Your Online Presence: You as a Brand

Social MediaRecently I reread an article by Tom Peter that appeared in Fast Company magazine in 2007. The article’s title is “The Brand Called You”. You remember Tom Peters don’t you? He wrote the big business books of the 1980s and early 1990s. Books like “In Search of Excellence” (co-written with Robert H. Waterman, Jr.), “A Passion for Excellence”, “Thriving on Chaos”, and “Liberation Management”.

His article had me reflecting back more than a decade to online marketing guru Seth Godin and his associates at Fast Company magazine. They are the first persons who floated the notion of “the brand of you.” The real premise of “the brand of you” was a theory that to get ahead in the Internet era we should look at ourselves as “a brand.” And as “a brand” we need to market ourselves in a way that shows the image we want others to see. In today’s connected age with Internet social networking like Facebook, WordPress, Blogspot, Multiply, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and others you should pay attention to what Godin was sharing.

Hopefully you realize your online identity is the first thing prospective employers see. Failure on your part to build your brand, massage the image you are crafting, and keep up your brand focus can do harm to our “brands” and lose us potential jobs or contracts.

For “the brand of you” you should behave consistently. What I mean here is everything from your voice mail message to your blog to your tweets must have a consistent tone. You can’t be wild and crazy in one place and dead serious in another. If you are doing a blog on political commentary from a liberal point of view you should stay on task. If you are doing a weblog on writing and publishing it should be limited to those themes. If you are doing a blog on military history books reviews you should not have commentary on your life or a review of your favorite restaurant show up in the blog. You get the idea.

Another problem is not keeping your blog or website current. It you commit to a blog, you need to have regular input and updates. The opposite is also true. Do not over do it. While regular entries are critical, too frequent entries cries out that you are spending too much time blogging.

Remember before you promote yourself as a brand online you need to answer three questions. In the immortal words of the rock band The Who has yourself, “who are you?” Next think about and answer the question “what is it you want?” The third question to answer is “what it is you have to sell?” Is it goods (a product) or services? Go through that exercise first.

Almost all major companies include an online search for your name as part of their hiring and screening process. Many companies also do online searches for your name when you are being considered for a promotion. Be careful who you allow to be your online friend. Some businesses have employees send friend requests where they can get access to you personal things like blogs and pictures. You think you are safe because you have limited access to contacts, but then you let a potential employer have access without even realizing what you have allowed. The “Seattle Post Intelligencer” ran an article warning about companies peeking into Facebook to screen potential employees way back in 2006. You can read it by clicking HERE.

Finally, I suggest you do a simple Google search of yourself and see what you find. Why not spend a few hours to clean up and enhance your online presence?

Writing Podcasts I Listen To

Some pretty good writing podcasts that I listen to regularly are:

ISBW_logoI Should Be Writing.

It is found at Mur Lafferty does the podcast. I have listened to her since 2005. She was a 2012 Nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Mur Lafferty is an author, podcaster, and editor. She lives in Durham, NC, with her husband and 10-year-old daughter.

Podcasts: She has been podcasting since 2004 when she started her essay-focused show, Geek Fu Action Grip. Then she started the award-winning I Should Be Writing in 2005, which is still going today. In 2010 she took over as the editor of Escape Pod, and she also runs the Angry Robot Books podcast.

Books: Starting with podcast-only titles, Mur has written several books and novellas. Her first professionally published book, The Shambling Guide to New York City, will be out in May, 2013. She writes urban fantasy, superhero satire, afterlife mythology, and Christmas stories.

Nonfiction: Mur has written for several magazines including Knights of the Dinner Table, Anime Insider, and The Escapist.

Mur is studying for her MFA in Popular Fiction at the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine.



Adventures in SciFi Publishing.

It is found at: I have listened to it since 2007.

Adventures in SciFi Publishing brings you podcast and text interviews with authors, editors, publishers, and agents of science fiction and fantasy as well as reviews, news, coverage of live events, videos, and other treats. Winner of the 2008 Best Writing-Related Parsec Award. 2011 Parsec Award Finalist.


Writer’s Groups: What to Look For and Costs

Writer's GroupI wrote this about eighteen months ago. The points are still relevant. Tonight I got off work at 6:00 PM. I drove through twenty-five miles of rush hour traffic to get to my writer’s workshop. Dinner was missed to attend the meeting. While the meeting started exactly at 7:00 PM, it was 7:20 before I arrived at the meeting.

People have a variety of viewpoints when it comes to belonging to a writer’s workshop. Some authors like Dean Koontz abhor them. Many writers cannot stand them. Some say they will cause you to quit writing or destroy your writing style. Other’s say they couldn’t write without them.

I belong to the DFW Writer’s Workshop. The group has been around since 1977. Over the years members have had over 300 traditionally published books. The workshop also sponsors an annual writer’s conference (DFWCon). The group charges $100 per year to be a member. That is only $2.00 a week.

I had published over two dozen magazine articles before joining the group. I credit the group with keeping me motivated and moving to completing my first novel. The group caused me to look at my writing at a level I didn’t know existed. I provided encouragement in seeing fellow members get published.

