I am incredibly excited to announce that I have been recognised as a Book Excellence Award Finalist for my book, The Year the Swans Came in the Romance Category.

Founded in Toronto, Ontario, the Book Excellence Awards is an international book awards competition dedicated to recognising both independent and traditionally published authors and publishers for excellence in writing, design and overall market appeal.

For me, it has proved a worthwhile experience. An earlier book, Broken, was also entered and sales in Canada were the unexpected result. But with Swans, there was a dilemma. There was a fantasy category but I always think of fantasy as set in some far-distant world in which everything is very different from what we have come to call ‘normal’. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a magical realism category, which is set in our world but with a twist. This is a pity because the genre has, in the last five or so years, acquired a huge following, with books such as The Miniaturist, The Toy Makers by Robert Dinsdale, and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – a category into which ‘The Year the Swans Came’ slips with ease.

I have read all of the above and love them, especially Natasha Pulley’s Watchmaker of Filigree Street which I thought fabulous – and have read it twice already. For me that is a rare accolade. Girl with a Pearl Earring was the last book and maybe I have read that three times. Actually it was Tracy Chevalier’s writing plus a visit to Amerstdam in 2010 that was the inspiration for Swans.

And so, back to categories, I chose romance. And yes, The Year the Swans Came is a love story – very much so.  

To view my complete award listing, you can visit:!/The-Year-the-Swans-Came-Romance/ And of course it is available on Amazon:

Review by Katherin February 2020

Heart wrenching novel of epic scope! I picked this book for the title-I love swans-but this far exceeded my hopes. Ms Spenser has woven a tale of magic and myth that will live in my heart and head forever! Two teenage girls from a land torn by war and occupation come of age together-one gorgeous and selfish, the other insightful and reserved-learning I’d love, loss, family and the frailty of outward appearances. This book seemed slow and steady at the beginning and a little too full of secrets that happened prior to the opening pages but once it got going it just flew fast and furious like a summer storm and the secrets were revealed one after another. I loved it! Thanks to #netgalley for the ARC of #theyeartheswanscame in exchange for an honest review.

‘Planned as a Stand-Alone, The Year the Swans Came has ended up as part of a five-book series which includes the trilogy, Children of Zeus. In my life I have met up with people who are sensible and people who are impatient and reckless. Among the former I name many fellow authors, including Margaret Skea and Catherine Kullmann who plotted their books and careers with care, and Stephanie Churchill Ling, who has sent her latest novel away for reviews BEFORE she even contemplates publishing. Despite being the most law-abiding and cautious of individuals and timid to boot, when it comes to my writing career fool-hardy is the only word I can apply to my actions. Well-known at Waterstones and also schools for my thrillers written for children and YA’s, who in their right mind would change horses in mid-stream and write magical-realism for adults? Admittedly the reasoning behind the decision was sound – I wanted to gain a foot in the ebook world and my readers preferred paperbacks. And that is how I came to write Swans.

However, when an agent suggested a prequel – should I have paused? Not sure, the jury is still out on that one. In any event, when I began the prequel, a most curious event took place … not quite things that go bump in the night but very close. Now I am a planner not a pantser. I mean you can forgive a pantser for changing horses in midstream but not a planner and I’d already had trouble with the main male character in Swans – Zande. Mysterious and tantalising, he started out as Xander until he decided it didn’t suit his character and changed the spelling! Hand on heart, I had nothing to do with it. (Okay maybe it originated with a typo but that’s not anywhere near as exciting a story!) So first it was Zander and then Zande with the accent on the final e.

But exactly the same thing took place in the prequel. Meaning to write about the early years of Zande, I reached about chapter 3 and realised this wasn’t Zande. This was someone very different whose name was Yöst! And the story? I had envisaged a nice little story about Zande growing up in a carinatae village, eagerly anticipating his 16th birthday when he would transform, shape-shifting into both a swan and also the angelic form of Zeus himself. I ended up with a story of flight, persecution and death as Yöst, Zande and Tatania, the two children Yöst rescues from a burning village, try to keep one step ahead of the priest, determined to eradicate the carinate from the face of the earth. Set in the Bay of Biscay off the coast of France fourteen years earlier; it starts with a bang and ends with one too.

And so The Click of a Pebble was born. And the title? I went to a talk on titles where it was suggested you picked words from the first pages of the novel. And that is what I have done for all three, An Ocean of White Wings and The Drumming of Heels..

Is that it?

No. I promised a sequel to The Year the Swans Came which was published at the end of April. I think you will agree Sunset on Golden Wings ties up the five-book series in a sumptuous bow.

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 Barbara Spencer
Award Winning Author of Broken and The Amazing Brain of O C Longbotham

Amazon Central: ttps://



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