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The Princes of Stone and Steel (Roshambo Rising) by Sarah Zolton Arthur ➱ Release Tour with Giveaway

The Princes of Stone and Steel 
Roshambo Rising Book 1 
by Sarah Zolton Arthur 
Genre: YA Fantasy Romance 

She must remember the past to save the future. 

What starts as the abduction of Millie Merchant turns into an awakening of bitter truth. Her life is a lie. Her family a fake. It’s all been part of an elaborate hoax to keep her from her destiny. A destiny that lies in the land of Roshambo.

The lines between fantasy & reality blur as she’s transported to a fantastical realm boarding on extinction. Struggling to make sense of it all, Millie is presented with two princes determined to win her hand. One has her best interest at heart, the other seeks control of the realm. But who can she trust in a world full of strangers?

War is looming. Nightmarish beasts prowl the lands. It falls to Millie to be the salvation of Roshambo. For she alone is the ruler the Outliers have been searching for. The origins of rock, paper, scissors come alive in a tale far more twisted than a simple child’s game. 

Excerpt 1:

I think I peed a little
MY HEAD FELT FOGGY, LIKE THAT INTERIM TIME BETWEEN SICK AND WELL, when the antibiotics started to kick in, but you still couldn’t think clearly enough to go back to school. Not that I’d been sick. I typically never got sick. So, perhaps what I said wasn’t exactly accurate, except that I pulled my point of reference from other people’s conversations.
Part of me just wanted to get to school and get the day over with. I hated school, not the learning part. I actually liked to learn. I hated the people part. The socializing, or anti-socializing, in my case. We lived in small-town-nowheresville-Michigan which meant most of the kids at my high school were small-town-nowheresville students with paper-thin personalities that I could see right through.
It hadn’t seemed that bad before, I didn’t think, not until about three months ago when I’d made a new friend. She’d opened my eyes to the life of drudgery I’d been living amongst the jockstrap boys and mean girls. That bourgeois ‘us against you’ typical of the small-town Midwest and so very Michigan. A life so bourgie, numerous teenage angsty-to-rom/com movies had been made throughout the nineteen-eighties and nineties on this exact subject, or so my new friend, Korrigan, informed me by making me watch them, contraband-like, because Aunt Cynthia believed movies rotted the brain. Calling Cynthia old school was akin to calling the dark ages progressive. My aunt’s ideas on life and gender roles were nothing short of ancient.
The other part of me wanted to curl back up in my nice warm bed and try for sound sleep. I hadn’t slept soundly in months. Every single night, plagued by the same dream.
Immersed in this time and place—the intensity—that even though it wasn’t real… it felt real. The girl in my dream, Millicent, she was me, yet she clearly wasn’t me. Although we shared a few things in common, namely a name and a face, she lived in the nineteenth century and thankfully, I was a twenty-first century girl. Antibiotics. Sexual freedom. Pants.
The worst part was that it seemed the dream had been trying to tell me something. My subconscious reaching out to me. Cynthia didn’t believe in “that third-eye nonsense” as she’d called it after about the fourth time of me trying to explain the dream to her. Though, did the subconscious trying to work out a problem really constitute ‘third-eye’ anything?
“Millicent Merchant, get down here.” My great aunt called up the stairs to me from the landing in the living room, in her everyday harsh tone.