Here are some thoughts on selecting, joining, and attending a writers group.

1. Does the writer’s workshop have  in writing clearly defined goals?

  • Does the group know where it is going?
  • Does it meet regularly?

2. Does the group start on time and stay on mission?

  • My group starts on time. It begins with a large group session.
  • We recognize guests, ask them what they write, and how they found out about the workshop.
  • We next ask for rejection followed by asking for submissions.
  • We then ask about acceptances.
  • After the large group session we break into small critique groups where member read and get critiqued.
  • The reading is generally about 10 minutes and the critique about 5 minutes.
  • We have a monitor for the group who times and moderates the reading/critique.

3. Does the group have an interest in your type of writing or is it just a niche group?

  • Is it a first amendment group allowing freedom of expression?
  • Does it require you to filter your writing through the scope of the group? For example, you would not want to attend a Christian writer’s group if you write erotica.

4. Are there any rules for people whose work is being criticized to follow?

  • Again, this is essential.
  • People get very defensive when others are telling them what they did wrong.
  • Their first impulse is to be defensive.
  • The critique-ee needs to have rules to follow.
  • We have them listen with no response or rebuttal.
  • You need to listen to what people have to say about your writing and learn from it. 

5. Does the group allow you time to network and develop relationships with others in the group?

  • Do the group members like each other?
  • Are they happy to see you and urge you to take part?
  • Does the group assimilate new members?
  • Does everyone get to read?
  • If the group members spend more time telling you how great they are or what they hope to do instead of staying on schedule and mission, find a different group.

6. Should I pay to attend a writer’s group?

  • Most writer’s groups in the USA are free and run by volunteers. Fee based groups are also common.
  • One of the most expensive writer’s groups in the USA is the The Original Los Angeles Writers Group™. The cost for new members is $475 a year while returning members get a break at $450. The is about $9.00 per week.
  • The Kansas City Writer’s Critique Group meets in ten week sessions with each session costing $65.00 ($5.50 per week).
  • I mentioned before the DFW Writer Group at $100 per year ($2 per week).
  • The Burlington Vermont Writer’s Group cost $12.00 per month.
  • I have attended pay and free groups. Most pay groups are very polished, professional, stay on task honoring the attendee’s time by starting and stopping on time plus having a set break. They are connected to educational institutions or a legal nonprofits with a constitution by-laws and elected leadership from the paid membership that manage / lead the group. They are not social in nature and have had an evaluation element. The leader in the pay group many ties receives your writing assignment in advance. They check your style, grammar, transitions, etc. as a proofreader / outside editor. They may lead you in structured activities within the group as well. Most paid groups last only 60 to 120 minutes with 90 minutes being the average. Again, select the group to meet your need.

The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

Albert Einstein said, “The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts, but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”

My undergraduate education is a liberal arts education. My major was history and my minors were English and military science. My Master of Arts degree is in Christian education. My broad-based liberal arts education did more than prepare me for a job. It provided the foundation that allows me to compete in the marketplace of ideas. I also completed the core curriculum for a computer science degree.

It has been 38 years since I heard then University of Texas at Arlington President Dr. Wendell Nedderman say I had met the requirements for my bachelor’s degree. Within minutes of his pronouncement I raised my right hand and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Army through Army ROTC.

I did not make the military a career. Three years later I headed to graduate school. I was amazed at how ready I was. I knew how to read, write, study, do research, write research papers, and think and make decisions.

My UT Arlington liberal arts education taught me how to think independently and make sound judgments. I learned how to expand my horizons, discover new perspectives, and acquire the tools to defend my point of view. My education helped me learn to reflect on life, have a moral and historic compass where I can distinguish good from evil, justice from injustice, and what is noble and beautiful from what is useful.

I have been employed over the years as an officer in the US Army, a minister, educator, corporate trainer, Internet Coordinator, IT Support Analyst, and IT Systems Administrator. These have been my day jobs that has supported my 30 plus years of freelance writing. Working in Information Technology it is interesting to see how many persons have undergraduate degrees in the liberal art disciplines. Most of our tech writers were English majors. Many of our business analysts and business intelligence types also have liberal arts undergrad degrees. These are the people who know how to think outside the box. These are the people with excellent critical thinking skills. These are the persons that embrace change and know how to successfully deal with it. These are people who know how to communicate ideas.

What have I done with my history degree? All the above plus I have published nearly fifty magazine and trade journal articles in over a dozen publications though the years. I have published poetry through the years. I have written hundreds of book reviews. I have a website “Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews”. The site was named a 100 best websites for history buffs. I read and review military history books published under more than a dozen different imprints. I am finishing the manuscript for my historical fiction novel I’m working one as well.

I get asked often by younger coworkers how I know so much about so much. They say I am a modern renaissance man. My answer: I have a liberal arts education from the University of Texas at Arlington.

How committed am I to liberal arts education? I have three grown children – all have liberal arts degrees. One is employed in a senior business management position, one is a teacher, and the third has worked in customer service and information technology fields before starting her own business.

