My 2020 Reading Challenge

2019 was my year of redemption. I was determined to reignite my love for reading and I did! Not only did I go over and above my Goodreads reading challenge but I also managed to cross off almost every book on my reading list.

2019, the year of the reader comeback will be followed by a year of relaxed reading and exploration.

Having read a mix of genres and authors last year, I’m feeling a little refreshed and fulfilled when it comes to diversity in the written world.

Although my Goodreads reading challenge stands at a hundred books for the year, I’m not going to push myself too hard to get there this year but read as and when I can.

That being said, having joined a couple reading communities like NetGalley, Reedsy and the Online Book Club, I will be giving more preference to supporting up-and-coming debut authors in their publishing pursuits through the form of voluntary book reviews.

Being a writer myself, I can relate to the struggle of getting your book out there and building word-of-mouth for it. I would like to pitch in and help those newly publishing their novels, especially through self-publishing and independent publishing houses.

However, to keep things light and fun, I do intend to tick off the following categories in this year’s reading challenge:

  • an audiobook
  • a book from your pre-2018 TBR pile
  • a book featuring a stereotypical ‘bad boy’/’bad girl’ trope
  • a book featuring a non-conventional hero/heroine
  • a book with a color in the title
  • an epistolary book
  • a funny/humorous book
  • a memoir
  • a book with the theme of mental health
  • a Newbery winning novel
  • a book with antonyms in the title
  • a “guilty pleasure” book
  • a book set in the place where I currently live
  • a LGBTQ+ fic novel

Have any suggestions for more categories? Do let me know in the comments. This is a growing list!

I hope everyone’s reading pursuits in 2020 go splendidly well! I’m looking forward to what the literary world has to offer me in the year ahead.

How to Create Authentic Characters

When was the last time you read a novel whose characters lingered with you far beyond the reaches of the pages they live on? Don’t you love the satisfaction of finishing a book yet still continuing to be emotionally invested and impacted by the stories it had to share?

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Maybe not as ‘enthusiastic’ as Pat here but you get the picture.

Compelling characters are the backbone of a good novel. They make or break the plot.

Without characters with strong arcs and development, the story loses its ‘oomph’ factor and becomes like any other mediocre read you have stowed away at the back of your bookshelf.

Now, I certainly wouldn’t wish that upon my stories and I’m guessing, neither would you! So here are some tips on how to create characters with class.

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Make Them Real

You would think that we dive into literature and fiction to get away from reality and on some level, we all do. But the characters that stay with us are quite often the ones we relate to the most, the ones that are fundamentally flawed and in being so, are human.

Whether you’re writing out a character who’s a wizard, alien or some sort of otherworldly creature, think about what you want that character to deliver to your readers. Make sure to incorporate certain human nuances to them which, trust me, will only make them stronger.

After all, you don’t want to alienate your readers into feeling this way.

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Don’t put them in this position.

Archetypes ≠ Stereotypes

Character archetypes are figures that resemble a familiar or recognizable set of traits attributable to one person. You might have heard of Jung’s archetypes which come up as a common reference among writers outlining their characters (and is also a credibly psychological analysis of universal personality patterns).

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Archetypes are a good way to classify your character and also better understand their incentives, fears and how they are perceived by the world. It forms the base to creating your character but the layers you add afterword are what sets your character archetype apart from turning into a stereotype.

You want to make sure you avoid what’s already been done for that particular character type. It’s alright to be inspired by popular portrayals in modern literature and cinema, as long as you add your own twist to the character that makes them stand out in their own way.

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Unique (and successful) examples of this trope would be Frodo from The Lord of the Rings, Neo from The Matrix and Katniss from The Hunger Games.

Know Your Creation

No one on this planet is more answerable for your characters than you are. You are their God and you should know them to their bones.

All the tiny details build essence and make them more real. Right down to the nitty-gritties such as whether they’re a shoe-shoe-sock-sock person or if they like rap music or their biggest pet peeves.

Every. Little. Detail. Counts.

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Yes, even that.

How can you expect your readers to connect to your characters if you don’t first?

A good way to do this is start with character outlines. Here’s a reference for you to check out and get you started!

Watch ’em Grow

You do not want your characters to be static throughout the novel with zero development. Even if they’re supporting characters, they can’t just be filler props to add depth to your MCs.

