Guest Post (and a Giveaway!): Kathleen Denly & Murmur in the Mud Caves

Posted May 17, 2023 by meezcarrie in Author Interview, Christian, giveaway, historical, Kathleen Denly, romance / 64 Comments

Please join me in welcoming Kathleen Denly to the blog today to share some of the fun – and dangers (yikes!) – of location research for her new historical romance, Murmur in the Mud Caves!

SERIES: Chaparral Hearts #4
GENRE: Inspirational Historical/Western Romance
PUBLISHER: Wild Heart Books
RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2023
PAGES: 342

He came to cook for ranch hands, not three single women.

Gideon Swift, a visually impaired Civil War Veteran, responds to an ad for a ranch cook in the Southern California desert mountains. He wants nothing more than to forget his past and stay in the kitchen where he can do no harm. But when he arrives to find his employer murdered, the ranch turned to ashes, and three young women struggling to survive in the unforgiving Borrego Desert, he must decide whether his presence protects them or places them in greater danger.

Bridget “Biddie” Davidson finally receives word from her older sister who disappeared with their brother and pa eighteen years prior, but the news is not good. Determined to help her family, Biddie sets out for a remote desert ranch with her adopted father and best friend. Nothing she finds there is as she expected, including the man who came to cook for the shambles of a ranch.

When tragedy strikes, the danger threatens not only her plans to help her sister, but her own dreams for the future—with the man who’s stolen her heart.


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The Dangers (And Fun) of Location Research

by Kathleen Denly, author of Murmur in the Mud Caves

Too often, writers have to settle for remote research into the settings of their novels. In February of 2022, I was blessed to be able to devote an entire week to exploring the Eastern desert region of San Diego County. While I was there, I explored several historically significant and geographically unique locations, many of which I have incorporated into the final three novels of my Chaparral Hearts series.

Standing in Arroyo Tapiado at the start of my adventure.

One of the best adventures was had when I explored an area within the Carrizo Badlands known as Arroyo Tapiado (Spanish for “walled wash”). This area is filled with canyons, hills, arches and even caves all formed by mud. As many as twenty-two caves and nine slot canyons have been identified in this area, making it one of the most extensive cave systems in the world. However, these caves are far less stable than others you’ve likely heard about. They were formed when heavy rainfall caused water to flow through a thick deposit of silt and the mud structures change with each storm—sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

This is one of the smaller canyons that fisher off Arroyo Tapiado. The mud isn’t as dry as it looks and, when pressed or stepped on, many areas (especially those shaded from the sun) squished like modeling clay, but with less pliability.

There has been at least one known death and several injuries caused by overestimating the stability of these fascinating and unique structures. If you choose to visit, don’t go alone, avoid the wet season, bring more water than you think you need (the canyons are deceptively long & winding), and use caution if traveling above or below any structures. (Walking on top of caves or along ridges is a very bad idea. The danger is akin to walking on a frozen lake, except you can’t see through to judge its thickness.) If you’re looking specifically for caves, you should also be prepared to search for a while since finding one can be trickier than you might think. Some cave openings appear to be nothing more than cracks, but they can run as long as 1,000 feet and have ceilings as high as 80 feet.

You can’t see it from the middle of Arroyo Tapiado, but there is a cave opening about 30 feet from the start of the trail you see.
This is the opening to the cave mentioned above.

Today, I’d like to share with you some of the highlights from my explorations of the many slot canyons and caves branching off of Arroyo Tapiado in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. You’ll notice I brought two of my children along on the excursion and we each carried everything we might need in case of emergency. We also made sure people knew where we were (updating every one to two hours) and when we planned to leave the area (if they didn’t hear confirmation that we were safely back on the road by then, it was time to worry). We were also very cognizant of the risks and made careful decisions as we went (something you’ll hear us discussing frequently in the videos).

Having two of my sons along made this trip both more fun and more stressful. LOL

Of particular note in these videos, you’ll see slot canyons, mud arches, low mud ledges, and a mud cave. Each of these structures plays a significant role in Murmur in the Mud Caves, book 4 of my Chaparral Hearts series which released May 16, 2023.

Had you heard of Mud Caves before? Would you want to visit them?

PSST! Are you new to my Chaparral Hearts series? If so, you may be happy to know that members of my Kathleen’s Readers’ Club can download a free copy of the prequel novella, Ribbons and Beaus. Click here to join!

