This chain question is my favorite so far. Brought to us by Christine, she asks:
Which author or authors have most influenced your writing and how?
Reading through everyone else's answer has given me a huge list of authors I need to check out. There are some talented writers on this chain, and it's been truly interesting seeing who influenced them.
I was a reader way before I was ever a writer (much like you all, I'm sure). And I can't say that everything I ever read was necessarily good writing. From as early as I can remember, I consumed books by the pound. I remember fun books like the Encyclopedia Brown series. I read alot of sci-fi and fantasy. Piers Anthony was one of the most influential authors for me, with respect to his imagination and creativity. On A Pale Horse is still one of my all time favorites. Of course, his descent into mediocrity with continuing the Xanth crap has been hard to take. Okay, so I abandoned him because of it. Sue me.
Like so many of the rest of you, I have always read Stephen King. There may be one or two books of his I haven't read, but that's about it. He has been a significant influence on me, because I would love to write "creepy" the way he does. In fact, I'd say it's my goal to capture that essence in my writing every time. I love when I get the chills from a truly creepy passage.
Tom Clancy is another influence, probably due to my Army/Military Intelligence background. While I'll be the first to admit he sometimes puts in too much detail, I admire the amount of research it must take to write the way he does. He's another author that I've read almost everything from.
My parents introduced me to alot of things outside my "norm", handing me James Michener books (among others). He is a great storyteller, and his amount of detail is staggering as well. Sometimes he seems to stall the action (compared to today's mainstream authors), but I have always enjoyed it nonetheless. They also gave me Russka by James Rutherford, which I still remember vividly. And my dad let me read through all his Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks. Now granted, he is probably not counted on the greats of literature, but I enjoyed the stories.
And probably the great influence (besides King) was Tolkien. Trudging through The Silmarillion was an adventure all in itself, and understanding the concepts in it was a true challenge. Why was this good? It taught me to NOT write a story that your reader has to struggle through a few times before they understand what you're trying to say. Simplicity can be a good thing sometimes.
Fast forward to today and you'll find my influences are all of you. Reading through excerpts from Cole, Shaun, or Michelle H. help me improve all the time. Elana's sense of humor reminds me to have fun in my writing. The writers of The Literary Lab teach me something new every day. I could go on and on, but I am significantly influenced by each and every one of you as I try to hone my craft. Published or not, you all have something you do well. This may be outside the realm of Christine's requirements (since some of you aren't published authors), but it's worth mentioning anyway. I am also picking up new authors to check out all the time, so my list of influencers continues to grow.
Well, I've rambled long enough on this one, so I'll pass the torch to Michelle H. If you didn't get a chance to read my predecessor Sandra's post, head on over there. And thanks Christine for this really fun and interesting question. It's been awesome reading everyone's answer.