Every character has to have good reason to exist and should develop on some level throughout the novel. This is where the element of character relationships play an integral role.

How your characters interact with each other, play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses and navigate through these dynamics shape their role in the plot and their impact on the reader.

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Set Them Free

Often times, the plan we have set out for our characters doesn’t pan out exactly as we hoped, derailing to something surprising and perhaps, more wonderful.

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The beauty of bringing characters into existence includes giving them the power to choose their own path. So many times, I have been unable to write out a scene I planned for ages ago because my characters simply won’t allow it.

It’s almost as if they know themselves better than their own Creator. They break the fourth wall and refuse to cooperate unless I let them do what they choose to.

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The End

The novel may end but your characters don’t.

There is no end to character development.

They will continue down the path you set them and it’s important to let them experience that and try not to control 100% of their journey.

Give them space to breathe and evolve on their own, and you will see them flourish into something utterly captivating.

the Creator.

A universe sits at the tips of my fingers –
waiting to be penned into existence.

The blank page before me sings out from
the endless lines,
the infinite possibilities,
the worlds waiting to be breathed into life.

Characters hold their breath as their eyes follow the decorated spotlight
hands sweating
fingers digging into their trembling thighs
waiting for their moment to steal the scene.

The world shifts under their feet from
Daytime to nightfall
Green pastures and blue skies to
Muddy puddles and gray buildings.

I flick my wrist
and hearts break.

Ink blots
and darkness reigns the world.

I smile
and happy endings are in store.

For this is my creation
and I am it’s Maker.

But these unsuspecting innocents,
whose minds cannot possibly conceive
the madness of my own,
when they nudge me with their ignorance and ask
“What is your vocation?”

I sate their dwindling curiosities
my smile withholding the secrets of all I am
all I could bring to existence,
if I so desired
and simply say

“I’m a writer.”

Best Pinterest Boards for Writers

When you think Pinterest, the mental images of mouthwatering recipes, beautiful models setting off the latest fashion trends and picturesque landscapes might pop up. And you’re not wrong in thinking that Pinterest is a platform used to promote the culinary arts, fashion and travel. But have you ever wondered how you could leverage it as a writer?

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In this day and age, we have an abundance of tools at our disposal. In another post, I mentioned that Pinterest is one of my essential writing tools. And while the platform is a treasure chest of inspiring and helpful content for writers, there are a few specific boards that have helped me a lot.

Here are a couple of my favorites, a mix of renowned as well as lesser known ones that I’ve found cruising on the app. I hope these help you get started on your Pinning journey!


I. Writing Prompts

Some useless writing prompts for you illiterate chimps - Imgur

This board combines the best sources for writing prompts spanning across Tumblr, Instagram and other handy websites to provide you some pearls of inspiration or rescue you when you’re struggling with writer’s block.

II. Cover Love with BookRiot

The Voice in My Head book cover -- Dana L. Davis's new and upcoming book.

BookRiot has several boards that come in handy for readers but a favorite of mine is their cover-lovin’ board, filled with pins of beautifully done book covers. In my free time, I also draw and design book covers for some of my novels which in turn gives me the drive to keep working on them. Take a gander at these tasteful pins and imagine your own awe-inspiring cover. One day, we’ll get there too!

III. Writer’s Toolbox

Do you listen to music while you write? Here are 8 styles of music to check out.

Hands down one of the most useful reference boards I follow, the Writer’s Toolbox is your one-stop shop to all you could possibly need, linking to articles on their infamous blog (click on the one above for an example).

IV. Writer’s Spot

Moderately Confused (July/24/2019)

A lesser-known board but filled with an abundance of writing memes, quotes from famous authors and a smattering of tips here and there – this board is your laid-back writer’s vacay spot to chill at when you need a Pinterest break.

V. Writing Worksheets

Writing Character Flaws Worksheet

Are you a plotter? Do you like having your grand plans for your characters neatly scribbled down, documented and organized? This board’s for you, linking to a number of creative writing worksheets for your every need.

VI. The Writer’s Sandbox

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It may not be as (literally) eye-popping as Calvin and Hobbes’ sandbox but Mandy Wallace’s board has a mix of writing tips and tools for you to dig deep into your writing soul and build something magical.

