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Using Reality in an Urban Fantasy Novel - guest post by J Lenni Dorner

The most typical identifiers of the urban fantasy genre are a modern city setting (primarily), fantastical or supernatural elements, dark subject matter, and main characters with a "normal" life in addition to their secret, paranormal one.

"Urban fantasy storylines combine the real-life grit with of modern world with fantastical worldbuilding." -

I enjoy sprinkling in reality. I love when readers are left questioning if the story is actually fiction. Urban fantasy is one of the rare fiction genres to allow for plausible questioning.

For example, in Proof of Existence, my characters spend some time traveling in tunnels under Europe. Sure, that sounds like worldbuilding. How convenient of me, the author, to just imagine a way for the characters to get around unseen. Except it wasn't worldbuilding. Look it up. There are actual tunnels running under Europe. Some are thousands of years old. It has been suggested there were rodents, like groundhogs, who were massive in prehistoric times, and that those "dino-rodents" are responsible for at least a third of the elaborate tunnel system. Others suggest it was pagans, who hid entrances at disguised shrines so worshippers could escape persecution and death. In my story, an ancient incarnation of my character, Heath, was responsible for this phenomenon.

[ Caption: Shout-out to Punxsutawney Phil. One of the two pictured here probably has an ancestor who built tunnels under Europe. ]

Another way I worked reality into Proof of Existence was by using some real weather. Sites like Weather Spark kept track of historical weather in New York City. (2006 is "historical." 🤯) On the date I set the scene, there was an actual storm with unusual elements. Did my characters actually create the rain, lightning, and wind that day? It's plausible if they aren't fiction. Followers of my blog or the WriteEditPublish flash fiction hop got a taste of this:

While some news stories and sources have come under fire in the last few years, there are still articles that contain verifiable facts. The cover image of Proof of Existence shows the Brooklyn Bridge. In the novel, Xavier and Heath discuss the article from the New York Times about a room found under that bridge. While it could be there for many reasons (storage for bomb-shelter supplies was not the original purpose), in the universe of my characters, it connects to more underground passages built by Heath for members of the Existence to move covertly. The room is real. Several New Yorkers saw it before the city made it nearly impossible to reach. And, though the smell in there is less than desirable, the room itself is really neat. And yeah, it's very easy to believe that there could be a secret door in there going to an underground passage.

The original myths and legends, passed down from pre-colonizers times, painted the characters of the Existence as real. Incorporating reality in this series helps to keep it in line with what my Lenni-Lenape elders shared. Have you ever read an urban fantasy that made you question if it was actually fiction?


J Lenni Dorner is best known for the Existence book series. Book one, Fractions of Existence, and book two, Proof of Existence, are on Amazon. Author of the short story, Lumber Of The Kuweakunks, on Smashwords. Also known for the writer's reference books, Preparing to Write Settings that Feel Like Characters and Writing Book Reviews As An Author: Inspiration To Make It Easier.

J is part of the Operation Awesome Team, where he runs the Debut Author Spotlight on most Wednesdays. J is an April Blogging from A to Z #AtoZchallenge international bloghop co-host.

(he/him 👨🏽 or 🧑🏽 they/them) ~ Speculative Fiction & Reference Author, OperationAwesome6 Debut Author Interviewer, and Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge

World-ending secrets and threats…

Proof of Existence picks up from Fractions of Existence's cliffhanger, where Gwendolyn is among the hostages of the Eyes in the Shadows, a religious sect that has been trying to free humans from the “prison” of life on Earth for millennia. Rescuing her requires the Existence to expose themselves. As omnipotent beings, their work to protect humanity has been mostly in secret for the last two centuries.

Gwendolyn must remember and embrace what she truly is, though fear and doubt stifle her. She risked everything by acting on her attraction to Xavier, but her religious beliefs stop her from taking the important next step. Life-threatening news has her wanting to go home to see her family. Will they still love and accept her, despite her actions and choices? Or could a secret rip her family apart?

Feeling lonely, tormented, and useless, Existence member Heath goes off the grid. A ransom video from Eyes in the Shadows demands he be traded for the lives of others. Can the Existence find him in time to tell him about the threat? Even if Heath can be reached, would his kind really trade him to potentially save someone else?

The Eyes in the Shadows is set to finally end all human life on Earth forever. Only if the Existence is reunited, with all members at full power, could they stand against them. How many will suffer if the Existence should fail? How much damage could possibly be done in the next twenty years? Proof of Existence, the second book of the Existence mythological urban fantasy series from J Lenni Dorner, is set during the first half of 2006.

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Happy release day, J! Proof of Existence is an excellent read. Check out my review this coming Monday.

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