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The one question I am asked more than any other is "Who are your influences?"

I even got asked this one time in a creative writing class and told I answered it wrong. Not quite sure what that was all about, but this is the list of all the writers who have influenced me in one way or another, in no particular order.

Nikola Tesla - The electrical wizard who invented AC power, radio, and a myriad of other inventions that make our modern world possible. "But wait, Mike, he wasn't a writer?" No? I point you to his poem, "Fragments of Olympian Gossip." The man truly was a wizard.

Stephen King - A lot of writers don't like him because he writes "popular fiction." Me? I love the guy. They may scoff that his books are far from literary masterpieces, but you know what? The guy can tell a story. The guy sells a bazillion books. He has to be doing something right, yes? His book "The Dead Zone" is the first book I read cover to cover in a single sitting. It remains one of my favorite books ever.

J. Michael Straczynski - He's most known for having created the "Babylon 5" television show, but he's also written movies (Changeling) and a number of short stories and novels. A great story with mystery, he defined the concept of an arc for television. Small clues in Season 1 paid off 5 years later. You can watch it again and again and see that the clues were right there in front of your face and kick yourself for not noticing. I wish so many other writers had his attention to detail.

Robert Harris - I read his book "Fatherland" on a trip to Germany, and found myself actually skipping the opportunity to explore the German countryside to sit in my hotel room and read the last 100 pages of the novel because I had to know how it ends. That's the same passion I want to invoke in my readers. His books are historical but all about intrigue and mystery. Although he's not considered a mystery author, he's my favorite mystery writer.

Scott Sigler - I heard his podcast of "The Rookie" and I was instantly hooked. Horror and science fiction and lots of action and violence and humor. He's also a cool down to earth guy who knows how to connect to his fans. Over a beer, he gave me the best writing advice I ever got, and when I was at my lowest, he sent me an encouraging message to keep going. It's not every day a New York Times bestseller sends you a personal note of encouragement. Yeah, that's why he's on this list.

Orson Scott Card - "But Mike, you write science fiction, but I don't see any science fiction authors here!" I love stories with a twist. You're reading one story, and all of a sudden, the rug gets pulled out from under you and you find you're reading something else - and loving it. Go read "Ender's Game" if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Gregory Benford - He's a physics professor at CalTech. When you read his science fiction stories, they are really amazing, because they are mostly science with a small part of fiction. When you see just how plausible his stuff is, it really makes you think about how the line between fiction and reality can be blurred. On the downside, though, since his stuff is so science heavy, it's hard work to read it.

Timothy Zahn - Sort of on the opposite side of the spectrum from Benford, he's all about fun and thrill in a science fiction setting. He's a science fiction author for people who hate science fiction, because you don't need a PhD to follow the plot. He's like Dan Brown in Space. His "Conquerors" series was the first multi-book series I couldn't put down - and I almost camped out at bookstores waiting for the next release.