Dear readers, tonight with me is a teacher, but not a regular school teacher, She specialises in teaching cryptid children. She’s here to tell us about the supernatural world and the mysterious Stronghold in the remote Oregon mountains.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in Tualatin, Oregon. I didn’t do much outside of my home because my parents kept me very isolated. If I wasn’t studying, in church, or in school…I really didn’t have much to do outside of those things. I was a good girl and did what my parents and Pastor Ananda wanted, mainly because I had seen demons and dragons as well as woods elementals and was frightened of them for a while.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

My parents were second-generation Indian immigrants who converted to Pentecostalism along with my uncle Jayanesh, as part of a splinter church under the direction of Pastor Ananda. Ananda had a ministry converting halfling humans who were part-supernatural to his brand of Christianity and “exorcising” their supernatural abilities to make themselves appear human. My parents were really strict and I didn’t get to date or do much until I went to college. Otherwise, I studied, went to church, and…well, that was it. In high school I was a teacher assistant in a self-contained special education classroom and that got me hooked on working with special needs children.

What do you do now?

Now I teach cryptid construct children in an isolated Eastern Oregon community. It’s a challenge, but it’s fun too, because these kids want to learn. It’s just finding what works to help them learn. I don’t know everything about what it means for them to be cryptid constructs—only that they’re part Sasquatch—but give enough time and I will.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, since I now know for sure that my ex-husband Karl isn’t just stalking me, but is a blood elemental, I’m really, really invested in making sure that this position pays off. I mean, 40k for six months’ work, and Karl’s supposed to be leaving me alone! I think that’s great. Now if only my uncle and Pastor Ananda don’t find out where I am….

What did you first think when you came to Klone’s Stronghold?

This place is weird. Like, really weird. Am I going to have problems in this place because I’m brown? Why did Reed meet me with a loaded shotgun? What the heck is that big otter-like creature that went running out of the barn? Why does the Outpost always shimmer when I’m driving up to it? Why do the bushes seem to be grabbing at me all the time when I try to walk down a trail?

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

Now that would be telling, wouldn’t it? Let’s just put it this way—as far as I know, I’m an ordinary human. No supernatural abilities, no supernatural ancestry. How can I stay safe when I’ve got all these supernaturals around me?

What is the worst thing about living at Klone’s Stronghold?

We are really, really isolated. I’ve always lived in the city or a small town. Driving five-seven miles (it seems to change every time!) to the Outpost for bare essentials and auto repair just makes it real. Otherwise we have to drive 30-40 miles to shop.

What is the best thing about it?

The air smells so fresh! My class is small—five kids, and while their development is slow for their age, they’re a lot of fun to work with.

Tell us a little about your friends.

Trina helped me break free from my parents in college when we were roommates. We were friends, then lovers, and then we met Rocky and Karl. Rocky worked out well for Trina—Karl didn’t for me. It was all in college, at the University of Oregon. Trina—and Rocky, too—would take me in without question. Trina and Rocky both helped me get away from Karl.

And now I might be making some friends here at the Stronghold, and that would be nice, too.

Any romantic involvement?

I’m not very interested since I’m getting over Karl. Though Strug looks kind of interesting and he smells good—I’m not ready for anyone. I have to figure things out first.

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

My Uncle Jayanesh is a real asshole. He makes my skin crawl whenever I am around him. He bosses Mama and Papa around a lot, and he made Grandma Deva go away when I was little. I can’t remember why Grandma had to go away. Pastor Ananda makes me feel the same way, only worse and I don’t know why. He’s always been polite to me but something under my skin just starts quivering when he’s around. And then there’s Karl. He’s wrecked my life. I made a really shitty choice when I chose to marry him. Finding out from Strug that Karl is a blood elemental makes a lot of sense.

What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?

I love the color blue. I don’t drink much usually, but when I do I have a microbrew. I like to go to music festivals and jam band concerts—my favorite band is the Mudholes. I hope that someday I can follow their tour, but even though Rocky and Trina would front me for it, I don’t want to depend on them.

What does the future hold for you?

It’s scary. I guess I’m going to be in charge now, and figuring out what I can do now that I know what I really am is going to make a huge difference. But hey, I can do it. After what I’ve just gone through, I can do anything.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

I’ve always liked electricity.

Joyce Reynolds-Ward is a speculative fiction writer who splits her time between Enterprise and Portland, Oregon. Her short stories have appeared in Well…It’s Your Cow, Children of a Different Sky, Steam. And Dragons, Allegory, River, and Fantasy Scroll Magazine, among others. Her books include Shadow Harvest,Alien Savvy, Netwalking Space, Pledges of Honor, Challenges of Honor, and Klone’s Stronghold. Projected 2019 book publications include Choices of Honor, Judgment of Honor, and Oregon Country. Joyce has edited two anthologies, Pulling Up Stakes (2018), and Whimsical Beasts (2019). Besides writing, Joyce enjoys reading, quilting, horses, skiing, and outdoor activities.

You can find Reeni on the pages of Klone’s Stronghold.

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