by J.T. Ellison
I know you’ve gotten used to seeing Stephen and Alex on Fridays, and let me start with a thank you to them, for allowing me back to my old spot to say hello, and farewell.
Back in October 2011, I made the unbelievably difficult decision to step away from Murderati. Difficult doesn’t describe it, really, because my leaving was more than another author taking off for greener pastures. I built this site. And by built it, I mean I was the physical architect behind Pari’s idea to start a group blog.
Way back when, none of us knew much about websites. None of us knew anything about blogs. And while we ironed out the name (mad props to my husband Randy who came up with Murderati), the lineup, the topics, the way we wanted to portray ourselves, we tried to figure out how to make it all happen.
I’ve always been a curious lass. I started playing around with Typepad, then the preeminent blogging platform. And I made an offer to the group – instead of hiring a web designer, which none of us could afford, I’d build us a website.
From the mouths of babes…
But once the offer was out there, and accepted, I had to follow through. I learned how to code, how to run a website, how to design. Randy helped with the banner, the old header, and anything else I got myself in over my head with. And pretty soon, we had a website. It had flaws. Typepad wasn’t easy to work with. Eventually, we migrated to Squarespace, which was much easier to work with, but had its own problems.
We blogged and blogged and blogged. And behind the scenes, all sorts of shit went down.
Let’s be real, here. We started with seven artists and ultimately built to fourteen. Over seven years, there were… issues. Of course there were. It’s only natural: when you have a group of people, all of them strong-willed and wildly creative, there will be issues. Over the years, people came and went. Friends were made and lost. Battle lines were sometimes drawn, and wars were fought. Joys and successes and opportunities were celebrated. Advice was freely given. Tears were shed. We were always our best when we were supporting each other.
In other words – family. Murderati has always been a family. A big fat happy family, with brothers and sisters who loved each other to death, squabbled with the best of them, beat up bullies who dared mess with our kin, and always, always, made our curfew.
Day in and day out, no matter what was happening behind the scenes, a fresh blog would go up. And we would put aside our petty differences and excited celebrations to pay homage to the author of the day.
It was our daily miracle.
With our daily miracles came forgiveness. Humor. Sadness. Anger. Cheering. Crying. We wrenched every emotion from ourselves, shared it on this blog, all to wrench it out of you.
Day in and day out, when we posted a fresh blog, you were there.
You made our blog what it was. We wrote. God, did we write. We struggled with being fresh, with not saying things that had been said before. We taught, and we learned. We strived to be authentic, to be real. To share our lives, our stories, our world, with strangers.
But you weren’t strangers for long.
You commented. You weren’t shy, not once you did it for the first time, not at all. You chose sides. You learned. You taught. You were the reason we kept coming back day after day. You were the reason we worked so damn hard to be unique, exciting, fresh. You told us when we were being silly, and cheered us on when we succeeded. You made us laugh, and you made us cry. You held us up when we needed a boost. You stood in awe when one of us created something close to genius.
You were the reason we started this blog. You were the reason we continued on.
But you aren’t the reason we’re closing.
Yes, the numbers began to sag when Facebook and Twitter became so very important to our writerly lives. But that’s natural. We lost readers when several of us left all at once in 2011, then steadied, and maintained. We still have a big following here. The numbers are not the reason we chose this route.
The daily miracle, which we managed for seven years, finally became too much to bear. 2555 blogs. Millions of visits. Thousands of comments. An industry that’s changed, a society that’s changed. Too many soapboxes, too little time. When 14 authors spoke, people listened. When 14,000 speak, there’s too much noise to be heard clearly.
Focus has changed. Long-form writing is very time consuming. Many, many of the authors from Murderati chose the independent publishing route, and there must be work product at the end of the day, and new books released — at a punishing pace — for success. The ones of us who stayed traditional are also facing challenges. With PR and marketing budgets slashed, self-marketing became not just a tasteless endeavor, but a necessary evil. The more authors are expected to handle on their own, the more authors choose to handle on their own, the more long-form blogging went by the wayside. It had to.
Because let’s be honest – at the end of the day, we’re writers. You want us to be writing books, right? Not blogs about how to write books. Right? Right?
(I keep telling myself that. One day I may even start believing it.)
When we started Murderati, I had an agent, but hadn’t sold my first book. I’ve now written twelve novels, sold fourteen novels and published nine, with the tenth coming in September, have a new Samantha Owens underway, a standalone I’m editing, a non-fiction I’m writing, have indie pubbed two short story collaborations with NYT bestsellers Alex Kava and Erica Spindler and have started writing with the esteemed #1 NYT bestseller Catherine Coulter. A lot of work, these past few years. It’s easy to understand why I don’t long-form blog much anymore.
Murderati played a huge part in all this, and I will be forever grateful for the massive leg up.
When we started Murderati, I used to agonize for a week over my post, and wouldn’t put it up until Randy had read it and promised me I didn’t sound like a dork. Now I write long form non-fiction for money, and Randy doesn’t see it until it’s actually done and ready for print.
When we started Murderati, I was unbelievably concerned with how I came across to the world. I hated sharing even the tiniest parts of me, a person I saw as boring and uninteresting, chose to stick solely to writing topics. I kept me apart from that JT Ellison girl.
Eventually, through this blog, I came to accept myself. All the parts of me. Even the parts I didn’t want to share with the world. Especially those.
When we started Murderati, I was in the beginning stages of trying to have children. Sadly, seven years later, I’ll share this – it wasn’t meant to be. The grief I experienced after multiple miscarriages, failed IVFs, all that nastiness, was what drove me away from this blog in the first place. I was a walking hormonal wreck. I couldn’t process my emotions in public. Hell, I couldn’t process my emotions in private. And then, when things were starting to form a scab, we lost Jade, Thrillercat, who you all know was my jinn. I went right back into that hole. Ah, it makes me cry, even now, thinking about all of this.
I could have let it consume me. God knows I wanted it to.
But I had a deadline.
I put my head down and wrote three novels in a row (WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE, A DEEPER DARKNESS and EDGE OF BLACK – even the titles scream what was happening to me) that dealt with loss. Loss, and pain, and horror. And it got me through. It got me through. Pouring my soul into those books… it got me through.
I started yoga the week after I stopped writing for you. I took all the time I spent on Murderati and channeled it into my practice. Into healing. Into finding myself again. Every day, when I get on my mat, I set my intention. Four words. The things I want for myself.
Calm. Graceful. Kind. Focused.
It worked. It’s still working.
Now, when I come back to the page to bid you adieu, I do so as a strong, healthy woman who takes herself a lot less seriously than she used to, who is dedicated to her family and friends, to her health, to her work. I’m writing with joy again, with laughter, with humility and excitement. I blog over on my own website, a place I call the Tao of JT. I have a decent-sized Facebook page, and we have a ball. I’m on Twitter, as @thrillerchick. I send out a monthly newsletter, and if you’re not signed up, please do.
I don’t have Murderati anymore.
But if I’m lucky, I still have you.
I dedicate this blog to all the writers of Murderati. All of the friends of Murderati. All those who’ve come and gone.
And all of you.
Thank you for letting me come into your homes for seven years. Thank you for cheering me on, for making me cry, and for understanding. Thank you for making me the writer — the woman — I am today. Thank you, from the bottom of my soul.
I won’t say goodbye. I’ll just say… See you around.
(Stop by this weekend for two more goodbye posts – from our own Allison Brennan and Toni McGee Causey!)