Delusions of Grandeur • R.D. Rhyne

April 20, 2020

It’s Good to be Back

Everything clicked during a conversation about a bathroom remodel. It was a typical evening with friends. Glasses of wine, a few cocktails, and conversations about our kids. Only there was nothing typical about it over FaceTime.

My moment of zen happened after someone asked Amanda about her remodeled shower:

“I really like the tile… except this one line of grout near the top of shower. It drives me crazy.”

Turns out most of the grout lines are the same width, except the one right at eye level. The grout line staring back at her every morning in the shower.

Will others notice it? Not likely. But that isn’t the point.

I built my last site so I would write more. The middle of 2016 is when I hit my stride. The words started to flow, even with a line of grout staring me in the face: There were too many steps to publish.

Statically generated sites are straightforward technical beasts. They are the simplest way to customize your site down to an individual HTML tag. However, publishing requires FTP and an SSH session.

The process wore me down. I never stopped writing, but I slowly stopped publishing.

Everything is written in Ulysses. And what I really wanted was to export from Ulysses directly to my site. Bonus points if I could schedule a post in the future.

In mid-2016, one could publish directly from Ulysses if that site was powered by Wordpress. I know what you’re going to say, but hear me out. This is my therapy session.

Ever heard the phrase: “The final 20% is where a project dies”? That’s where we’ll start with my adventure in Wordpress themes. It wasn’t PHP or performance concerns, rather the tiny, very significant-to-me typographic flourishes, which I struggled to replicate in Wordpress.

I found workarounds. Mostly.

For eight months I meticulously built a theme, and imported older posts by hand. I was down to a final bug: render the footnote return character on iOS without a godforsaken emoji. It proved to be the hill my Wordpress dreams died upon.

Eight months of work, and there were still irregular grout lines.

Cured of my delusions for using a framework out of my control, I decided to write my own publishing system. Sigh. I wrote a server in Swift. And built an iOS app to push posts to the server, and generate static HTML. It was a wonderful system I affectionately named Agatha.

It took me an entire year of nights and weekends to build. Now it was 2019 and two years since I had published anything. To add further insult, the introduction of SwiftUI was a sharp reminder that I would continue to waste precious writing time keeping the iOS app going.

Oh, and I still couldn’t publish directly from Ulysses. Shit.

Agatha taught me a lot about Swift, but its best gift was focus: I wanted a great way to share my fiction. The structure for this site started as the four different post types I created for the Agatha system.

Accordingly, each post falls into one of four buckets:

  1. Short Stories: complete stories of fiction, written by me.
  2. Selections: from my writing journal, fragments of fiction.
  3. Annotated Links: short comments on things that grab my attention.
  4. Blog Posts: non-fiction blurbs about writing and other things that interest me (like music or watches).

In addition to fiction I’ll publish here, I hope you’ll enjoy a behind-the-scenes peak at my in-progress novel, Nebula Squad. It’s my third attempt at writing one, and it’s already off to a good start. In February, I shared the first third of the story with other writers (i.e., friends), and their feedback was positive.

This was my watershed moment. I’m writing with purpose, and it’s time to publish again.

I’ll keep my old page going at until I’ve migrated its content over to this domain, and setup proper redirection. Oh, and we should probably talk about my new pen name. All in good time.

The site isn’t perfect. But it’s thoroughly modern, served over HTTPS, and equipped with a JSON and an RSS feed. The whole thing is powered by a custom build of Ghost, and an unapologetic Web-assed Web Page design, built only with CSS and not a lick of client-side JavaScript.

There are still irregular grout lines, but will anyone else notice? That isn’t the point.

This is a start.