Cynthia, how did one describe Cynthia? I’d lived with her for as long as I could remember, and she wasn’t a cold woman per se, but wasn’t especially giving in the hug or kind words departments. Too pragmatic for either of our own good. She kept her white hair pulled back in the tightest ponytail imaginable, no doubt contributing to her sour mood. Her skin pulled taut on the sides of her face enough to smooth out her wrinkles and she always wore loose, white or off-white linen dresses with long sleeves, high neckline and fabric down to her ankles. She used wool shawls instead of a coat during the winter. The one modern convenience she afforded us was her car. Thank goodness for small miracles.
“Yes, ma’am,” I called back. I wasn’t being smart with her, my aunt expected me to address her as either ma’am or Aunt Cynthia. I couldn’t respond with a simple ‘yes’ to her without getting a ‘yes, what?’ in return.
She never cooked breakfast and I never asked her to. I skidded into the kitchen off the momentum of bounding down the stairs, to grab a yogurt from the fridge and a snack pack of pipitas out of the snack cupboard.
Spoon in mouth, I walked out the side door from the vestibule off the kitchen where we kept our washer and drier, and climbed directly into the parked car—aunt Cynthia’s metallic blue 1963 Oldsmobile Cutlass in pristine condition which got about 2.2 miles per gallon. Only one previous owner. She’d been driving it since before I was born, always promising this jewel of the road would be mine someday. Joy.
Our tiny farmhouse didn’t have a garage and I’d been hearing the loud rumbling of the massive engine for the past twenty minutes, when Cynthia went outside to start it. Just one woman’s way of punching a bigger hole in the ozone.
We had to leave ungodly early for me to get to school on time as she refused to drive any faster than twenty-five miles per hour. Thankfully the weather had held out for us so she didn’t have an excuse to go any slower like, say, when the snow started falling and I’d swear she put the car in neutral and let the wind push us along.
October in Michigan could go one of a few ways: a beautiful summer not quite ready to end, crisp fall, or polar vortex. We’d found middle ground this year with crisp fall. Real sweatshirt and jeans kind of temperatures. In any weather, Aunt Cynthia preferred I dress like a “girl” with frilly dresses and shoes with pointed toes and heels. I never wore dresses and preferred to wear my docs.
No hello as I clicked my seatbelt, only a, “Don’t slouch. It looks common.” Then she shifted into gear and drove forward around the circle drive to lead us down the bumpy, dirt path carved out from years of tire wear. See? Not really cold, but certainly not friendly.
As we reached the end of our very long country road Cynthia slowed but didn’t stop. A Jeep running perpendicular to us sped through the intersection missing the front end of the Olds by inches. She slammed on the breaks. I slammed a hand against the dashboard. The Jeep raced past without a second glance to see if we were okay.
“I think I peed a little,” I tried to infuse a little joking to ease a bit of the tension but she bristled out her look that said she’d have none of it. She bristled out that look a great deal around me.
I barely made it to school on time, what with her dropping down from her speed racer twenty-five to a respectably safe fifteen. My classmates shot out ridiculous taunts as I exited the front seat, directly in front of the school where Aunt Cynthia insisted she drop me off every day.
“You sure you’re all right?” I asked. The hope was small, but maybe she’d let me skip just today.
“I’ll be fine. Thanks for your concern.”
“If you need me—”
“I’ll be fine,” she cut me off and I knew damn well not to push the issue with her.
“Well, remember I get out late tonight. Working off my volunteer hours at the daycare.” The school called them “volunteer” but in reality, since we didn’t get a choice in it if we wanted that stupid diploma, I usually referred to them as “community service” hours. But I found that most parents—including Aunt Cynthia—didn’t like telling others their kid had to do community service.
Aunt Cynthia nodded. “See you at six.”

Excerpt 2:

