The St. Charles Hotel In New Orleans

One of the significant locations in my novel, Painter of Dreams, is the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans, which is where Brandon and Captain Henderson stayed. The hotel figures into my fourth novel as well.

In 1851, a fire destroyed the original hotel. It was rebuilt in 1852.  The large illustration above is of the second hotel .The hotel was in business until 1973.

This is what the original hotel looked like. The second, as you can see, was similar, but much plainer. It didn’t have the fancy cupola.

St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans
St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans

Here’s a description of the hotel from Benjamin Moore Norman’s, Norman’s New Orleans and Environs, published in 1845.

“This magnificent establishment, which, for size and architectural beauty, stands unrivaled, was commenced in the summer of 1835, and finished in the May of 1838, by an incorporated company. The building was designed by, and erected under the superintendence of J. Gallier, architect, at an expense of $600,000, including the ground it stands on, which cost $100,000. It presents fronts on three streets. The principal one on St. Charles street, consists of a projecting portico of six Corinthian columns, which stand upon a granite basement fourteen feet high, with a pediment on the top, and four similar columns on each side of the portico, placed in a range with the front wall; behind which is formed a recess fifteen feet wide and one hundred and thirty-nine long, and floored over with large granite slabs, which, supported on iron beams, serve as a ceiling to that portion of the basement story standing under the portico; and on top affords a delightful promenade under the shade of the portico and side columns. The entrance to the bar room is under this; and the outside steps, leading from the street to the portico, are placed on each side thereof, between it and the front range of the building. In one of the rear angles of the basement is a bathing establishment, consisting of fourteen rooms, elegantly fitted up, with every convenience for hot or cold bathing. On the opposite angle are placed the wine cellars, store-house, and other domestic apartments. All the remaining parts of the basement are divided into stores, which are rented out to various trades-people. The bar room is in the basement, near the centre of the edifice; and is octangular in the plan, seventy feet in diameter, and twenty high; having an interior circular range of Ionic columns, distributed so as to support the weight of the floors and partitions of the upper stories. The architecture of this room is Ionic. That of the saloon, which is immediately over the bar room, is of the Corinthian order, and eighteen feet ceiling. A grand spiral stair-case commences upon the centre of the saloon floor, and is continued up to the dome. Around this stair-case, on each side of the upper stories, a gallery is formed, which gives access to six bedrooms within the octagon, on each of the six upper stories. As the bar room is six feet higher than the other parts of the basement, the entrance to the saloon from the portico is by a flight of marble steps, twelve in number, and thirty-five feet long. On the top of these steps is placed a beautiful marble statue of Washington, presented to the company by John Hagan, Esq.

The gentlemen’s dining and sitting rooms occupy the whole side of the building on Gravier street. The dining room, with a pantry at the end, is one hundred and twenty-nine feet long by fifty wide, and twenty-two feet high, tastefully finished in the Corinthian order, with two inside ranges of columns, so placed that there is abundant space for four ranges of dining tables, sufficient to accommodate five hundred persons. The ladies’ dining room is placed over the bathing apartments, and is fifty-two by thirty-six feet. The kitchen, fifty-eight by twenty-nine feet, is placed in the rear wing of the building, on the same story with, and in the centre between the two dining rooms. The two angles of the principal front contain the ladies’ drawing room, and the gentlemen’s sitting room, the former forty by thirty-two feet, the latter thirty-eight feet square. There are nine private parlors on the second story, to some of which are attached adjoining bedrooms; and the same number on the upper stories. There are four stories of elegantly furnished and well lighted bedrooms, all around the four sides of the building, with central passages, or corridors, which communicate with the centre and with each other, having three stair-cases opening to the corridors, besides the grand stair-case in the octagon. There are, in the edifice, three hundred and fifty rooms.

