Head Bonk = No ThrillerFest. Damn.

by | Jul 10, 2019 | Gayle Lynds, The Writer's Life | 17 comments

First ThrillerFest, 2006, Scottsdale, AZ

by Gayle Lynds

While many of my author friends are in New York this week enjoying the fun, the books, and the writerly wisdom of ThrillerFest, I’m at home in Maine nursing a bonked head.  In fact, I probably have a mild concussion.  More about that soon.

What do I look like? The deep purple on the right side of my face is resolving into bilious yellow as gravity drags the bruising south toward my jaw and, soon, into my neck.  Oh, yes, I’m not a thing of beauty. No, that’s not me today on the right.  Sigh.

First Thriller awards, 2006

(Left: Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, Phoenix mayor, Gregg Hurwitz, & James Rollins.)

So what happened?  I’m not exactly sure.  It all went down so fast – especially me.  It was about 10:00 pm  and we were leaving the grand July 4th fireworks display overlooking Casco Bay, heading toward the narrow-gauge railroad that would take us back to the parking lot.

The great Lisa Gardner interviewing me, TFest 2010
Me interviewing the fab CJ Box at TFest

We were far from alone … there were tens of thousands of us plowing through the starlit night.  Suddenly there was a herd surge, and I tripped.

My hip (the replacement hip, naturally) went down, my thumb gallantly tried to save me and in the process did a sharp twist into the gravel, and my head landed with a thunk on a railroad tie. 

Those rail ties are hard.

I yelled.  Truthfully, I might’ve screamed.  My head hurt like hell.  Only later did I notice the pain in my hip and thumb.

Long story short, at the Emergency Room I learned nothing was broken – hooray!  But as it turned out, I had a wee bit of memory loss and was unsteady.  Also, I was really pissed off, but trying not to show it. 

I know better than to trip and fall.  Shame on me.  Is that thinking logical?  No.  And irrationality can be a symptom.

It appears I had a slight concussion or mild traumatic brain injury.  The Mayo Clinic and other sources explain they’re caused by “a mild blow to the head, either with or without loss of consciousness, that leads to temporary cognitive symptoms like headache, confusion, lack of coordination, memory loss, irritability, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, ringing in the ears, sleepiness, and excessive fatigue.”

Annual dinner at TFest

(Right: Small annual ThrillerFest dinner, L-R around the table: RL Stine, Steve Berry, MJ Rose, Liz Berry, Lee Child, Jon Land, Kathie Antrim, David Morrell, me, & my husband & collaborator John C Sheldon)

And mild brain injuries are common – more than 3 million people a year have them.  I’m far from alone, which is comforting.

Have you had one, too?  I hope not!

More info that’s hopeful: They’re “usually self-diagnosable and treatable by a medical professional.”  There’s no specific cure for concussion, and you should “consult a doctor for medical advice.” 

Treatment includes giving the brain time to recover by resting and cutting back on fun stuff like exercising, sports, video games, TV, computer screen time, or too much socializing. 

Stay off your cell phone!

Hank Phillippi Ryan, Andrew Grant, & me

Swell.  One of the reasons I love ThrillerFest is, it’s like an aerobic workout of the body, the soul, and the brain, all wrapped up in a cloud of happiness and smiling faces.  Which effervescent activity is why I’m not there this week, and longing for it. 

I’m grateful to my author friends who stepped in to replace me, particularly Rogue Chris Goff who took over teaching my all-day Master Class, which is always a lot of work but such a joy.  And to TFest Exec Director and Rogue KJ Howe who rejiggered our panels, the workshop, and my CraftFest class.

And then there are the meetings I won’t have with my fab literary agent Lisa Erbach Vance, editor Keith Kahla, media folks, and fellow authors like Jeff Ayers, Karna Small Bodman, Kyle Steele, and many many others.  I apologize to those I’m forgetting.  (Symptom, symptom.)

Barry Eisler, David Montgomery, me

The prognosis:  I find that I’m better every day – stronger, better balanced, less nausea, less headache, and better able to control my occasional irritability. 

Once a year I wallow in the blessings of ThrillerFest, a true busman’s holiday.  The photos on this page are just a few of my cherished memories.

Although I won’t attend this time, I’m already planning for next year.  I hope to see you there!

