Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another Presidential Candidate

Amid all the hilarity of the Presidential election campaign, a real viable candidate has finally come forth. He's my friend and compatriot, Dr. Arnie Witchel, an educator, highly-competent executive, and all around good guy. Click to learn more about his exciting candidacy. He's got my vote!

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Public Library Magazine Book Talk

I was delighted to be interviewed recently for Book Talk, a feature of Public Library Magazine, the publication of the Public Library Association (a division of the American Library Association). The interviewer was one of America's leading librarians, Siobhan Reardon, who just accepted an appointment as President and Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

You can listen to the mp3 audio version of the interview at

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Heart of Diamonds Now Available

My new novel, Heart of Diamonds, is in stock and ready for shipment by It's an exciting romantic thriller about scandal, love, and death in the Congo. As the book cover copy reads, "Amid the bloody violence of the Congo's civil war, TV reporter Valerie Grey uncovers a deadly diamond-smuggling scheme that reaches from Africa to the White House"

You can see more details at It will be in bookstores September 1 as well. Just ask your favorite bookseller for ISBN 978-1601641571. Heart of Diamonds was published by Kunati Books, named Independent Publisher of the Year at the 2008 BEA.

The first Amazon reviewer wrote:

This book offers both intricate, exciting action and compelling, well-drawn characters. The plot includes diamond smuggling, civil war in the Congo, intrigue that involves the White House, and a magnificent chase along crocodile-infested rivers, through raging gun battles, and into the sky in armed helicopters. There's enough sometimes-bloody action and intense suspense to please the most demanding thriller addict.

But there are also great characters who make Heart of Diamonds a good read for those who want to know why the bullets are flying and the diamond smuggling scheme must be revealed. The heroine, Valerie Grey, is a star TV reporter whose career hits a dead end just about the same time as her boyfriend and mentor, David Powell, decides they should get married. The problem is, Valerie isn't really sure she wants to marry David. Those internal conflicts run throughout the book, giving Valerie's character something to think about when she isn't dodging bullets and facing down bad guys.

The situation become more complicated when Valerie encounters Jaime Talon, a cynically altruistic doctor who runs a money-starved clinic near the diamond mine in the Congo village of Mai-Munene. Dr. Talon is actually the first character you meet in the book and his treatment of a child soldier, showdown with a guerrilla fighter, and run-in with the book's main bad guy, missionary Thomas Alben, give you fine insights into his life and character.

The two of them discover a diamond smuggling scheme that involves an American televangelist with ties to the White House. When the Congo civil war reaches fever pitch, Valerie Grey races to expose the scheme as American troops start pouring into the country. The Congolese army, the televangelist's minions, and even CIA-like assassins sent by the White House try to stop her while the countryside erupts in war around them.

Between the high-concept suspense, steamy love triangle, and action-packed portrayal of the Congo, Heart of Diamonds makes a great read.

I hope you enjoy.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Home Improvement Horrors - Part Seven

Here’s a tip from the Westchester (NY) Department of Consumer Protection that’s sure to drive your contractor crazy, but, what the heck, it’s your house, isn’t it? “Take pictures of the job while it’s in progress,” Consumer Protection Director Gary Powers advises. “If you need to file a complaint later on, you’ll want to show the conditions at various stages and the timing of certain things that might be in dispute.” Tell the contractor the pictures are for one of your kid’s school project.

What if, in spite of all your homework, open communication, sound business judgment, and everyone’s best intentions, a “situation” arises? The first place to talk to the contractor. You don’t have to kiss him on the lips, but, as contractor Eric Messer says, “Every job is like a marriage; every job hits some barriers and you have to be willing to compromise. There’s always middle ground.”

But, if you can’t come to an acceptable understanding, don’t just give up and write another check to the guy with the nail gun in his hand. Call your local department of consumer protection. “If we get a complaint, we will immediately contact the contractor and try to mediate the dispute,” Powers promises. “We find that in many cases intervention by our office in the form of telephone calls, letters, or even job-site visits by one of our inspectors can resolve the matter.”

If that doesn’t do it, they’re ready to go further, even calling in the District Attorney’s office when necessary. “If the contractor committed violations of law, we can issue an appearance ticket, impose fines, and even suspend their license. That gives us leverage in resolving consumer complaints,” he says. Powers’ office handled 375 complaints last year. He has four inspectors on staff dedicated purely to handing home improvement issues, since they are the largest single source of complaints the office receives.

If you’re considering a project to improve your home, take heart; the vast majority of home-improvement jobs get completed to everyone’s satisfaction—or at least to their relief. Some folks even have fond memories of the process. A Briarcliff, NY, homeowner hired Messer’s Sunrise Building to tear the back off of her family’s home, build a new kitchen, add a mudroom, another bay to the garage, and a deck—all done during nine months with the family still in the house. “Once we got used to living like that, it was an adventure,” she says. “Now, when I hear that backing-up truck noise, it’s almost nostalgic.”

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Home Improvement Horrors - Part Six

Once the contract is signed, the next step should be a very detailed meeting between the homeowner, the contractor, and the subcontractors, even if lining them all up is akin to scheduling a White House Cabinet meeting. “There are so many intangibles; we have to establish the ground rules up front,” contractor Eric Messer explains. “Do you expect me to put site protection down? Can I use your driveway or do I have to park somewhere else? Will I be able to use your phone? Will you provide heat?” All these things need to be discussed prior to start, lest you find your refrigerator raided because a contractor thought lunch was on the menu of what you’ll provide.

As with so many other things in life, good communication is imperative. That’s because stuff happens. As Ken Kroog, chairman of the Mid-Hudson chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, points out, “Not every job goes the way it’s supposed to. You open up a wall and there’s a four-inch drainpipe you didn’t expect. You dig the footings and run into a graveyard. You never know.”

It's a real good idea to monitor the work daily so course corrections could be made along the way and problems handled in the nascent stages. Messer says, “Most items can be corrected quickly and at no charge if they’re caught early enough. If you don’t tell me you don’t want the electrical outlet there until after we’ve hung the sheetrock and painted, though, it’s a big deal.”

Mishaps and problems aren’t the only reason you should closely monitor the work, according to Thomas Ralph, a Realtor in Pelham who recently hired a contractor to add a dining room to his home, among other projects. “Whenever he would get to a situation where he could go one way or the other, like where you want a lighting fixture, he’d come and ask us,” Ralph says “You have to have a rapport. It’s not something where you hire the guy, disappear, and not come back until the work is done.”

In fact, another homeowner in Hartsdale, NY, had to be far more hands-on than they expected. “Our contractor would never miss an opportunity to cut corners. He installed a sink off-center to avoid moving some plumbing, placed a recessed medicine cabinet outside the wall because he had already sheet-rocked. Every day was an adventure in incompetence.”

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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