Friday, July 31, 2009

Can Social Networking and Online Marketing Take Over a Writer's Life?

Reaching out to readers and potential readers is important, but don't let it take away from your writing time.

You've written a new novel and it's coming out from the publisher next month. Or maybe you've self-published a collection of short stories online. Or maybe you just like to write for online sites such as Triond.

Under any of those conditions, you want people to read your work. Sure, the money you could make is nice, but you also just want to be read.

To help grow your fan base and to hopefully gain potential readers, you decide to check out some of the social networking sites, online marketing sites, forums and similar places that allow you to promote your work and yourself.

There are tons of these Web sites out there that could be of use to writers. Facebook, Myspace, StumbleUpon, Digg, and Reddit are just a few of the online places a writer to use to toute their work. How do you know which one to use? Trying to use all of them would be time consuming.

And here is where many writers run into problems online. There are so many different ways and sites to promote one's work, it becomes difficult to choose which sites to use and how often to go to them.

It can even turn into a nightmare if you've signed up with 10 or more sites and try to go to each of them every day. You end up spending more time in forums and chatting and promoting, etc., than you actually do writing and editing your work.

That's not good for a writer.

The key is to find the right balance for yourself as a writer. Sure, you can go ahead and join all the different sites just so you'll have some presence there, but I'd suggest not visiting more than a few a day. Otherwise, you'll always be online and never in your word processor.

It's easy to become too caught up in the online world of marketing and networking. Not only could you lose writing time, but if you are promoting yourself too much you could end up becoming annoying to regular users of the sites. That's right, you'd become a spammer, and once you receive that label you've hurt your chances of turning others onto your writing.

Still, using the Web for promotions is a given nowadays. It has to be done. Picking which sites to use regularly is really up to you. Try a few different ones, see which places are the most comfortable for you, then hang out there from time to time.

To get a little more constructive with it, you could even come up with a schedule. For example, maybe on Mondays and Wednesdays and Fridays you will spend an hour a day online at Facebook and Reddit, then Tuesdays and Thursdays you hope on over to StumbleUpon and the Amazon forums.

Just remember to keep it fun and to keep writing.

Other Writing Links

Dealing With Negative Reviews as an Author
Fiction Writers Need to Know Their Weapons
Promote Your Writing by Promoting Others

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No. 36 - First Blood

by David Morrell

Started: July 28
Finished: July 31

Notes: I'm note finished with my last book yet, but I ran across this one in the library today and had to snag it up because I've been meaning to read it for at least 25 years. Yes, this is the novel the First Blood moving starring Sylvester Stallone is based upon, and upon which the John Rambo character is based. The novel is supposed to be quite different, especially the ending, from the movie. I've already read the first 30 pages, and so far it's quite interesting. The contrast, physically and mentally, between Rambo and the sheriff is much more engauging than that in the movie. In the film, the sheriff is sort of portrayed as this small-town, hick sheriff who is just an asshole, and maybe not real bright. So far, in the book the sheriff is portrayed as a Korean War veteran who is likable in his own way but has very different values, and a background, than Rambo. Should be interesting.

Mini review: Actually, a pretty darn good book. In some ways better than the movie, but in other ways not so much. But it's difficult to compare the book to the movie in this case. The plot and characters are technically the same, but the characterizations is quite different. Rambo is a more complex but less sympathetic character than he is in the movie; the sheriff, however, is also more complex but a much more sympathetic character. Definitely glad I read this one. And a word of warning to flagwavers who want to read the original Rambo novel: John Rambo is not nearly as nice a guy in this book as he was in the original movie. If you think Rambo was a badass in the movie, you haven't seen anything.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When is the Best Time of Day to Write?

Some writers work in the middle of the night. Some are early risers, getting their daily writing finished before other tasks or jobs. Some write in little bursts, five minutes here, ten minutes there.

Truly, the best time to write each day is whatever time feels most comfortable to you. The trick is to write at that time consistently, perhaps even every day if possible.