A dome, of beautiful proportions, after a plan of Dakin, forty-six feet in diameter, surmounts the octagon building, elevated upon an order of fluted columns, which stand eleven feet from the dome, around the outside, and on the dome is elevated an elegant little Corinthian turret. There is a large circular room under the dome, on the floor of which the spiral stair-case terminates, and around the outside of which the circular colonade forms a beautiful gallery eleven feet wide, from whence can be seen the whole city, and all the windings of the river for several miles in each direction. The effect of the dome upon the sight of the visitor, as he approaches the city, is similar to that of St. Paul’s, London.

No better evidence can be adduced — nor more flattering encomiums presented to the architects, than the fact of the indescribable effect of the sublime and matchless proportions of this building upon all spectators — even the stoical Indian and the cold and strange backwoodsman, when they first view it, are struck with wonder and delight. The view of this structure by moonlight is a sight not easily described. The furnishing of this establishment cost $150,000.”

St. Charles Hotel veranda.
St. Charles Hotel veranda.


Historical New Orleans

I collect old illustrations, paintings, and other ephemera pertaining to New Orleans, Liverpool, and ships of old as such things make me feel closer to my story, to my characters. One of my favorites is the 1845 painting above of New Orleans and the Belle Creole. The painting gives one a sense of the busy riverside back in those long ago days and the majestic beauty of the early steamships that plied the Mississippi.

Here’s a description of New Orleans in 1845 from Benjamin Moore Norman’s, Norman’s New Orleans and Environs

“During the business season, which continues from the first of November to July, the levee, for an extent of five miles, is crowded with vessels of all sizes, but more especially ships, from every part of the world — with hundreds of immense floating castles and palaces, called steamboats; and barges and flat-boats innumerable. No place can present a more busy, bustling scene. The loading and unloading of vessels and steamboats — the transportation, by some three thousand drays, of cotton, sugar, tobacco, and the various and extensive produce of the great west, strikes the stranger with wonder and admiration. The levee and piers that range along the whole length of the city, extending back on an average of some two hundred feet, are continually covered with moving merchandise. This was once a pleasant promenade, where the citizen enjoyed his delightful morning and evening walk; but now there is scarcely room, amid hogsheads, bales and boxes, for the business man to crowd along, without a sharp look out for his personal safety.”

This map of New Orleans in 1770 by Pittman gives one another peek into historical New Orleans. The city grew so fast and, though always a busy port city, traffic on the Mississippi had picked up significantly with the advent of the steamship. Old maps can certainly inspire one’s imagination, take one to another place in time. Click the image if you wish to see the full-size version.

New Orleans, 1770
New Orleans, 1770

Chester Hawthorn 6th Earl of Drayton

What’s wrong with this portrait?


Meet Chester Hawthorn 6th Earl of Drayton.

Inspiration can come from strange places. Sometimes it comes from an old photo or painting. I came across a vintage portrait and thought about how much it reminded me of Captain Chester Hawthorn, 6th Earl of Drayton, Brandon’s father whom I mention in Painter of Dreams. So I did a little graphic manipulation and composed a biography for him. Here it is along with the family coat of arms. Now, he’s even more alive to me. and I know so much more about him.

And isn’t he handsome? .Of course. He would have to be as he’s the hunky Brandon and Aaron’s father.

If you’re a history buff, you may recognize this man. Yes, he was a real-life historical figure before I cut off his head and tucked him into a dashing naval uniform. We’ll see if any readers know his real identity. Also, there’s something else wrong with this image. Can you guess what it is?

Click here for the answers.

You’ll need to click on the image to see the full-size version.

Chester Hawthorn 6th Earl of Drayton from Painter of Dreams
Chester Hawthorn 6th Earl of Drayton.


100 Most Beautiful Words

100 Most Beautiful Word

Words are like flowers–some are very beautiful. Here are some of my favorite words. What are some of yours?