 Millicent Merchant, 1820s…

“Shh…” Mármaro put a finger to his lips.
“What?” she mouthed without actually letting any sound escape her throat.
“We aren’t alone.”
Birch bark ripped like sandpaper against her exposed back as he pressed them both flat against a tree to avoid being seen. Content to wait for his cue, Millicent dug her fingernails deeply into the tree bark, scraping pulp deep under the quick as he set her down.
Rumblings of angry groans rippled out across the forest floor, like a pebble thrown into the center of a lake. The world around her appeared to change. Once vibrant colors dulled to muted tones in response to whatever lurked about around them. Millicent froze as terror gripped her feet, seizing them captive, unable to move forward. “What is that?”
“Stay close.” Mármaro ordered.
She held on, squeezing his hand tightly. They both strived to remain silent, but her heart beat so wildly, it felt impossible to imagine that it wouldn’t betray their position. They crept from tree to tree trying to avoid the loudest ripples.
“Ailuranthrope.” Mármaro barely whispered, almost as a thought not meant to be spoken. Millie squeezed his stone hand so tightly color left her own. He shook his head as if remembering she was with him. “Werecat,” he continued. “But why? They never stray this far south. Even still, they never travel alone.”
The pair started to turn back toward his home when a second monstrous cry echoed from the trees ahead of them. The leaves rustled. The sound of claws clicked along the hardened ground.
A creature emerged slowly from the thick, as if stalking its prey—nose tilted upward to welcome their scent dancing over the wind. As Millicent and Mármaro kept their undivided attention on the creature before them, hot breath tickled the back of Millicent’s neck. A small whimper escaped her. Mármaro whipped his head around to see part of the werecat’s massive frame. It smelled them but hadn’t seen them yet, evident, as they were still alive. But one wrong move would surely prove fatal.
Her chest rose and fell rapidly. They were about to die; she felt it in her soul. That was, until a hole opened up behind her legs. A hole just wide enough for a girl her frame to pass through appeared at the base of the birch. She gasped, startling Mármaro. He looked down and nudged her backward a shuffling step

Excerpt 3:

 Korrigan was right. If I played my cards right, I could probably find myself in a lip lock with several men tonight. The question was: Did I want to? I wasn’t exactly in my element here. She sauntered up to the bar in full-on Korrigan mode, swaying her hips seductively, throwing me a wink over her shoulder. Korrigan knew how to work a room.
Me, I stayed close, trying not to make eye contact or any sudden movements.
“Kori. Looking gorgeous as always.” The bartender, one of the highly-tattooed, highly-pierced, leather-and-denim-wearing masses, shot her a sly smile. “What can I get you?”
“Two of my usual,” she answered dryly, looking around everywhere but at him, as if already bored with the conversation.
“Coming right up.” Bartender-man’s tone wasn’t dry, and I got the sense that this was some sort of game the two played on a regular basis. “Who’s your friend there?” He gestured with his chin toward me.
“This is Mils. We work together.”
“Mils.” He smiled that same slick smile my way and handed off my bottle.
“Come on, girl.” She took my hand, leading us straight into the middle of the dancefloor. “Time to have some fun.”
Well, dancing had never been my forte but following Korrigan’s lead, I swayed my hips with my arms lifted in the air. Pretty much whatever move she threw out, I copied. Men pressed up against her backside dancing. Men pressed up against my backside dancing. A different guy than the one currently attempting to grind against me, most likely intoxicated, rather loudly asked my name again.
“Mils,” Kori answered just as loudly right as the music died to start a slow song. When I turned around to see who had asked my name, it didn’t matter once I saw him walking my way. I’d never seen such a stunningly handsome man before in my life. My mouth went dry and my feet forgot how to work. A zing of electric excitement trilled down my spine when we locked eyes. Holy-ever-loving-moly. Did I say my mouth went dry? Because it did and I became momentarily stupid.
Short, spiky blond hair the color of rose gold. Even through the haze of smoke, his eyes shone just short of glistening this startling silver-gray, reminding me of brushed aluminum. Majestically high, slightly rounded cheekbones and straight nose. Tall and toned, his sculpted biceps pushed the boundaries of the black T-shirt fabric’s stretch. In short, he appeared before me, the epitome of my ideal male perfection. Like a dream, he kept walking until we stood face to face, not moving.
“Mils?” he whispered, running a finger lightly up the length of my arm, spiking the tiny hairs along with my blood pressure. I was lucky to get my head to nod. Why he’d be paying me a lick of attention when Korrigan stood mere inches from us dumbfounded me.
“D-Do you have a name?” Great. Stuttering now. My embarrassment quickly waned, though, as a look flashed in his eyes when I asked his name. Disappointment, maybe?
“You can call me ‘Steele.’” Steele. His voice deep and smooth, but almost metallic at the fringes. I had the feeling that maybe I should have known him, possibly a local celebrity.
“Nice to meet you, Steele.”
“Nice to meet you, Mils.” Humorlessly, he laughed at the way he said my name and pulled on the hem of my leather vest until no space remained between us.
On any normal day, I’d have been put off by being laughed at. Today, however, was no normal day, and I found myself too mesmerized by the man to care.
Then, with his hands low on my hips, he swayed us slowly.
The moment might have been calm, but someone forgot to inform my heart because the way I felt it pounding in my chest, it must have thought we were slam dancing. Steele rested his forehead down in the crook of my neck. The whole experience felt glorious until his lips brushed my skin. He trailed his finger up and down my arm as he pressed his lips to the pulse on my neck. I stilled in his arms.
“Mils? What’s wrong?” Those eyes captured me, pulled me into them with the gravitational force of a black hole.
“I’ve never been… That is…” I released a long breath before continuing. “No one has ever kissed me before.”
There. That flash of disappointment in his eyes again.
“Then let me be your first.” Steele brought his mouth up so close to mine, his glorious scent, some mixture of fruity and minty, filled my nose. I closed my eyes as he closed the minute gap, brushing his lips softly at first against mine. His breath hitched. My breath hitched. And then he pressed deeper, not hurried, but like he cared about this kiss. The electric trill spread from my spine to all my extremities—arms and legs and fingers and feet.
When he pulled back, it took me a moment to collect myself. I wanted to scold him for doing so. I wanted him to kiss me and keep on kissing me until neither of us could stand any longer. Or until the bar closed and they kicked us out where we would have to go somewhere else to keep on kissing.
He began to sway our bodies again, and it didn’t matter that the song had switched back to fast, heavy and hard-hitting. Our dance felt intimate, as if he and I alone danced in this room full of people. My reaction to this stranger confused me yet felt as natural as laughing at the same time.
“Will you remember tonight?” He spoke softly into my ear. A curious question.
“Of course, I’ll remember tonight. I don’t think I could ever forget you.”