By writing every day, and at the same time every day, you are training your mind. Sort of fooling your mind, even. You're showing yourself that your writing is something serious, that it's not just something you do as a lark for a little fun. That you are taking your writing seriously. You're getting yourself used to writing on a consistent basis. That's what writing at a certain time each day, whenever possible, can do for you.

Will this help your writing? Of course it will. Not only will you be outputting more work regularly, but you will be improving as a writer. Writing takes practice, practice, practice. Writing at the same time every day puts your body and your mind into work mood. You'll be better able to get to work on your writing if you have set periods for when you plan on doing your writing.

And if you miss a day, don't fret over it. Just jump back into things the next day. Even if you miss a few days, don't beat yourself up. Get back to writing as soon as you can.

How do you set a certain time? Again, it's really up to you, what works best for you. If you are someone who likes punctuality, set a specific time, maybe a certain hour. If you like to keep things a little more free, just casually set a time of day, but don't get so specific about the actual time.

If you happen to be one of those who writes in short bursts throughout the day, that's a skill you should be happy to have. Not everyone can write that way. But still, keep at it every day when possible.

Me? I feel most comfortable doing my writing late at night, usually after midnight. That seems to be the time I'll have the least interruptions, and the time when I feel I can completely focus on the tasks at hand.

Good luck, and keep writing!

Other Writing Links

No, I Won't Write Your Book for You

The Importance of Editing Your Writing

Has Reading Become Unmanly?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Promote Your Writing by Promoting Others

Maybe you've written a novel, or a few short stories. Or maybe you just like to post articles on Web sites such as Triond or Bukisa. Or maybe you like to provide or sell your writings on sites like Scribd or Smashwords. Whatever your venue for writing and publishing, you probably want other people to read your work.

And that's where things can get a little tough. Self promotion isn't easy, especially when everywhere you go online, the second you post something about your writing, someone immediately jumps up and starts screaming SPAMMER!

How to get around this? One easy way is not to promote your work, but promote the work of other writers. You can't be accused of spamming, and you're driving potential readers to other writers.

But how does this pay off for you? In several ways. First, hopefully the other writers you are promoting will get a clue and will do the same for you; this helps if you have some sort of relationship with the other writers, maybe are even friends with them. Also, by promoting other writers, you are letting potential readers know a lot about yourself. They get to know what kind of writing you like, if nothing else, and if they like what you like there's a good chance they will want to check out your writing, too.

So, you don't need to go to a bunch of forums and start spouting about how great your latest project is. That can be annoying. But you can go to various forums and talk about other writers and their works. You'll sound like any reader or fan, and won't draw the spam haters.

But be careful about the forums and social networks you decide to visit. Make sure it makes sense for you to post in any particular forum. Keep it appropriate. You shouldn't go to a forum about puppies, for example, and start posting about the latest thriller novel you read.

Also, you're likely to have some fun and maybe you'll make some new online friends.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Scarefest: A Convention of Horror and the Paranormal

Billed as the largest convention of horror and paranormal in the United States, Scarefest brings thousands of fans and plenty of professionals to the Bluegrass every year. Ghosts, ghouls and even Jason Voorhees and Leatherface are to attend the 2009 Scarfest in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, on Sept. 11, 12 and 13.

One big draw for fans is the many special guests who will be attending. From the horror field, just a few of those to make an appearance in 2009's convention are Kane Hodder who portrayed mass murderer Jason Vorhees in four Friday the 13th films, Gunnar Hansen who played killer Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Doug Bradley who was Pinhead in the series of Hellraiser films. Some of the guests from the paranormal field include Zak Bagans of the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures" television program, psychic Chip Coffey of the TV show "Paranormal State" and ghost hunter and author Patti Starr.

Plenty of events are lined up for the 2009 Scarefest, including a class on special effects makeup, movies at the nearby Kentucky Theatre and the Nightmare Haunted House. Dealers of all sorts will have tables available, and many of the guests will be available for autographs and seminars. A couple of the really grand events include a costume party the night of Friday, Sept. 11, and a VIP party for Saturday, Sept. 12.