Ailurophile: A cat-lover.
Assemblage: A gathering.
Becoming: Attractive.
Beleaguer: To exhaust with attacks.
Brood: To think alone.
Bucolic: In a lovely rural setting.
Bungalow: A small, cozy cottage.
Chatoyant: Like a cat’s eye.
Comely: Attractive.
Conflate: To blend together.
Cynosure: A focal point of admiration.
Dalliance: A brief love affair.
Demesne: Dominion, territory.
Demure: Shy and reserved.
Denouement: The resolution of a mystery.
Desuetude: Disuse.
Desultory: Slow, sluggish.
Diaphanous: Filmy.
Dissemble: Deceive.
Dulcet: Sweet, sugary.
Ebullience: Bubbling enthusiasm.
Effervescent: Bubbly.
Efflorescence; Flowering, blooming.
Elision: Dropping a sound or syllable in a word.
Elixir: A good potion.
Eloquence: Beauty and persuasion in speech.
Embrocation: Rubbing on a lotion.
Emollient: A softener.
Ephemeral: Short-lived.
Epiphany: A sudden revelation.
Erstwhile: At one time, for a time.
Ethereal: Gaseous, invisible but detectable.
Evanescent: Vanishing quickly, lasting a very short time.
Evocative: Suggestive.
Fetching: Pretty.
Felicity: Pleasantness.
Forbearance: Withholding response to provocation.
Fugacious: Fleeting.
Furtive: Shifty, sneaky.
Gambol: To skip or leap about joyfully.
Glamour: Beauty.
Gossamer: The finest piece of thread, a spider’s silk.
Halcyon: Happy, sunny, care-free.
Harbinger: Messenger with news of the future.
Imbrication: Overlapping and forming a regular pattern.
Imbroglio: An altercation or complicated situation.
Imbue: To infuse, instill.
Incipient: Beginning, in an early stage.
Ineffable: Unutterable, inexpressible.
Ingénue: A naïve young woman.
Inglenook: A cozy nook by the hearth.
Insouciance: Blithe nonchalance.
Inure: To become jaded.
Labyrinthine: Twisting and turning.
Lagniappe: A special kind of gift.
Lagoon: A small gulf or inlet.
Languor: Listlessness, inactivity.
Lassitude: Weariness, listlessness.
Leisure: Free time.
Lilt: To move musically or lively.
Lissome: Slender and graceful.
Lithe: Slender and flexible.
Love: Deep affection.
Mellifluous: Sweet sounding.
Moiety: One of two equal parts.
Mondegreen: A slip of the ear.
Murmurous: Murmuring.
Nemesis: An unconquerable archenemy.
Offing: The sea between the horizon and the offshore.
Onomatopoeia: A word that sounds like its meaning.
Opulent: Lush, luxuriant.
Palimpsest: A manuscript written over earlier ones.
Panacea: A solution for all problems
Panoply: A complete set.
Pastiche: An art work combining materials from various sources.
Penumbra: A half-shadow.
Petrichor: The smell of earth after rain.
Plethora: A large quantity.
Propinquity: An inclination.
Pyrrhic: Successful with heavy losses.
Quintessential: Most essential.
Ratatouille: A spicy French stew.
Ravel: To knit or unknit.
Redolent: Fragrant.
Riparian: By the bank of a stream.
Ripple: A very small wave.
Scintilla: A spark or very small thing.
Sempiternal: Eternal.
Seraglio: Rich, luxurious oriental palace or harem.
Serendipity: Finding something nice while looking for something else.
Summery: Light, delicate or warm and sunny.
Sumptuous: Lush, luxurious.
Surreptitious: Secretive, sneaky.
Susquehanna: A river in Pennsylvania.
Susurrous: Whispering, hissing.
Talisman: A good luck charm.
Tintinnabulation: Tinkling.
Umbrella: Protection from sun or rain.
Untoward: Unseemly, inappropriate.
Vestigial: In trace amounts.
Wafture: Waving.
Wherewithal: The means.
Woebegone: Sorrowful, downcast.


Painter of Dreams FAQs

by BobetteBryan
Here are the answers to some of the frequent questions I’ve received about my novel, Painter of Dreams, which is the first book in my North Star Series.

Why did you write Painter of Dreams?

