Book Title: Dionysus in Wisconsin (Wisconsin Gothic, Book 1)
Author: E. H. Lupton
Publisher: Winnowing Fan Press
Cover Artist: E. H. Lupton
Release Date: May 26, 2023
Genres: Urban fantasy/historical M/M romance
Tropes: Living Aphrodisiac, Turning into a God, Offing the Offspring, In Love with the Mark, Occult Detective, Don't Go in the Woods, Prophesies Rhyme, Killing the God, A+ Parenting, Metamorphoses
Themes: self-acceptance, overcoming family history, mystical library communion
Heat Rating: 3–3.5 flames
Length: 78 000 words/ 350 pages in paperback
The story ends with a lovely HEA.
Book 2 is due in early 2024.
A graduate student and an archivist work together to fight a god.
Fall, 1969. Ulysses Lenkov should be working on his dissertation. Instead, he's developing an unlucrative sideline in helping ghosts and hapless magic users. But when his clients start leaving town suddenly—or turning up dead—he starts to worry there's something afoot that’s worse than an unavenged death or incipient insanity. His investigation begins with the last word on everyone's lips before they vanish: the mysterious Dionysus.
Sam Sterling is an archivist who recently moved back to Madison to be closer to the family he's not too sure he likes. But his peaceful days of teaching library students, creating finding aids, and community theater come to an end when the magnetic, mistrustful Ulysses turns up with a warning. There's a god coming, and it looks like it's coming for Sam.
Soon the two are helping each other through demon attacks, discovering the unsavory history of Sam's family, and falling in love as they race to find a solution. But as the year draws to a close, they'll face a deadly showdown as they try to save Sam—and the city itself.
“What did you want with it, anyway? There’s nothing of value in there. Just books. I would have let you look at any of them if you’d asked.”
Ulysses took a deliberate step closer, and Sam found himself retreating until he fetched up against the metal of the door. “Would you have, though? If I’d come to you and said I needed to investigate why the spirit of the stacks seems interested in you?” Ulysses took another step forward. They were standing far closer than people generally did, and it was both thrilling and terrifying. “Because a lot of people might find a request like that peculiar.”
Sam’s mouth went dry. They were practically chest to chest now. “I—Yes!” he said, and tried to pull himself up to his full height. “I don’t know what any of that means.”
Ulysses nodded. “Then this is going to be weird for you,” he muttered, voice rough and practically in Sam’s ear, and grabbed him. He opened the lock and pushed Sam through the door before he could protest.
On his desk were a white candle and a small, heart-shaped piece of blond wood that held a pencil in a vertical position. Beneath it was a sheet of typing paper, blank except for a cursive letter D in the center of the page. “What’s all this?”
“The inconclusive results of last night’s experiments,” Ulysses said. He grappled with the chair for a moment and then shoved it out into the corridor, shutting the cage’s door between it and them. There was just barely enough room for both of them standing up. This was going to be hideously embarrassing if anyone came along and caught them.
Ulysses, heedless, was lighting the candle with a Zippo. “The building seemed to have something to say to you in the elevator. Maybe it just needs more time to build up to a real psychic discharge, but we can’t wait that long.” He grinned again, eyes wide. “So I thought I’d bring it what it wants, and see if that helps.”
“You—what exactly do you do, Mr. Lenkov?”
“I’m a human lightning rod.” He reached up and grasped Sam very gently by the chin, turning his face to the candle. “Look. Be silent and breathe. Think about the flame.”
The other man’s taut body was pressed right up against Sam’s back, his left arm wrapped around Sam’s waist, and the candle flame was definitely not where Sam’s thoughts were heading. His face still tingled where he’d been touched. “Lenkov,” he said uneasily, “Ulysses. Are you okay? Are you—”
“No drugs, if that’s what you’re trying so delicately to ask. I never touch the stuff. Now hush.”
For some reason he wasn’t entirely clear on, Sam hushed. The man’s tone of voice seemed to demand compliance. At first all he could feel was the rush of blood through his veins, most of it headed southward. But after a while, his head started to clear. He could feel Ulysses breathing behind him and the movement of air through the study cages, smell the paper and Ulysses’s piney cologne and the slightly acrid candle. It wasn’t that his body stopped responding with arousal, but rather that for what felt like a few increasingly long moments he was conscious of all of it, and the linoleum beneath his feet, the rush of water through the pipes of the building. The loud clicks as the motion sensors turned the lights out, one row at a time. Still they stood in their tiny puddle of candle light.
Then, suddenly, the temperature dropped. Sam opened his eyes wide, afraid to say anything lest he break the spell, but also more generally terrified. He twisted slightly, but Ulysses’s grip was unforgiving. The other man leaned forward, murmuring something almost inaudible in a calming tone, and Sam gave up. Whatever was going to happen, he’d have a front-row seat for it. His breath hissed out, steaming.
Ulysses reached out and grabbed Sam’s right hand with his. “Using your left hand,” he whispered, “touch the planchette. Whenever you’re ready.”
Sam wanted to ask how he’d know when he was ready, but as their skin connected he felt a tension building in the room. It reminded him, abruptly, of the churning green clouds before a thunderstorm. The tension was in him, too, somehow, like anxiety but not quite, a nauseating squirming thing hiding there behind his breastbone. He closed his eyes and let it build for another minute, until it reached a level he couldn’t stand anymore.
He touched the planchette and felt it jerk to life as something ran through Ulysses and through him and somehow grounded itself in the paper. It was a little like the peculiar relief offered by a sneeze or an orgasm or taking off a pair of painful shoes, and a little like a static shock turned up to eleven. He might have shouted.
A moment later, Ulysses reached around him and pinched out the candle flame. Sam leaned dumbly against the wall, trying to catch his breath, and Ulysses turned on the overhead light, swung the door open, and carefully pushed Sam down into the chair.
“Sorry about that,” Ulysses said, sounding entirely unaffected. He picked up the page from beneath the planchette and frowned at it. Sam looked at the little stylus, which gave a desultory wriggle and was still.
About the Author
E.H. Lupton (she/they) lives in Madison, WI with her family. She is the author of the novella The Joy of Fishes (Battered Suitcase Press, 2013/2015). Her poems have been published in a number of journals, including Paranoid Tree, Poet Lore, 300 Days of Sun, and House of Zolo's Journal of Speculative Literature. She is also one half of the duo behind the hit podcast Ask a Medievalist. In her free time, she enjoys running long distances and art.
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