My favorite author right now is Jennifer L. Armentrout. I love Julie Kawaga and Wendy Higgins, too. Oh, and I have been known to read a Kristen Ashley book or ten. But I’m not a buy it just because that author wrote it type of reader. Sometimes they stray away from things that I enjoy in a book. Isn’t that a great thing about books? That there’s something out there for every taste.

Editing sucks your soul. Publishing is not that fun on our end. It’s all so much work, but the writing… the writing is the fun part. Three o’clock in the morning when most people are sleeping your eyes pop open and that’s when you reach for the trusty notebook and pencil you keep by your bedside to begin scribbling down this story concept or scene that forced you awake. Does that sound familiar to you? If so, then you might just be a writer, too. I can’t tell you how many stories started their life in scribbles that I found hard to decipher the next morning from those notebooks, or hastily written on napkins or even a square of toilet paper. Go ahead and laugh--it’s happened.

Sarah Zolton Arthur is a USA TODAY Bestselling author of Adult Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, Rom-Com, LBGTQ+, and PNR author who recently decided to dip her toes in the world of YA Fantasy. She spends her days embracing the weirdly wonderful parts of life with her two kooky sons while pretending to be a responsible adult. And there is plenty of the weird and wonderful to go around with her older son being autistic and the younger being a plain ol' wisecracker.

She resides in Michigan, where the winters bring cold, and the summers bring construction. The roads might have potholes, but the beaches are amazing.

Above all else, she lives by these rules. Call them Sarah's life edicts: In Sarah's world all books have kissing and end in some form of HEA. Because really, what more do you need in life? 

$25 Amazon Giftcard, a Princes of Stone and Steel notebook and a premium 22oz. insulated water bottle with logo 

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