So, fans of ghosts and goblins, get ready to have some fun in Bluegrass country come September! Tickets are available now!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

10 Web Sites for Horror Writers

Horror Writers Association

The Horror Writers Association is mainly for members, but the group's Web site has plenty of information for those who don't qualify for membership. Of course the site has plenty of information about the association and how to become a member, but there are also market listings for writers, tips for writers and more. Another nice thing is the HWA site is home of the Bram Stoker Awards, annual awards for outstanding horror writing.

Horror Find

Horror Find is a search engines just for things horror and Halloween related. If you need it, you can probably find it here, at least as long as it's something gruesome. There are even classifieds at Horror Find, in case you're looking for something that's difficult to get your hands on.

Horror World

Horror World's site offers plenty for fans and writers, but it's probably best known for its active forum community. Plenty of professional authors, beginning writers and fans come to Horror World just to chat and catch up on things, and all the thousand other reasons people hang out in online forums and chat rooms. There are also interviews and reviews to be found here, and much, much more.

Masters of Horror

This is another Web site with an excellent online community and plenty to keep you busy. There are also a good number of groups to join, if you are interested. This is also an excellent site for beginning writers to post about their works in progress.

Horror Web

Horror Web is a great place for keeping up with horror-related news. If you need to know about a new movie or book or game, this is the site to head to first. The site also has contests and giveaways from time to time, so you have a chance of winning something horrific. And there's plenty of news on Horror Web about the latest horror conventions.

Asian Horror Encyclopedia

This Web site is a little out of date and not the best known out there, but it definitely offers a different perspective for horror writers and fans of horror literature. Movies aren't the focus here, so this isn't necessarily the place for fans of that medium. Still, there's tons and tons here from folklore, mythology and history related to horror and Asia. Definitely worth spending some time checking out.

The Web site has a little side headline that reads "Everything That is Horror ..." and this is pretty much true. Movies. Novels. Reviews. Interviews. Information on conventions. Links. All kinds of stuff, and I've just touched on the tip of the iceberg. Really, if you like horror, you could find yourself spending hours and hours on this site. If you become a site member, you can even post your short stories here for others to see.

Dark Markets

Writers are always looking for places to submit and sell their stories, so Dark Markets is a good place to start that search. Here you'll find all kinds of listings for magazines, book publishers and contests where you can submit your work for publication (and hopefully a little money, too, right?).

Really Scary

Where do you go for your horror news? You could do worse than Really Scary, believe me. Updated every month or two, this Web site offers news mostly about horror movies, though every once in a while there's news about the dark literature. Here you can also find a good number of links to other Web sites featuring horror-related material.

World Horror Convention

Didn't know there was a World Horror Convention? Well, now you do. The WHC is an annual gathering of mostly professionals within the horror field, though plenty of fans often make it, too. The convention moves around every year and is in Brighton, England, for 2010 and Austin, Texas, for 2011. This would be a great convention for writers to attend because it gives plenty of opportunities to make connections in the horror field.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Violence in Fiction: How Does the Writer Know When Enough is Enough?

Nearly all fiction writers are going to have violence of one form or another sooner or later in one of their short stories or books. Fiction is about conflict, and violence is one of the most common forms of human conflict there is. Even romance writers will sometimes have a sword-carrying hero rushing in to save the day, or a pistol-packing thug as the villain. In horror fiction, violence is almost a given. Violence is also common in much fantasy and science fiction. And what would a Western be without a revolver or two or a lever-action rifle?

But sometimes, for some readers, violence can be too much. It can be too powerful, even to the point of turning the reader off a certain author. Possibly such a reader won't even finish the story they were reading.

What can a writer do about this? How can the writer know when their fictional violence has gone over the top?

It's not easy. In fact, it's mostly a subjective decision.

The writer has to take into account the genre in which they are writing and the potential reading audience. Violence obviously is a bit more acceptable in horror, for example. But even within the horror genre, there are many different levels of violence that could be portrayed. As examples, there is generally a huge difference in the violence as portrayed by an author like Dean Koontz than there is by someone like Joe R. Lansdale, a known "splatterpunk" writer. Koontz's violence tends to be over fairly quickly and doesn't focus on prolonged torture or gore. Lansdale, on the other hand, gets his hands dirty with the red stuff, then makes you do the same while smashing your face down in it.