I wrote it in the 1980s when I was 23, a military wife, an ambitious medical student, and mother of three. I was going through one of the roughest times in my life. I’d lost the vision in my left eye due to a macular retinal detachment. Several surgeries failed to correct the condition. I was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and a few other conditions that doctors didn’t understand or know how to treat—they still don’t. As a result, I dropped out of medical school.

I felt like my life was over.

That Christmas, my mother sent me a Heather Graham romance novel. I’d never read romance and wasn’t particularly interested in doing so. But I was bored, depressed, and felt like I had nothing better to do, so I began reading.

The novel changed my life. I mean that literally. I was so moved that I was never the same. I knew immediately that I must pursue a career writing romance novels. I wanted to breathe my own unique take into the genre, wanted to make others feel like I had when I’d read Heather’s book.

Is this your first novel?

Painter of Dreams is my first published novel–but there are many other dusty tomes beneath my roof.

My first novel was handwritten on legal pads and filled a good-sized cardboard box. It may still be hiding somewhere in the attic, a dark and scary specter that should never see the light of day.

I made a few other attempts at novel-writing as well, most of which were abandoned. And then, Robert Plant’s song, “Ship of Fools,” moved me. At the same time, my five-year old son was into the Titanic disaster and was collecting every book he could find on the subject. I too had always had an interest in Titanic, so I read the books. From there, my interest extended into the history of steamships, and somewhere along the line, the idea for Painter of Dreams was born.

Of course, Brandon Hawthorn was always in my mind, my ideal man, based on the many heroes in my life, including my grandfather and my husband, and the type of man who’s dedicated to home, family, and the love of their life.

Desiree is a painter. Do you paint?

No, I’ve never painted. And I did no graphical work when I wrote the novel. I only started creating graphics after I got my first computer in the late 90s and did no 3D art until 2005. My brother, however, is an exceptionally gifted illustrator and painter, so I was exposed to the lifestyle of a graphical artist. Sometimes, it’s amazing where inspiration comes from.

Why did it take so long for you to publish Painter of Dreams?

Many things delayed progress over the years, including illness and the many years I worked for a greeting card company, but I never lost faith in Painter of Dreams, in the beauty of the relationship that unfurls between Brandon and Desiree. A powerful theme throughout the story that has always moved me is the way the characters are dedicated to a dream. Being true to one’s dreams is one of my greatest beliefs, something I cherish and adhere to, something that’s of the utmost importance to me, which is why I’ve urged readers time and time again in my poetry to follow their dreams. In fact, one of my most popular poems is: “Follow Your Dreams.”

What about those who don’t like romance novels?

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of prejudice against the genre. And we all have genres we prefer over others. I’m not particularly into fantasy though I loved Tolkien’s books. And I’m not a big fan of sci-fi books either though I loved Frank Herbert’s work.

I suggest experimenting with different genres. What is there to lose? One may find something new that they absolutely love and such things make life worth living. The popular romance novel, Shades of Grey, is a prime example. A lot of people who never read romance are reading and enjoying it.

Most American men I know won’t admit that they read romance novels, but I know many who do, and a few who write them.

Why did you decide to e-publish the novel?

Because I wanted to be part of the book publishing revolution, and mostly because I no longer wanted to wait to share Painter of Dreams with other romance readers. Had I approached an agent, it could have taken years to see it in print. At 140,000 words, it’s also on the long-side for current acceptable length standards, which is around 80,000 to 100,000 words. It’s fast-paced, but it’s written more like the romance novels of the 80s and has a lot of story and depth. Some readers have told me that these elements are missing from most modern romance novels.

But though I consider myself somewhat of a rebel, I’m not against print publishing, and I hope to see my North Star series in print someday.

I’ve also written a horror novel, which is currently in the rough-draft stage. After I edit it, I’m considering approaching an agent to market it. First, I want to finish editing the next three books of the North Star series. Book two, Rose on My Pillow, is nearly there. Book three, as yet untitled, is in the advanced rough draft stage. Book four is in the early rough- draft stage—63,000 words so far. After they’re finished, I intend to throw myself into the horror novel (actually a trilogy, something like Flowers in the Attic), which I will probably publish under a pen name.