All posts by Nicole Mac Arthur

The Teachings of Musashi Miyamoto

Artical ArtworkI was just introduced to an extraordinary piece of literature entitled The Book of Five Rings by Musashi Miyamoto–a 16th century samurai warrior. In the book, Miyamoto discusses the way of the warrior and how to live one’s life as a samurai would–with distinction, control, and thirst for knowledge in all things. Despite the fact that many of Miyamoto’s teachings are intended to prepare one to become a fierce samurai warrior, many of his principles can be applied to our own lives.

He emphasizes the concept of trying to become knowledgeable in all things, not just “the way of the sword”, for we can apply all things to that which we strive most towards. Miyamoto says that if a person wants to become proficient swordsman, he must not only practice swordsmanship, but also guitar and commerce. Why? Because playing the guitar teaches rhythm, and commerce teaches aggression and tactics–traits which are necessary tools for a samurai. This is also why a scientist should study art, and an artist should study science. The scientist will learn how to see the beauty in life and its processes, and an artist will learn to appreciate the order and logic of science. Although Miyamoto says that attaining all knowledge is impossible–and I’m sure we all know this as well–we should never stop striving for that perfection. We should never stop our search for knowledge.

A quote that really stood out to me in the first part of The Book of Five RingsThe Book of Earth, was the following: “By keeping at a particular form of study a man can attain perfection either in this life or the next (if a next life is believed in). The warrior, however, understands that the end result of any study is a kind of death (sublime, not necessarily physical) before the attainment of perfection.” What does this mean? It can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people, but to me this means that true perfection is unattainable because it is, in itself,  a sort of death. You can never know every little detail of that which you seek to gain knowledge of. Strive for it, yes, but don’t expect to ever get it–that’s not cynicism, that’s truth. Be content that the world is too big for you to ever know in its entirety and hope that the next generation will discover the secrets you couldn’t. Although we’d like to, we can’t be all-knowing, and with this acceptance comes a sort of serenity. There’s no more rush to know everything and beat everyone. You’re out of the rat race watching everyone else scuttle about for what you now know to be an impossibility.

We are not higher or lower than anyone else, we just are. Knowing this, we should make the best of our lives and learn as much as we can–not being boastful or condescending due to our acquired knowledge. Miyamoto’s writings teach us to be both a participant and observer of life–the latter of which I think some of us, myself included, forget to do sometimes.

Below is Musashi Miyamoto’s The Way of Walking Alone–a piece written one week prior to Musashi’s death.

1. Accept everything just the way it is.
2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.
4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
5. Be detached from desire your whole life long.
6. Do not regret what you have done.
7. Never be jealous.
8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself or others.
10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.
11. In all things have no preferences.
12. Be indifferent to where you live.
13. Do not pursue the taste of good food.
14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.
15. Do not act following customary beliefs.
16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.
17. Do not fear death.
18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.
19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.
20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor.
21. Never stray from the Way.

Although I did not initially agree with each and every tenet listed above, I can now say I understand why one should follow these “rules” in their own lives. These are very much Buddhist notions and it all boils down to this simple concept: desire is the source of all pain. Want for nothing and “accept everything just the way it is” and you will never be disappointed–that’s the idea at least. That’s easier said than done, but it’s this concept that’s important for us to take away from Musashi’s Way. I don’t think I can follow the Way as it was intended to be followed, because my desires are too strong to be stopped at this point. Pain is inevitable for me, as it is for many others, but I will not regret the things I’ve done and I won’t say I’m sorry for the past. The past is gone, now all I can do is live in the present and look to the future. That, in its simplest form, is the way of the warrior.

Taking Criticism LIKE A BOSS

Criticism photo
Nicole Mac Arthur

No matter what kind of artist you are—painter, sculptor, animator, musician, and, of course, writer—you’re going to receive criticism at some point in your career. In fact, you’re going to receive criticism as long as you are creating something that is subjective to each individual who crosses the path of your works. I’m not going to lie, the criticism is going to hurt, and sometimes it’s going to hurt so badly you’ll question what you’re doing and even consider quitting. There are some talented artists out there who have quit due to someone else’s critical remarks.