VII. Character Inspiration

Yoshi Sudarso

One of my boards, this one features visuals of several unique and exotic individuals. When I’m looking to create a physical description of a character and in need of inspiration, this is where I go.

VIII. Great Advice for Writers

Ideas for people who HATE to plot... and for people who love it! / SKETCH OUT A PLOT FOR YOUR NOVEL #writing advice #writingtips #NaNoWriMo

Are you an aspiring writer and don’t know where to start? Or are you at a low point and looking for a little advice? As the title says, this one’s got helpful guides to specific topics, drafting tips and links to resources you can use to help you on your journey.

IX. The Craft of Writing

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Did you ever think of joining Tumblr but then changed your mind, now wondering what the writer in you is missing out on? Do not fret. This board pins screenshots of amazing posts from some of the best Tumblogs, making all of them instantly accessible in one place. Ranging from character construction to world building and dialogue, it’s all in here!

X. Writing + Editing

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Congratulations! You finished your first draft. And now, you have the daunting task of editing looking you in the eye. Is it insurmountable? Definitely not, especially if you’ve got this board to back you up. Everything editing related is on here; everything you’ll ever need to get you started on your next big adventure.


Are you an avid pinner? Are there any other boards you’d recommend? Comment if you have a few you’d like to share! There’s never enough writing tools in the world!

My Favorite Childhood Reads

Have you ever looked back on your childhood, feeling that pang of nostalgia hit you square in the chest as you think back fondly of those simpler times? Did you, like me, love hitting up the library and checking out as many book as you can at a time so you could consume them voraciously the moment you got home?

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I firmly believe my passion for writing stems from my love for books.

Countless hours were spent delving into the magical wizarding school of Hogwarts, of holding my breath in anticipation of the Baudelaire siblings’ attempts to escape Count Olaf’s evil clutches, of cooing over heartfelt young-love and fantasizing that one day I would find my own.

These stories shaped me as a person, both in terms of my writing and otherwise.

As a child, they say it’s hard to distinguish the line between reality and fantasy. I think that is the beauty of innocence; of not being exposed to what life really is, not just yet, but having that period of time, as brief as it may be, to simply float around and exist in a world that is entirely your own.

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Unless you had a Ned in your life to burst your bubble.

Below are a select few of my favorite books from an era long past. Maybe one of these days, I’ll revisit these novels. For now and forever, they will hold a special place in my heart.

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Coming-of-Age | Flipped

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Flipped is a romance told in two voices. The first time Juli Baker saw Bryce Loski, she flipped. The first time Bryce saw Juli, he ran. That’s pretty much the pattern for these two neighbors until the eighth grade, when, just as Juli is realizing Bryce isn’t as wonderful as she thought, Bryce is starting to see that Juli is pretty amazing. How these two teens manage to see beyond the surface of things and come together makes for a comic and poignant romance.

Bea-Factor: This book is so very dear to my heart (so dear that I was gifted a signed copy from the author addressed to me and it still is one of the best gifts I have ever received). I do not view Flipped as a romance though. Although the love story makes me crumble to pieces each time I read it, it is the values of family and trials of growing up are what really got to me, especially at that particular age. Read it and have your heart feel fuzzy again.

Science-Fiction | The Maximum Ride Series

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Six unforgettable kids — with no families, no homes — are running for their lives. Max Ride and her best friends have the ability to fly. And that’s just the beginning of their amazing powers. But they don’t know where they come from, who’s hunting them, why they are different from all other humans… and if they’re meant to save mankind — or destroy it.

Bea-Factor: This series is what started me off on my journey into the world of sci-fi. I loved the mash-up of teens with crazy superpowers that they gained through experiments they were subjected to. The first book got me hooked to the premise and thus my journey into sci-fi began.

Romance | Enthusiasm

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Julie’s best friend, Ashleigh, is an enthusiast. Julie never knows what new obsession will catch Ashleigh’s fancy, but she does know she’s likely to be drawn into the madness. Ashleigh’s latest craze is Julie’s own passion, Pride and Prejudice. But Ashleigh can’t just appreciate it as a great read; she insists on emulating the novel’s heroines, in speech, dress, and the most important element of all—finding True Love. And so Julie finds herself with Ashleigh, dressed in vintage frocks, sneaking into a dance at the local all-boys prep school, where they discover some likely candidates. The problem with Ashleigh’s craze this time, however, is that there is only one Mr. Darcy. So when the girls get a part in the boys’ school musical, what follows is naturally equal parts comedy and romance, as a series of misinterpreted—and missed—signals, dating mishaps, and awkward incidents make Julie wonder if she has the heart for True Love.