My great friends at the first Rogue TFest panel, 2016. From left, Chris Goff, Francine Mathews, Jamie Freveletti, Karna Small Bodman, KJ Howe, me, S Lee Manning, and Sonja Stone

Have you had a brain injury or know someone who has?   Please leave a comment, and if I don’t respond right away, you’ll know I’m resting.  Good Gayle, good Gayle

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Rogue Women Writers

    Oh Gayle, we will all truly miss you at Thrillerfest — you and David Morrell were the creative geniuses who started our International Thriller Writers organization over a decade ago. Now we have thousands of members all over the world….what an incredible tribute to your efforts. Now, you take care – we Rogues will definitely send you updates and photos. As for concussions, never experienced one (fingers crossed for the future). Best to you for a quick recovery!….Karna Small Bodman

  2. Lisa Black


    The ‘mild’ part of ‘mild traumatic brain injury’ really doesn’t make it sound any better!!!

  3. Debi Huff

    Last October I fell over a broken tile at church. Two black eyes some bleeding where my glasses went into my eyebrow and I am on blood thinners. What fun that was! Just get some rest and you will be as good as new! Hugs! Debi

  4. Robin Burcell

    My goodness! So glad you're on the mend. How scary! As for TBIs, sadly, yes. I've had a few. 3 car accidents, all police work related!

  5. Tammy

    So sorry to have missed out on your teaching in Mastercraftfest. Chris did an amazing job. My daughter has had several concussions. No great solution except they no longer recommend cognitive rest and there is a little bit of evidence for magnesium and fish oil supplements though my daughter will take neither. Do be careful not to bonk your head again any time soon.

  6. Terry

    I'm so sorry for you. I look forward to conferences for the social part as much as for the learning part, and I know that Thrillerfest is dear to you. Even more, I know everyone missed you. Please get well fast and completely. P.S. I don't think I've had a concussion, but about ten years ago I tripped over a hose in Mexico and fell face-first down two concrete steps into a concrete sidewalk. I was in shock, and I think I could easily have been killed. What saved me? My titanium-rimmed glasses. Two big black eyes, but I lived to tell about it.

  7. Jean Jenkins

    Sorry to hear about the TBI, Gayle. I had one thanks to an auto accident years ago. Not at all fun. As mine was resolving, I had a few stop-motion moments. The world went on but my vision froze. So don't be surprised at your body's reaction as it heals. So glad you're on the mend!

  8. Gayle Lynds

    Dear Karna … You are so lovely and supportive, thank you. Yeah, I forgot to put in my blog that David and I are cofounders. It's endlessly sweet to me that ITW and ThrillerFest have gone on to be useful to so many people. Thanks for the memories!

  9. Gayle Lynds

    Yeah, totally, Lisa. But it sure does make me pay attention! 🙂

  10. Gayle Lynds

    OMG, Debi!!!! That's horrible, and almost worse … in CHURCH? There's something really wrong about that. Sending you a big hug…

  11. Gayle Lynds

    I don't even want to think about all of your TBIs. And still, I think about all of the fabulous novels you've written. You are a role model!

  12. Gayle Lynds

    Yes, Chris is one of the best minds around, really knows her stuff, and a great author, too. I'm glad you enjoyed her, Tammy. But mygoodness, I'm so sorry about your daughter. Yes, I understand there are additional problems with recurring concussions. I've had two earlier ones myself, and so know time is the best healer. I take both fish oil and magnesium on a daily basis, as well as other supplements. My best wishes to you and your daughter!

  13. Gayle Lynds

    Wow, Terry, that's something about your titanium-rimmed glasses. Who knew! That's worth putting in a book. Very glad your injuries were worse!

  14. Gayle Lynds

    Thanks for the intel, Jean, and very glad you recovered so fully from your TBI! That's something about your vision freezing. I'll remember that. The brain has so many things it can do to screw us up — and help us! x

  15. Kristine C

    I'm so sorry to hear this, Gayle! I've had 7 concussions in the past 25 years — some from sports (YAY being catapulted 40 ft into the air by 4 hunky ex-football players, doing a flip with a double twist, and falling through the arms of my 'trusty' cheer partners) and some from being a general klutz (a failed living room Super Bowl picnic with a ceiling fan catastrophe). Two have been deemed 'traumatic' and left me with mild lower brain stem swelling. One put me out of work for a week with serious memory loss, nausea/GERD, and crippling sensitivity to any kind of stimulation. To this day, I still have challenges connecting my thoughts to speech, memory loss, and headaches. Future book tours where I have to speak to groups of people should be lots of fun! I can sympathize with the need to stay away from media and lay low. But, please do take care. As I'm sure your Drs have told you, the best cure is rest and the best relief comes from complete peace and quiet. I'll keep you in my thoughts this week!

  16. Gary Kriss

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Gary Kriss

    Posted in a more appropriate place.