Would you want your readers to have to deal with that level of violence? Maybe you do. There is such an audience for over-the-top violence, though it's not a mainstream audience nor is it very large. Some writers enjoy delving into the darkest parts of humanity, as do some readers. Some writers intentionally set out to be offensive, even go out of their way to do so, but even this has a place within a free society with protected speech; if nothing else, such literature can get people to thinking and talking.

Most authors, however, will not want to go quite that deep into violence. Violence is often a necessity in fiction, but the truth is the majority of readers won't want to dwell on it. And that's fine, too.

Much of this depends upon the writer's goals and what they wish to accomplish with their career and any given piece of their work. Someone striving for more mainstream success should generally shy away from writing graphic violence. Horror writers have a little more room to work with, as to some extent do men's action writers, thriller writers and writers of Westerns. But even within those genres, there is much wiggle room. The best thing is to be familiar with your genre and its audience; this will help you know the boundaries of the levels of violence which you can approach in writing. And it can help you decided how far you want to stay within those boundaries, or if you want to leap over them.

And readers need to remind themselves what they are reading is only a story. It's fiction. It's not real. Yes, stories can have power, but only the power you allow them to have over you.

Speculative Fiction Writers Must Set Ground Rules for Their Stories

Fantasy, horror and science fiction authors serve their readers best by knowing the rules of the worlds they create.

The old saying is "truth is stranger than fiction," and there is truth to that. Even though fiction, especially speculative fiction, isn't about real things, it must seem so for the reader. Otherwise, the reader will lose interest and will go on to read something else. Writers don't want that. They need to keep their readers.

But how does a writer make things like wizards and ghosts and spaceships seem real? By setting some ground rules for the story the author is writing, and knowing and sticking to those rules.

For example, let's say you are writing a horror story. Our hero locked in a house is being chased by a big, bad monster with gigantic teeth and fur running down it's back. Your monster seems unbeatable. The hero has stabbed the monster, shot it, shoved it down some stairs, beat it over the head with a shovel, all kinds of things. But the monster keeps coming. Eventually, tedium will set in for the reader if this goes on too long. There hasto be a way to defeat this monster. And the hero of our story has to figure out how to do so, but only after many trials and tribulations for building tension and reader sympathy for the character. Finally, the hero figures out the monster chasing him is a werewolf. Oh, where is that gun the hero used earlier? Down in the basement. The hero runs down, grabs the gun and loads it with the only silver bullet he has, a family heirloom left by his great-great-great grandfather who was a Civil War general and had the bullet molded as a memento to mark the end of the war. The hero slams the bullet into the gun, then pops up our monster and BANG! Monster is dead. Totally impossible, you think. Couldn't happen in rule life. But the reader's mind wants to believe this could happen; in fact, the reader's mind needs to find this acceptable to be fully entertained. And how is the reader's mind convinced this story could be real? Because of the rules set down by the author. What rules? Well, rule one is that werewolves can only be killed by silver bullets. In fact, that's probably the most important rule in our little story. But there are plenty of other rules here, too. Where did the silver bullet come from and why does our hero have it? The plausibility of this has to sound rational.

Speculative writers shouldn't have antagonists who are too powerful and seemingly invincible. This is even more important for protagonists. Where's the fun reading about a monster the reader knows can't be defeated no matter what? Where's the fun in reading about a protagonist who passes his or her trials far too easily? It's unrealistic and it's boring. On the flip side, you don't want a hero who fails all the time and a villain who is incompetent all the time.

Striking a balance is what can help your fiction. You can have a bad guy who seems invincible, but somehow the protagonist has to figure out a way to save the day. You want that balance between the good guy and the bad guy of your story. Even if you're writing a tragedy, a tale of woe where the hero fails, there at least has to be the impression that the good guy could have won. Otherwise, the reader won't be interested, and you as a writer won't have an audience for very long.

