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Tuesday, June 30, 2015


A former English teacher, Lynette Sofras gave up a high level career in education to focus on her writing a few years ago, thus fulfilling her lifelong dream. She mainly writes women fiction, often with suspense and/or a supernatural twist. When not producing novels, she works as an editor and writing tutor at 24houranswers.com. Learn more about Lynette and her books at her website and blog.

It's said that most Americans will experience poverty at some point in their lives, particularly inner city or rural dwellers. What seems almost ludicrous to me is that as the world advances in so many ways, poverty is steadily increasing. In the UK, the dramatic rise in the number of people using food banks is testament to the fact that poverty is no longer a third world issue.

When times are tight, there are numerous ways you can cut back on expenses to save money for essentials. You don't have to starve or live in misery, thanks to food banks and the supermarket price wars. Buying budget brands doesn't always mean sacrificing quality and essential nutrition. In the UK, stores like Lidl and Aldi are forcing competition and the big name supermarkets are having to downprice accordingly. If you don't want to switch loyalties, try switching brands for a month to see how much you can save. Search for offers and money-off vouchers in free magazines or the Internet. Visit markets, boot/garage sales and auction houses to hunt down cheaper alternatives.

Foregoing expensive forms of entertainment for a short while can also help you save pennies. Cut out fancy restaurants and get experimental in the kitchen. Visit museums and libraries and broaden your mind for free or simply get healthy with a walk in the park and perhaps a picnic lunch.

While I've never known real deprivation, I did go through a period of financial hardship when I was bringing up a young child with virtually no support from the father, while putting myself through university and beyond to ensure I could provide for us both in the future. It is perhaps hardly surprising, therefore, that money issues infiltrate some of my novels. In my latest romantic suspense, The Nightclub, two half-sisters, fleeing a pretty dreadful past, find themselves living hand to mouth and surviving only with great difficulty. Money is so tight, they have to live in a squalid flat, shop at charity shops or scavenge for market bargains, and re-use teabags to save pennies. But they have each other, determination and ambition.

The Nightclub
Trying to make a living for her teenage sister and herself, naïve Laura Hamilton accepts a job offer as a hostess at an infamous London nightclub. As she struggles to survive in a world of sex, drugs and corruption, she certainly doesn't expect to find her own knight in shining armour in the club's owner, Julian. But will he really save her from a future as a fallen woman? And is he involved in the criminal organisation that threatens not only her sister's life, but will change her own fate forever?

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ManicScribbler said...

Thanks again for inviting me to your excellent blog :)

KM Rockwood said...

Some of my characters live on a financial edge. I find people questioning me about characters who don't have cell phones (if you're on government assistance, you have one provided, but if you're making it on your own resources, you have to weigh the costs against everything else) or TV's. A frayed bootlace two days before payday can be a major disaster. Increased peanut butter costs can send a food budget into crisis. An unexpected drug test ordered by a parole officer may take a big hunk of your rent money. SNAP benefits, if you qualify (which is more complicated than many people think) won't provide enough, and don't cover things like toilet paper and soap.

It's nice to see a book where the realities of living on a shoestring are presented.

KM Rockwood
Jesse Damon Crime Novels

ManicScribbler said...

Thanks, KM, you make some powerful points, and I'll look out for your books. I think it's important for us to tackle real issues in our stories, instead of always giving in to fairy tale fictions. I enjoy a bit of escapism in my reading, but prefer writing about reality.

Gloria Alden said...

I can attest to the fact that KM's Jesse Damon books are a great series.

As for me, I've never experienced real poverty, but there was a time when I was a new
teacher - and they don't earn a lot - and my husband of 31 years had a mid-life crises
and left. I couldn't afford to buy him out on the house we owned so we refinanced it so
I could put a down payment on a small farm with a run down house. Believe me, making two
house payments - he only paid for half of the one I was still living in - was a real
stretch on my finances. Add to that, someone pulled out in front of me and my car was
totaled and since the other person and I both had the same insurance company, I wasn't
given enough money to replace my car, which ran very well even though it was older, with
anything other than an old clunker. I got through it though.

ManicScribbler said...

Hi Gloria - my goodness, that old saying 'it never rains but how it pours' must certainly be true.
I hope you are well past that difficult stage now. Thanks for your comments.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Years ago when hubby was overseas during the Vietnam War, my allotment check was late and I had no food in the house to feed my kids. I went to my neighbors' houses one by one and borrowed one thing from each of them: an onion, two carrots, two potatoes, a can of green beans, and possibly some ground beef (I don't remember what exactly) and I made soup. I prayed the neighbors wouldn't compare notes. When I got my check I planned meals for the whole month, shopped and what I bought had to last.

Suzanne said...

Living tight can be a beast. I'm really glad to see someone writing about it because it happens to a lot of people -- especially college-educated, middle-age, divorced women. People who have never had to tighten their belts cannot imagine the little day-to-day hardships that often generate a negative Ripple Effect.

For example, if you own a car, even a 20-year-old clunker, you don't qualify for Food Stamps. The Welfare Department expects you to sell that clunker (and get maybe $500 for it?) before they'll consider you for assistance. Of course, not having that car automatically drops you into an even lower rank of poor. And if you have food allergies and cannot eat preservatives, you're going to wind up spending a lot for food regardless.

Write on, Lynette.

ManicScribbler said...

Marilyn, that quite literally brought tears to my eyes. What kind neighbours and how brave of you to go to them for help (I know how difficult asking for help can be). You learnt a valuable lesson from that experience. I'm curious to know if you still plan your menus for the whole month? That's a discipline I would certainly love to learn.

Anonymous said...

KM Rockwood, loved your comments. A lot of stories of "living on the edge" still involve a fair amount of disposable income. I recall reading a novel about a poor young mother who could only buy her 1-year-old daughter a single outfit from Baby Gap for Christmas. She wrapped the leggings and top separately so the gift wouldn't appear so poor and pathetic.

When I was growing up, we were definitely not poor--but all of our clothing came from second-hand stores and yard sales, and the books we owned all came from second-hand stores and the annual library book sale. It's a shock to read about "poor" characters buying coffee out, etc.

ManicScribbler said...

Thanks, Suzanne - it certainly is an emotive subject and leaves those it touches feeling very raw. Coming from the UK, I'm learning a lot of new information here, and am very grateful for your comment.

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