Bea-Factor: I’m a sucker for romance, especially light, fluffy novels. This one is abundant with references to Jane Austen and the book that introduced me to her works at a young age. Enthusiasm set the tone for the world of love for me. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a heartwarming, funny read.

Fantasy | Ella Enchanted

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At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the “gift” of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella. When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella’s life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you’ll ever read.

Bea-Factor: I was never big on the fairytale genre but this one knocked me off my feet. Some call it a retelling of Cinderella with a lot of twists but I never once associated it in that way. With a message for young girls on how to be strong, independent and self-aware women, Ella Enchanted stands on its own two feet.

Contemporary | Stargirl

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Leo Borlock follows the unspoken rule at Mica Area High School: don’t stand out–under any circumstances! Then Stargirl arrives at Mica High and everything changes–for Leo and for the entire school. After 15 years of home schooling, Stargirl bursts into tenth grade in an explosion of color and a clatter of ukulele music, enchanting the Mica student body. But the delicate scales of popularity suddenly shift, and Stargirl is shunned for everything that makes her different. Somewhere in the midst of Stargirl’s arrival and rise and fall, normal Leo Borlock has tumbled into love with her.
In a celebration of nonconformity, Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the fleeting, cruel nature of popularity–and the thrill and inspiration of first love.

Bea-Factor: Stargirl is a young-adult classic. Timeless, poignant and beautiful; it taught me the importance of being true to yourself and not giving into conformity, even if it means toughing it out. Never sell yourself to be part of the in-crowd. Always be you.

Horror | Night of the Living Dummy

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When twins Lindy and Kris find a ventriloquist’s dummy in a Dumpster, Lindy decides to “rescue” it, and she names it Slappy. But Kris is green with envy. It’s not fair. Why does Lindy get to have all the fun and all the attention? Kris decides to get a dummy of her own. She’ll show Lindy. Then weird things begin to happen. Nasty things. Evil things. It can’t be the dummy causing all the trouble, Can it?

Bea-Factor: The Stephen King for children; R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series was the grand influence behind my nightmares for a good chunk of my childhood. The Dummies books, in particular, led to my aversion toward toys and stuffed animals. I mean, can you blame me (Chucky, anyone)?

Action & Adventure | A Series of Unfortunate Events

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The series tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune. In the first book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

Bea-Factor: Boy, I was obsessed with Lemony Snicket’s legendary series the same way most teens were with the Harry Potter series when I was first introduced to it in the third grade. So much so that I begged my parents to buy entirety of it for me (a whopping thirteen books). Never regretted it.

Classics | Because of Winn-Dixie

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The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket—and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of WAR AND PEACE. They meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar. Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship—and forgiveness—can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm.

Bea-Factor: I love dogs and this book just increased my love for them leaps and bounds. Read the book, watch the movie and bask in the beauty of companionship between man and the best friend he could ask for. This book swept up a whole lot of awards for a reason: it’s simply enchanting.

Comics | Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes follows the adventures of Calvin, a rambunctious 6-year-old boy, and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, who comes charmingly to life.

Bea-Factor: That description does not do justice for the wondrous adventure that each comic strip provides for us of these two wacky characters. Before Garfield, TinTin and the Asterix series, Calvin and Hobbes is what drew me into the world of comics. I still read them from time to time when I’m in search of some biting snark, light humor and a reminder of the smaller (but a great deal more significant) things in life.

Manga | Fruits Basket

A family with an ancient curse… And the girl who will change their lives forever…
Tohru Honda was an orphan with no place to go until the mysterious Sohma family offered her a place to call home. Now her ordinary high school life is turned upside down as she’s introduced to the Sohma’s world of magical curses and family secrets.

Bea-Factor: The first manga that I committed to finishing completely was Fruits Basket. I loved the concept of the zodiac curse and the bright, optimism of Tohru, a girl who’s been through so much but refuses to let the trials of life take her down. And of course, cue all the nosebleeds from the number of attractive male characters. I should have known hotheaded badboys would be the death of me (Kyo-sama!)