Knowing the rules of the universes you create can help strike that balance, and draw and keep readers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

City of Rogues novel available for PDAs

My epic fantasy novel, City of Rogues: Book I of the Kobalos trilogy, is now available at Mobipocket.

This means if you have a PDA, like a Blackberry, and an e-reader APP for your PDA, you can download City of Rogues for reading.

I'm still learning all the formatting for Mobipocket (and Kindle, for that matter), so if you run into any technical difficulties, please let me know and I'll try to fix things.

And the amazing thing? Right now the price is only $1!

There is also a free sample of the book, so you can check out the first chapter and just a tad of the second chapter without having to pay anything.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Rage of the Behemoth video

If you're a fan of big monsters and sword-slinging action, you've got to read this collection of short stories, Return of the Behemoth, from Rogue Blades Entertainment. It doesn't get any better than this.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ebooks available at Mobipockets

Three of my short ebooks are now available for purchase at Mobipockets. Which means if you have a PDA, such as a Blackberry, you can now get an app to download and read my ebooks (and others' ebooks, too, I suppose ... but I only really care about mine).

The three books available are:

Dark Side of Io, my horror/science fiction screenplay, priced at only $1

Sever: five tales of horror, priced at only 80 cents

Preludes: four tales of the fantastic, only $1

In the next few days I will probably upload City of Rogues, my epic fantasy novel, but until then I'm interested to see how these books sell.

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, July 13, 2009

City of Rogues available for Kindle

My epic fantasy novel, City of Rogues, is now available on the Kindle from Amazon for $2.99.

Product description

Kron Darkbow seeks vengeance, and he plans to have it no matter the costs. Returning to the city of his birth after 15 years, he hunts down the wizard responsible for the deaths of those he loved only to find out another was responsible for the murders. That other is Belgad the Liar, a former barbarian chieftan who is now boss of the city's underworld.

Following his path for blood, Kron comes across the magical healer, Randall Tendbones, and accidentally reveals Randall's darkest secret to the world. It's a secret about the past, a secret that has kept Randall on the run for three years. Now it has caught up with him, and Belgad the Liar is suddenly the least of Randall and Kron's concerns. The gaze of Lord Verkain, king of of the dark northern land of Kobalos, has fallen upon Kron and Randall. And it is a gaze filled with madness.

City of Rogues is a dark action/adventure epic fantasy novel in the tradition of David Gemmell and Glenn Cook. It is Book I of the Kobalos Trilogy.

Purchase a copy for your Kindle here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Zombieland movie trailer

Just because I love zombies, and because this is my favorite movie trailer in a good while. AND because of the fantastic Van Halen song!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

No. 35 - Roughing It

by Mark Twain

Started: July 5
Finished: August 21

Notes: I've read a fair amount of Twain, but it seems like there's always more to read. It's been a while since I've read any of his works, so I thought I'd settle into this one, especially since this year I've been trying to catch up on some classics that have eluded me thus far. "Roughing It" is sort of an autobiography, Twain's comments on 6 or 7 years he spent out West and in Hawaii, but with Twain you can't always tell where the truth ends and fiction begins. Not that I have a problem with that.

Mini review: This is another book I'm glad to have read but I'm also glad to be done with it. True to what I expected, this is a travelogue of Twain's trip to Utah, Nevad, California and Hawaii. The first half of the book I found entertaining, full of tall tales and humorous anecdotes Twain picked up in his travels, but the second helf felt bogged down to me mainly because the tone of the writing switches to more descriptive text of what Twain saw in Hawaii and elsewhere. The book ends well, however, with the last 20 or so pages giving a brief partial history of Mormonism and including a rambling, though humorous newspaper article.

Friday, July 03, 2009

How Screenwriting Broke My Writer's Block

I began writing fiction about twenty years ago, unless you count a couple of short novels I wrote back in fourth and sixth grades; those novels would be called fan fiction today, one being about James Bondand the other about Don Pendleton's character The Executioner, Mack Bolan. But other than those early novels, the first real fiction I wrote was a short story called "Entering Jupiter." I wrote that story for an astronomy class in college; the professor allowed me to do so instead of writing a paper.