The True Story of Catch – 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller’s 340th Bomb Group in World War II

Did Joseph Heller commit a disservice to the members of the 340th Bomb Group when he wrote Catch-22? Did author  Patricia Chapman Meder write an apologetic defending the real four officers some feel Joesph Heller blindsided when he made them into Catch-22’s four heavy hitters?

“The True Story of Catch – 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller’s 340th Bomb Group in World War II” is a combination of both plus I feel some admiration for Joseph Heller making those men infamous.

There is a reason the original Catch-22 is found in the fiction not nonfiction section of bookstores. Joseph Heller didn’t write a memoir of his service during World War II. He wrote a satirical and somewhat historical novel.

Patricia Chapman Meder uses rare and unpublished photos to bring our actual heroes to life through use of first person narrative.

There is a third part in her book that is actually the book’s heart. She takes twelve men of the 340th and relates twelve true tales.

Fans of Catch-22 will enjoy the book. It makes good use of diaries, logs, and photos to bring the people to life. For those unfamiliar with Catch-22 the book will make you curious enough to pickup Heller’s book.

“The True Story of Catch – 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller’s 340th Bomb Group in World War II” would make a nice companion volume or commentary for the serious student of the original work. It would make a nice inclusion in university or community libraries as a resource for Joseph Heller’s book.

I recommend “The True Story of Catch – 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller’s 340th Bomb Group in World War II” by Patricia Chapman Meder. The publisher is Casemate Publishing.

Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

The Crimson River

Crimson-fr-cov-sm“The Crimson River” by Donna Westover Gallup is Book Four in the Mysterious Ways series. The publisher is Cladach Publishing.

Donna Westover Gallup does her usual great job of telling a spellbinding tale. It is what I have come to expect from this great storyteller. I was surprised the story went back and forth between the present and the 19th-Century Colorado Territory. While that caught me off guard, the use of flashbacks was a marvelous way to tell the story.

The author wasted no time getting right to the mysteries that kept me turning the pages. I feel she had a good balance of Christian faith without a forced insertion of “the plan of salvation” just to do it. God’s activity in the lives of the characters was apparent chapter after chapter. Well done!

The story progresses well. The inclusion of historically accurate events adds to the drama. The trip to Texas with the mesquite thorn poisoning and then to Missouri with the inclusion of the small pox story line was well told and frighteningly realistic.

The author did a nice job of wrapping up a lot of loose ends as the book concluded. Without spoiling the ending I will say it was more real life than some readers may have preferred. However, I felt it was right on the mark.

I hope Donna Westover Gallup has her next book in the works. I love the way she tells her story, how it includes the Almighty’s activity in everyday life and hope she has more stories to tell.

Read in October 2012 and reviewed in March 2013.

Note: I have read all four books in the series. I read The Crimson River the last week of October 2012, the same week the book was released. I did not have a review copy. I purchased my copy. I had a job change October 29th, a major car accident November 5th that put in in the emergency room via ambulance, and serious injuries after a very bad fall on ice just when I was recovering from the car wreck. All delayed the writing of this review as well as several other projects.

Ten Thoughts To Encourage Others

encourage-othersToday is Saturday March 23, 2013.

Here are ten thoughts I use to encourage others:

1. Show real interest in the person. Listen to what they are saying. Be interested in what is happening in their life. Let them know you care.

2. Concede what’s important to them.  When you acknowledge what’s important to others, you offer a form of verification and support about who they are and what they’re doing.

3. Say “congratulations”.  These magical Words of Encouragement at the right time can make all the difference between “keep going” and “give up”. Congratulate them on a job or task well done.

4. Be there for them.  Sometimes the “ministry of your presence” is all they need.  Just being there for them is encouraging.

5. Say “Thank You”.  This is common courtesy.  It is good manners.  People like a little reward after hard work. I have done it for years. A simple thank you lets others know what they have done is worthwhile and meaningful to you.

6. Return the favor. If someone does something nice for you, a great way to show your appreciation is simply to return the favor. It will both shock and encourage them.  Note: don’t ever do something expecting someone to return the favor for you.

7. Answer with something unexpected.  I have a phrase I have used for years … nice them to death!  Even when others let me down or they know I know they “dropped the ball” I don’t tell them so, I usually pick the ball up for them.  It is amazing the long-term results this can have in encouraging someone.

8. Be a “good finder”.  A good finder is a person who looks for the good, not the bad in a person or a situation.  An example would be if a person is always late to meetings, but makes in on time to your meeting instead of saying “About time you attended a meeting on time” say “I really appreciate the extra effort you made to get here on time” without any reference to their normal tardiness.

9. Smile.  Have you ever experienced the magic of a simple smile?  Have you ever noticed how when you smile at someone they smile back?  Share an encouraging smile.

10. Offer to lend a hand.  You can offer to lend a hand.  Sometimes a person feels like the weight of the world is on their shoulders and no one cares.  Show them you really care. You can be there for them.