I’m not here to tell you that the criticism is going to magically disappear someday, or that everyone will come to know the genius of your work in time, because that simply isn’t the case. You, my friend, are an artist, and as such that title comes with certain harsh realities. With the possibility of great success there is also the possibility of great failure—you’ve just got to learn how to pick yourself up after you’ve been knocked down.

So, how do you, a talent artist, take other people’s negative comments about your work in stride? Understand that what you do is subjective to the tastes of others—some people may love your work and others may hate it. That’s art. I know it’s difficult, but you can’t let yourself be discouraged by the opinions of others.

So you found someone who hates your work; you’ll find ten others who’ll think it’s absolutely brilliant. You’ve just got to keep on keeping on and you’ll find people who will appreciate your hard work.



            Once you get the hang of it, sloughing off negative comments about your work becomes easy; however, there is a certain type of criticism that one should not take so lightly. It’s not much of a punch line after the bold heading above, but what I’m talking about is constructive criticism. Speaking as an author who has gone through the editing process twice, it’s sometimes difficult to be told “I don’t like when your character does this” or “this part really slowed down the story and made it less interesting”.

Ugh! My poor heart!

But again, even suggested content edits are subjective. One person may really like a scene, while another person may think it slows down the pace of the book. If you don’t completely agree with the constructive criticism being offered, get the opinions of others. My rule is, if I hear the same piece of constructive criticism from two different people, I consider changing it. If I hear the same piece of constructive criticism from more than two people, I will change it.

Remember, first and foremost, constructive criticism is not meant to discourage you, it’s meant to help you improve. Take what you learn and apply it to make your writing even more awesome than it already is—you’ll be surprised at how much your stories will improve once you do!


As far as mean comments go, ignore them. “Haters gonna hate”, as they say. Never let anyone discourage you from doing the things that you love because there are people out there who will appreciate your tireless efforts—all you have to do is keep working hard and never give up! On a less cheesy note, you’re haters are going to feel really stupid about dissing you once you’re rich and famous.

Book Launch Party on a Budget

Your book’s written and nearly ready to publish, so what now? Many authors choose to have a book launch party to celebrate the happy occasion and let people know that their book is available for purchase. However, for indie authors, book launch parties can be quite costly. Many independent authors decide to skip their book launch parties all together because of the sheer cost it. This is a mistake, mainly because book launch parties are a great promotional tool for any author.

I’m here to tell you that anyone can have an amazing and unforgettable book launch party without breaking the bank. With a little time and effort, you can throw an awesome party that your guests will be talking about for months to come—and if they remember the party, they’ll remember your book.


The first step to throwing a book launch party is choosing a venue—you should probably decide this a few months prior to the party in order to better prepare. Community club houses, indie bookstores, and libraries, are great places to host your party if you plan on inviting the general public to your book launch.

However, if you only intend on extending invitations to family, friends, and friends of friends, I recommend saving yourself a little extra cash and hosting it at your house/family member’s house/friend’s house. A house is ideal if your guest list is between 20-50 people—this is the route I took when I hosted my first book launch party for The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined.


You’ve got two choices here: 1.) strictly appetizers, or 2.) dinner. I’ve learned from personal experience that although offering dinner is a great way to get people to your party, it takes the attention away from you and your book. Once everyone’s sat down for dinner, you’ve lost your audience to food. It’s sad, but true. Full bellies make people sleepy, and when people are sleepy they leave early. Save yourself some grief and stick to appetizers (preferably relating to your book) to keep your guests minds on what’s important: your newly published novel.

If, however, you do decide to serve dinner at your party and you’ve got some extra money and not a lot of time, hiring a food truck is a great way to keep your guests fed and is often cheaper than getting your party catered. If, on the other hand, you’ve got a lot of time and want to save some money, make dinner yourself! Make dishes that can easily and inexpensively be made in bulk and, if you can, have the food you serve relate to your book (for instance, my book, The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined, takes place in Germany so I served German food at my launch party).