Kathleen Denly writes historical romance to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us. Award winning author of the Chaparral Hearts series, she also shares history tidbits, thoughts on writing, books reviews and more at

Website | NewsletterBookBub | Amazon | FB Author Page FB Reader Group | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest

Kathleen Denly is offering the following prize bundle to one of my readers: 1 faux leather bookmark, 1 hand altered pocket journal, 1 Scripture keychain, 1 faux leather cord wrangler, 1 faux leather key wristlet, and 1 ebook copy of Waltz in the Wilderness! (US shipping addresses only for prize as described. International winner must accept a $5 Amazon gift card in lieu of the bookmark, journal, keychain, cord wrangler and wristlet. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

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What about you? What makes you want to read Murmur in the Mud Caves by Kathleen Denly? Had you heard of Mud Caves before? Would you want to visit them?

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64 responses to “Guest Post (and a Giveaway!): Kathleen Denly & Murmur in the Mud Caves

  1. Nancy

    I have never heard of Mud Caves before. They would not be on the top of my list to visit.

  2. Nadine

    I’ve never heard of them but as I will be going to Southern California next year, I’ll put it on my wish list to do/visit.

  3. Jennifer Hibdon

    I had not heard of the Mud Caves! How exciting it must have been for the pioneers to discover them!

    • Kathleen Denly

      What a great thought! It’s fun imagine what their first reactions might have been. 🙂

  4. Anne

    A captivating and memorable historical. A real treasure to enjoy. I had never heard of Mud Caves.

    • Kathleen Denly

      They are a very unique geological feature. I’m not aware of them occurring anywhere else in the world.

    • Kathleen Denly

      Ha ha. I understand the hesitation, but they were very fun to visit, and even more fun to incorporate into my story.

    • Kathleen Denly

      Most people haven’t heard of the mud caves. They are extremely unique. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  5. Roxanne C.

    I had not heard of the Mud Caves before this. I watched all of the videos, but I would never explore them myself. The book is definitely much more “my cup of tea,” though.

    • Kathleen Denly

      Ha ha. Armchair adventures are definitely a safer option. I’m glad you enjoyed the videos!

  6. Sue Parrish

    The book sounds very interesting. I have never heard of the Mud Caves. I am a bit claustrophobic so I don’t think that I would like to visit them.

    • Kathleen Denly

      For some reason, my claustrophobia doesn’t seem to activate in caves. Crowded airplanes are a bigger issue for me. I’m so glad you find the book’s premise interesting. Thanks for reading! 🙂

    • Kathleen Denly

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I hope you do get to read the story. Thanks for visiting. 🙂

  7. Connie Lee

    Murmur in the Mud Caves sounds like a good book, I would love to read it. I’ve never heard of the mud caves before. I don’t think I would want to visit them, I’m not really comfortable being in caves.

    • Kathleen Denly

      Caves are not for everyone. Have you explored any slot canyons? Those can be fun, too. I hope you get a chance to read and enjoy Murmur in the Mud Caves. That is definitely a safe way to “explore” this fascinating geological feature.

    • Kathleen Denly

      I’m glad you are interested in the plot of Murmur in the Mud Caves. I hope you get to read it. Few people have heard of mud caves. Their extremely unique.

    • Kathleen Denly

      Aha! I sense an adventurous heart. You’ll have to let me know if you make it there. 🙂

  8. Jeanna Massman

    I love Historical Romance books and this one sounds great! I’ve never heard of Mud Caves!

  9. Julie Pripps

    I haven’t heard about mud caves. I always like to learn need things while reading!

  10. Jen R

    I have not heard of Mud caves before and yes, I would want to visit. The book sounds fun to read.

  11. Brooke R.

    I had not heard of the Mud Caves before…since I am not sure I would be able to visit in person, I would love to read a story in that setting.

    • Kathleen Denly

      That’s what stories are for, right? It’s also a big part of why I try to incorporate unique locations into my stories. I love letting people have adventures from their armchairs. 🙂 I hope you get a chance to read Murmur in the Mud Caves.

    • Kathleen Denly

      I love reading that! Titles can be so tricky and I always work hard to make sure whatever title we choose makes sense with the story. As a reader, I love that moment when you recognize, “Oh, that’s where the title came from!” and as a writer, I love creating that moment for my readers. 🙂

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