I had always wanted to be a fiction writer as far back as I can remember. In grade school, besides those two novels, I also wrote and drew and colored a slew of comic books. Unfortunately, I no longer have any of those comics, but at least I still have the two novels. My early favorite novelists were mostly in the fantasy genre, Tolkien and the like.

But writing that short story for my astronomy class finally made me think it was time to get my butt in gear and start writing. So I did. I hammered out a half dozen stories on my red portable manual Olivetti Valentine typewriter. None of the stories were very good. But I realized that, and at least I was learning.

After a couple of years, I finally felt like my skills were improving. I started a novel, a horror novel title "The Storm." I've never finished it. Basically, during my last couple of years in college, I had to work two part-time jobs to pay for school, plus I worked on the school yearbook and the student newspaper. I was a journalism student. And frankly, I was just too busy to continue working on fiction. Which was unfortunate since I had about 70,000 words of that novel written.

Fast forward a bit. I started my career at a small newspaper in Ohio. I settle in after a while and got back to my fiction writing, though I felt then that my fiction skills needed to be worked on again before I could get back to lengthier fiction projects like novels.

I wrote about 50 short stories over the next 8 or so years. I sold a handful of them and received words of encouragement from a number of editors.

Then it happened. My writer's block kicked in.

Many writers, including myself, are not comfortable talking about writer's block. Writer's block isn't anything physically real. It's not a disease. It's not a virus. It's not something tangible that can be worked out, though I suppose a psychiatrist might be able to help. Some writers even deny the existence of writer's block. I don't, because I've experienced it.

Writer's block is a different thing for different people. For me it came down to two things, fear and perfectionism. I had gotten to the point where I was afraid to begin writing anything, even a short story, because I knew it wouldn't be good enough. Good enough for whom? For anyone. For an editor. A publisher. For readers.

And I was stuck with that fear for 5 years. I didn't write a thing that didn't pertain directly to my work as a journalist. It was the longest drought of my life.

A Discovery
I always have a stack of books to read. That stack has been as many as a hundred books, but right now I've whittled it down to 8 books. These are books I'm going to read when I get to them. I average about 45 books a year, so I'm not the fastest reader in the world, but I'm far from the slowest.

Anyway, about 7 years ago I was moving. My then-new-wife and I were moving to a new house, new for us, anyway. During the move, I had to box up all my books, then unbox them at the new house. While unloading the stack of books I had yet to read, I came across Syd Field's book, "Screenplay." I don't know why I had that book. It was still new, so obviously I had bought it at some point.

Let me say here and now, before reading "Screenplay," I had never consider screenwriting a serious form of writing. I'd sort of looked down on it. That book changed my mind. It got me to study the story-writing process in ways that were totally new to me. Before then, I had always sort of thought of stories as this ambiguous thing of ideas that came into your mind, then you put it down on paper and hoped it worked out.

Stories don't work that way. They have structure. The most basic structure is beginning, middle and end. Yes, it's that simple. But just simple ideas such as that opened my eyes.

That First Step
So I finished Field's book. I wanted to know more. I started buying more and more books on screenwriting for movies and television. I read them all. I researched screenwriting online. My favorite site was Triggerstreet, where I still have a membership though I haven't gone their often in years.

Then I began writing. I finished two screenplays, one a science fiction horror story and the other sort of a spaghetti western.

It wasn't straight prose, but I was writing again.

Back in the Saddle
After finishing my two screenplays and doing multiple rewrites on them, I toyed around with trying to sell them to a Hollywood production company. But I realized my screenplays weren't up to snuff. Even after my many, major rewrites, they just weren't that good.

But I didn't want to start another screenplay. I felt I'd learned all I had to learn at the time, and felt it was time for a new challenge.

I tried my hand at short fiction again. And the results weren't too bad. I kept at it. In the last 5 or so years I've written probably another 50 short stories and I've sold about half of them to magazines or online venues.

I've even written four novels. I had three of them practically sold to a publisher, then the recession hit. The publisher decided it wasn't the right time for him to publish a series of novels by a new writer. I had and have no hard feelings about that. Business is business. Too many wannabe writers don't get that.