If most of your invitees are 21 and over, novelty cocktails are a fun way to engage your guests. For my book launch party I had three novelty cocktails: Wilhelm’s Poisoned Watermelon (midori sour), Finn’s Bravery in a Cup (rum and vanilla coke), and Isole’s Kiss of Ice (non-alcoholic mint julep). The specialty drinks were a huge hit, and got people asking about the characters they were named after.


I know it might be tempting to go out and buy lots of decorations to impress your guests with; however, the costs of snazzy decorations adds up quickly. To save your money for the things that matter (like buying books and merchandise to sell/give away at your party), gather some creative friends and make the decorations yourselves.

I, for instance, employed one of my artist friends to draw a few of my characters. I printed those characters out and stuck them on the gift bags, the center pieces for the tables, and the labels for the appetizers. Since my book pays homage to The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, I also cut out some snowflakes and strung them up beside a poster of my book (which I had printed at Staples).

Bottom line: be creative and employ all free resources at your disposal—you probably have more of those than you realize.


Everyone likes free stuff! Handing out gift bags with things relating to your book is a great way promote your new novel.

For my book launch party I bought laminated bookmarks, customized pens (99 Cent store pens which I wrapped with stickers of my book’s cover), and German candy to put in the gift bags. If you’ve got a bit more money on hand, buy customizable tote bags in bulk and put your book cover on them or your publishing logo (if you have one).

Sticking your business card in the gift bags is another great way for your guests to remember you and your book. When you order business cards from places like they offer the option of putting tipping percentages and other useful charts on the back of your business card. If you do this, the chances of your guests keeping your business card are much higher.

Make sure most of the favors you hand out are useful things that your guests can utilize every day such as: pens, bookmarks, tote bags, USB drives, notepads, can coolers, bottle openers, letter openers, keychain flashlights, mouse pads, shirts, etc.


Keeping your guests interested and engaged is a major part of orchestrating a memorable book launch party. Have games ready for your guests to play, and encourage participation with prizes like merchandise, candy, or even the chance to win a free copy of your book.

At my book launch party we played a couple games. The first was a fairy tale themed “Who Am I?” game (my book has to do with fairy tales, so it made sense) in which I wrote a bunch of fairy tale names on sticky labels and stuck them on my guests’ backs. My guests then had to ask each other yes or no questions in regards to which fairy tale character they were. The first person to correctly guess who they were received a German chocolate bar.

I also set up a fairy tale trivia game, in which the winner won a German chocolate bar, a keychain of my main character (Destan), and a free paperback copy of the second book in the series (The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, launching this December). Finally, I raffled off a copy of Destined—if you’re going to do this, I recommend drawing a winner before your guests arrive.

It really doesn’t matter what games or activities you have at your party, just so long as you make it fun and engaging for your guests. The more fun they have, the more interested they’ll be in purchasing your book!


What is the most important thing to have at your book launch party? Your books, of course! Order as many copies as you can to sell at your launch party—trust me, if they’re available to your guests, your guests will buy them. If you don’t have a lot of money to purchase physical copies of your books, you can also set up a laptop pay station, where your launch party attendees can purchase your book online. As an added incentive to buy your book at the launch party, give your guests a discounted price on your novel and offer to sign it for them.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have at least some physical copies of your book at the launch party. Never assume someone is going to buy your book at a later date, even if they said they will—that’s like counting your chickens before they hatch. If you’re able, buy enough copies for everyone at the party—your guests are more likely to buy the book if it’s physically available to them.

Buying your own books will probably be one of the more expensive parts of your party no matter what you decide to do; however, they are crucial to your party’s success. Cut back where you can in the other areas mentioned above so you can have physical copies of your books on hand—I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Well, there you have it, a basic overview of a book launch party on the cheap. Start your planning in advance—the sooner you do, the less stress you’ll have to deal with when you get closer to the big day. Happy planning!