What are some of your favorite childhood books? Did you see any familiar ones on my list? I’d love to hear yours in the comments!

After all, I may just revisit some of these reads sometime soon. A walk down memory lane is long overdue.

The First Story I Ever Wrote

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.
That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.

Octavia E. Butler

I love revisiting stories from my past. The tiny tidbits of scrawled poetry on the corners of wrinkled pages of my school notebooks, ramblings vaguely resembling prose on the back of a napkin from a café  I had once found inspiration in or even the notes on my phone containing pieces of a plot yet to be assembled together but on its way to forming an entertaining story.

It’s nice to look back on the things that made me the writer I am now, even if it means going so far back as to be cringe-inducing.

When people ask me about the first story I ever wrote, my memory conjures up an illustrated short story I made for an ESL (English as a Second Language) class in the first grade. I should have known that I would grow up to be the hopeless lover of romance that I am now. All the signs were there.

Nevertheless, I still have an odd sense of pride whenever I think back to my first efforts as a writer. Even at six years of age, I delighted in bringing form and fruition to the story that played in my head. I didn’t know it then but writing was my calling.

Admittedly, The Prince and the Princess is no masterpiece. Heavily inspired by a favorite fairytale at the time (Jack and the Beanstalk), there are a lot of similarities between the two stories. But that’s how inspiration works, especially in a child’s mind, right? You consume something, start to play with the ideas in your mind before making it your own in some special way.

Of course, my first ‘official’ story was one very hilarious result.

Without further ado, I present to you my first work of art, exactly as it were (with the pictures that I could salvage of it).


The Prince and the Princess

By: Betty Manuel

Once upon a time there was a prince whose name was Eric. He was going to buy some beans.

He saw a man with beans. He went to the man and asked, “Can I have those beans?” The man didn’t answer, but he gave him the beans. The prince paid $3 to the man.

He went to the castle and threw the beans to the floor.

The next day he saw a big beanstalk!

He climbed the beanstalk and saw a castle just like his. He went in the castle and saw a princess.

He asked to the princess, “What’s your name?” The princess answered, “Princess Steffany.” And she asked, “What’s your name?” He answered, “Prince Eric.” So they became friends.

The next day another fairy came and told the king (princess Steffany’s father) to drink the magic potion.

She gave the potion to change the king’s mind. The fairy said, “It will never make you die.” So the king drank it. It changed his mind.

The day came for the marriage to begin. The king came into the castle and opened the door.

The king said, “Stop the marriage!” Princess Steffany was shocked.

But when the king was going to take Steffany to her room, Prince Eric said, “Steffany and I love each other.” When the king heard that, the spell was broken.

After the spell was broken, they married. They also had children and lived happily ever after.

THE END.

(A Six Year Old’s) Author Bio

Betty was born on 1992 1997. She likes to see cartoon, go on trips and play computer.

She likes her friend, her parents and herself.

| am i wrong? |

Am I wrong to want you?

To go through the memories of us on repeat
my mind a broken record as I
pause | and play >
pause | and play >
your smile till it’s all I see
till the end of my days

Am I wrong to feel you?

In the emptiness of the sheets
in the cold of the night when I crave
your arms around my waist
and your breath near my ear
as you whisper lullabies like secrets
till we meet again in my dreams

Am I wrong to taste you?

When I take a bite out of an apple
or sink my teeth into the sweetness of chocolate
so close to the kisses you once gave me
in each one you etched on my lips
and into my memories
in the pouring rain
in between our secret getaways
in the endless hours we spent making love
till i felt nothing but you in my bones
in my soul

Am I wrong to believe in you?

To cling to the hope that one day you’ll see
there’s no greater love for you out there than than me
to the heart of mine you still carry in yours
broken, but still bound by the strings
of our Great Grand romance

Am I wrong to love you?

To keep loving you, knowing that
despite the hope; despite the memories
you will not return to me
or honor the promise you once made
to love me too till the end of time

Am I wrong

to keep drifting in and out of a world
where you are, immortalized in the past
while i continue to fade away
absent to an existence
in which i cannot live
(without you)

UNREQUITED [adjective] 1. not returned or reciprocated; unrequited love - a type of love which is not returned. 2. not avenged or retaliated. 3. not repaid or satisfied. Etymology: from un-, “not” + re, “again” + quite, variant of quit, “exempt,...