Durrington writer Derek McMillan, a former English and IT teacher, has published a new children’s story.

The writer of many short stories and four novels, usually focusing on science fiction for young adults, Derek always had an interest in children's literature from his 32-year teaching career and from bringing up his own children.

Space Dog Alfred: An Adventure in Space is a story about a very brave bulldog that helps humans escape from the dangerous new planet they have arrive on. The adventure story follows Alfred as he goes into space with Finbar Cool, a very dodgy street trader and uncle to Tom and Seren, the twins who accompany him. Finn brings his daughter, Abby, along too.

On the planet, there is a group mind which is shared by Gai, who are sentient tree-like creatures, the Veck, who are humans but have mastered unpowered flight, and the people of Ardin who are small but perfectly formed. They worship death.

The group mind is not shared by creatures known as the gnarl, who are warlike and largely live underground.

All the characters are pushed to their limits and discover that they must change the flaws in their own personalities: Abby’s selfishness is holding her back, Seren eventually comes to realise that Abby can change, Tom finds out that he really doesn't know everything, and Finn realises the futility of war. In the end, good triumphs over evil.

The inspiration for the new book came to Derek after he was looking after a French bulldog and discovered just how brave and resourceful they can be.

He says, “I found that a French bulldog is a born warrior and will not take any nonsense from dogs that are larger. Of course, that includes most dogs.

“They have a fighting stance, stiff front legs and hunched shoulders, which tell other dogs what they are up against. A lion is brave, but how often does a lion confront something scarier than itself?”

He noticed the dog had an insight into what he was thinking, which is a concept that played heavily in his story.

Alfred’s bravery and his powers of perception make him into a hero. “Like all French Bulldogs, he has the power to understand what humans (and other creatures) are thinking,” explains Derek.

He says that he got a lot of joy from writing the story, but added, “My greatest joy is sharing my ideas with my wife, Angela, who is also my editor.”

Derek at first struggled to get his story accepted by shops and libraries. "I was knocked back a hundred times with ‘Libraries do not take indie books’, ‘We only take books from our suppliers’ and, most damningly, ‘We will not consider any book that is on sale on Amazon’."

But his persistence was rewarded with a breakthrough in many local libraries. He explains, "They finally agreed to take Space Dog Alfred. One purchaser said it was just the thing her daughter would enjoy."

* Space Dog Alfred by Derek McMillan, priced £3.52, is available from all good bookshops and on Amazon. For Simply Worthing readers who apply, there is a special price of £3 plus postage and packing. Alternatively, it is available for free from libraries, including West Sussex and Brighton and Hove (ISBN number 978-1517351182).