I strive on. I'm back to trying to sell the four novels, three of them being a trilogy. I still work on short stories from time to time.

And I'm writing plenty on Triond of late since I lost my last newspaper job.

What's most important, for me, right now, is I'm enjoying myself. Every day I find new writing challenges.

And I blame it all on Syd Field and screenwriting, even though I don't consider myself a screenwriter and currently have no plans to be or become or try to be a professional screenwriter.

But writing's in my blood.

Oh, by the way, I did eventually switch to an electic Smith-Corona typewriter. That lasted about five years. I wrote on three different Macs for the next ten or so years, and still use one of them now, as well as my wife's PC.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

10 Tips for Sword Care

Whether you're a rabid collector or just someone who wants a long blade to hang on your wall for showing off to your friends, you need to know how to take care of your sword(s). Here are a few suggestions.

Avoid prolonged sheathing: Yes, swords were kept in leather sheaths. But not forever. Sheaths, especially leather ones, have dyes and such that can promote rust in a sword. By all means, if you're hanging out at a Renaissance festival all day, please keep your sword in its sheath. But for storage or wall hanging, remove the blade from the sheath. Your sword will remain more attractive that way.

Don't bang your sword around: Despite what you see in a movie when some mighty warrior hack through a tree with a sword, that's a really stupid thing to do. It could bend the sword, or worse, crack or even break it. Swords are weapons. They weren't made to trim your rose bushes or to whack down that oak in your front yard. That's what axes are for. No period warrior in his right mind would ever have considered using a sword for such tasks except perhaps in the most dire of circumstances. And remember, swords might cost a lot nowadays, but they cost even more back in the day.

When storing, coat the sword with oil: You don't have to pour on the oil. Just a light layer will do. WD-40 works fine, as do any oils made for firearms. There's moisture in the air, and this can lead to rust on your sword. The oil helps prevent this from happening. Also, make sure the oil you use is non-organic; you definitely don't want corn oil.

Don't touch the blade!: This is a pet peeve of mine. The first thing that inevitably happens when you show someone a sword is they touch the blade. NO! Stop that! Fingers have oil on them, but not the good kind of oil that helps protect the sword. Oil from our hands can actually induce rusting, and can even leave fingerprint-shaped marks.

Wax your sword: That's right, I said "wax." This is especially important if you're going to be storing that sword for a long time. Many shops that sell swords and Renaissance fairs will have a special sword wax for sale, but some weapon smiths say a good car wax will work just as well.

Dry storage: Don't ever forget that swords rust. And even all that oil and wax you've added might not be enough. To this end, when storing your sword, make sure it is in a dry area without a lot of humidity.

Don't sharpen your sword: This is especially true for Japanese swords. It takes a lot of skill to sharpen a sword, and it's a task best left to experts. If you absolutely have to have a sword sharpened, contact a professional sword smith and see if they'll do it for you or if they know of someone who can do it for you. Taking a sharpening stone or a turning wheel to your blade might only scratch up and mar the weapon, but it could possibly ruin it altogether.

Already rusted?: If your sword already has rust on it, my preferred way of dealing with this is a little olive oil and a Scotch-brite pad. This shouldn't scratch the metal of your blade, unless maybe you scour and scour really hard. Other folks may tell you to use a copper wire brush or steel wool, but I've witnessed swords scratched up pretty well from such use.

What about the handle?: Many sword handles will be made of wood. Lemon oil will help protect the wood and keep it from cracking. If your sword's handle is wrapped in leather, you can clean the leather with a paste wax or maybe mink oil (but keep in mind the mink oil will make that leather handle really, really slippery ... so you might want to opt for the wax.

Be careful: You knew this one was coming, didn't you? In the modern world, too many people seem to think of swords as toys. Swords are not toys. They are deadly weapons. Even some cheap, theatrical sword bought for ten bucks has the potential to harm. Remember that at all times when you are handling a sword. You are handling a deadly weapon. Treat it as such. Swords can wound, maim and kill. So, just be careful. And enjoy your sword(s).