locals as well as the other authors.

I heard some very interesting stories from some very interesting people. A lady talked about a lot of illness she’d been though as well as some unique ways she was healed. A man talked with me about a case in which he feels he’s been wronged due to corruption in the legal system where he lives.

It’s always interesting talking to fellow authors abut their interests, as well as how their journeys to getting published went.

More info on one of Buddy’s friends

Eight-year-old Buddy Schumacher left home with two or three older neighborhood boys on the morning of July 24, 1925. He was never seen alive again.

One of the boys he was with that day was Arnold Yunk, a 10-year-old boy who lived next door. I wasn’t able to find much information about Arno (the name by which he went) before I was able to have Buddy’s story published in the book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher.”

Since the book published a little less than two years ago, I’ve been piecing together more information on the story. People who have read the book will send me an email to tell me they had relatives who knew somebody connected to the story or that they recall hearing people talk about what they think might have happened to little Buddy and who might have committed the heinous act.

It was such an email that cam in recently that got me looking into Arno Yunk and his family. A relative emailed me asking if I knew anything else about the boy. With his help, and with more information available to me now than I had when the book was written, I have been able to get a slightly better picture of who Arno was and what became of him. Here is some of what I’ve gathered:

According to this relative, his grandmother said the Yunk family of that time was a rather “rambunctious” bunch. Frank X. Yunk and his wife, Theresa, had six children: Erwin, Florella, Clarence, Roman, Arno and Arlene, from oldest to youngest, all born between 1903 and 1916. In 1931, at the age of 22, Roman Yunk  robbed the Brookfield State Bank in Waukesha with two other young men and was sentenced to 20-30 years in prison. Roman was living on North Main Street (Harwood Avenue today) a few blocks from his family. He served time at the penitentiary at Waupun. But his sentenced was commuted in 1937 by Gov. Philip La Follette, and he was freed. Roman was living at the old Hotel Irvington/Harwood Manor Rooming House at 7335 Harwood Ave., in 1940.

At the time of Buddy’s murder, the Yunks lived at 197 Alice Street, one house north of the Schumacher family. Later on, that address became 1323 Alice Street, when Wauwatosa’s house numbering system changed. The Yunks and Schumachers were next-door neighbors for years and years, although Buddy’s parents moved out of the house soon after he died. Buddy’s two uncles, Edwin and Robert, and Edwin’s wife, Ann, continued to reside next to the Yunks for at least the next 15 years as the 1940 Census says. The 1940 Census had not been released to the public when I wrote the book.

A lady who knew Buddy, grew up around the corner from the Yunks and Schumachers, and eventually moved into the house one property north of the Yunks, told me she thought that Arno had gone to prison at some point. His relative said he didn’t think that was the case and thought this lady might have had Arno confused with Roman.

Arno only stayed in school through ninth grade. By 1940, he was a 24-year-old man, who lived in Milwaukee at 1722A 35th Street, between Lisbon to the north and Walnut to the south. The couple had a 2-year-old daughter, Carolyn. The 1940 Census listed Arno’s occupation as a truck driver for the Works Progress Administration, the couple spent $15 per moth on rent and Arno made $684 in 1939.

Arnold F. Yunk died on January 23, 1975 in Milwaukee at the age of 60.

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