By Kris McDowell
William Ritter’s award-winning middle grade fantasy series, The Oddmire, is releasing a much-anticipated third exploit of brothers Tinn and Cole this month.
The gripping monster-filled, scary-funny adventure goes beyond entertainment to seamlessly intertwine lessons about understanding who you are, the love of found families and finding one’s way in a wild, unpredictable world.
Oregon-native Ritter graduated from the University of Oregon with degrees in English and Education and currently teaches high school Language Arts.
He made his debut in 2014 with the first book of his four-book Jackaby series. The young adult (YA) series was named after his youngest son.
Ritter said, “It’s full of the sort of themes I thought he might need to hear as he got older, but I know it would be many years before he reached the right age for it.”
With The Oddmire series, Ritter was writing for a slightly younger group of readers, the middle grade (MG) audience.
“In a much more direct way,” he said, “I wrote that series explicitly for my boys. They were my very first readers and the story is their story. As a result, it is full of messages about families and brothers, love and identity.”
When asked about whether his YA and MG books are suitable for adult readers, Ritter replied, “Middle grade is a tumultuous period of becoming and discovering; a time when the world around you seems to expand by the second into wild, uncharted territory. For kids in the middle grade range, it can feel like absolutely anything is possible, which is as terrifying as it is exciting.
“I don’t need to be the same age as Harry Potter or Aru Shah or Miles Morales to find their stories thrilling and relatable,” he added. “The Oddmire does not talk down to its readers, nor does it sideline adults – parents play a very active role throughout the series – but that does not make it anything other than middle grade.”
For readers of any age, who haven’t read the first two books in The Oddmire series, Ritter recommends starting at the beginning.
“While each book restates the essential details necessary to keep up with the plot, the emotional arcs of the characters will be far more satisfying when read in order.”
Not sure The Oddmire is for you or younger readers in your life? Check out an excerpt below from The Oddmire, Book 3: Deepest Darkest below or tune into the Tuesday, June 22, 7 pm livestream reading by the author at bit.ly/June22Reading.
THE FOREST WHIPPED PAST THE THING IN A BLUR.
It was feeling things it had not felt in a very long time – and some it had never felt at all. The pain, the cold, the fear…these were all too familiar. But nestled beside them now was something else, an exquisite ache. The Thing could scarcely breathe.
It had failed. It had tried to consume a changeling boy, and it had failed – and then everything had come crashing down.
The boy’s words echoed in its skull. Nobody ever came for you, did they? That isn’t fair. The Thing burrowed its face into the soft earth, but that voice was everywhere.
His hand, gentle and warm, had scooped it up, held it close. The boy’s eyes had looked down at it with such pity.
I am sorry that you suffered, the boy had said. You didn’t deserve that. You didn’t deserve to be turned into this.
The Thing dug more deeply now. It roared a furious roar to drown out the words and the feelings, but all that escaped into the cold night was a piteous wail, little more than the squeaking of a mouse. It was all too much.
It clutched at shadows, trying desperately to pull the darkness around itself as it once had, to create for itself an armor of icy midnight. The shadows melted through its fingers like smoke. Something had changed – not in the shadows, but within the Thing itself – and it couldn’t put itself back the way it was.
The Thing did not want to be different. It burrowed deeper.
The Thing could still feel the warmth of the child’s hands, clinging to it like tar. It had felt something else, too, while it was being held. It had felt – not anger … not hate…
The memory burned like acid in the pit of its stomach.
Deeper and deeper it tunneled.
The Thing had felt…
But how? How could the boy treat it that way – after everything it had done, had tried to do, had promised to do? The boy had seen the Thing at its worst and he had not given up on it. He had greeted its sharpest barbs with tenderness.
Nobody had ever come for the Thing. The boy was right about that. The boy’s family had come for him, and his friends, and even the forest folk. But nobody had ever come for the Thing. Not ever.
Except for the boy.
The boy had come for the Thing. He had knelt down and reached out for the Thing, held it, given it a chance. If, against every rational instinct, the boy could love a wretched creature such as it… then maybe the Thing was capable of being loved after all.
All at once, the ground beneath the Thing’s fingers crumbled away, and it nearly dropped into a gaping underground cavern. The Thing caught itself and breathed in deeply. There were bodies moving below it in the dark; the Thing could sense them. It could also sense hopelessness and despair. The Thing closed its eyes and tasted currents of misery in the clammy air.
Yes. This was familiar. This was a flavor the Thing knew.
It drank deeply.
Around it, the darkness slowly thickened and coalesced once more.
Yes. This was right. Nothing had changed. The Thing could do great, terrible things down here.
The book is currently available on pre-order from local bookstores and through the Multnomah County Library, prior to its June 22 release date.