Courtesy of Mr. Charles Stross, his rules for writing in cold blood:
Rule 1: Don’t steal from living authors, their ecological niche in the publishing jungle is already occupied. (Alternatively: nobody needs another Robert Jordan.)
Rule 2: Steal from the best. There’s no point stealing from the worst.
Rule 3: If you steal an entire outfit from one writer’s wardrobe, people will mock you for being imitative. So steal from at least two, and mix thoroughly.
Rule 4: When choosing the themes to pilfer, only pick ones that you, personally, find interesting — if you pick something boring you’ll only have yourself to blame if it’s successful and you end up chained to the desk to write more of it for the next decade.
Rule 5: However much you’re stealing, make sure it doesn’t look stolen. Genre publishing is a beauty show, and originality wins prizes (but not too much originality).
Be sure to check out the entire post, which explores these rules in much more detail and explains how he used them to produce the Merchant Princes trilogy, the first volume of which is A FAMILY TRADE. If you can imagine Zelazny’s Amber meets The Godfather, that will give you a basic concept of how he applied this rules in practice.
And if he performs no other service in this life, stopping even one writer from intentionally committing Robert Jordanhood on an unwitting public should qualify him for beautification. At least.