I've always thought of myself as a creative guy. Whenever my friends in the Star Wars novel-reading club schedule a Sunday-night Star Wars viewing party, I like to get into the spirit of things by dressing up in a theme outfit. And, of course, a big part of the excitement is dressing up my pet Cocker Spaniel, Nikto, as a character from the films or expanded universe, too.

The first time we ever did a party at Jerry's house, back when Shadows Of The Empire first came out in hardcover, I got out an old Han Solo Halloween costume. Then, on a last-minute whim, I dressed up Nikto as Leia with a pair of earmuffs and an old white T-shirt. Big hit, believe me!

After that, I guess people just started expecting costumes, and I didn't want to disappoint. So, for the Hard Merchandise party, I went as Lando and made a neat Lobot outfit for Nik. It wasn't perfect; Nik's sleeves weren't as billowy as I'd have liked, and he got pretty grumpy when I tried tucking his ears under the headpiece. But people still laughed plenty when we walked in.

Well, by that point, I'd created a monster: People started showing up to the parties just to see how Nik and I would be dressed! In fact, it soon became clear that my costumes were the main reason behind the swelling ranks of the Star Wars novel-reading club, which recently welcomed its 12th member. And though that was an awesome responsibility, I accepted it.

Perhaps my crowning achievement were the Rogue Planet party costumes. For myself, I created a Jabba outfit out of some sheets of yellow foam that my parents were going to throw away when their sofa was delivered, and I made Nikto a Bib Fortuna ensemble. For Bib's head tentacles, I bought a set of pink children's pajamas, sewed the legs shut and filled them with cotton. Then, I made Bib's robe out of an old winter coat and put long, gross-looking press-on nails on Nik's claws to complete the effect.

That one actually got applause! You should've seen Nik, his nose and only one eye sticking out from this mass of heavy fabric as he loped into Deborah's apartment. Plus, he made these hilarious growling noises that, I swear to God, sounded just like Bib! (I should have trained him to say "Day Wanna Wanga" or something!)

So, for the most recent party, celebrating the release of Vector Prime in paperback, I knew I had to outdo myself. I mean, Vector Prime! If you can't name at least one of the drastic changes that book introduced to the Star Wars continuum, you don't have any business reading this!

So, I figured this was the ideal occasion to trot out my incredible Han-In-Carbonite costume that I'd been making in secret out of a refrigerator box. Needless to say, the perfect complement to me as Frozen Han would be Nik in full Boba Fett armor, "escorting" me in!

Now, you, the inexperienced dog-dresser, are probably thinking that it would be relatively easy to whip up a Boba Fett costume for a Cocker Spaniel. Five to eight hours of work at the most, right? Well, guess again, Chucky.

Where to begin with the problems I encountered? First off, apparently, children's foot-sleepers come in every color of the rainbow except gray, so making the inner flight suit was a major hassle. In the end, I had to get white sleepers and dye them in the bathtub, which practically wiped out all of Friday. The only other thing I managed that day was to make the shoulder blast plates out of margarine-tub lids. That meant Saturday morning would get eaten up making the chest armor.

Now, in my naivete, I thought the helmet would be the easy part. Just make a plaster mold from the 1/2-scale Riddell replica helmet, coat the interior with latex, dry, and paint, right? Well, get this: I found out afterwards that the replica is actually 45 percent scale, not 50! And, man, what a difference five percent makes! The finished product was just too tight on Nik's head. God knows I tried to cram him in there, but it was like trying to put Oola's costume on Harry Knowles. Nik refused to wear the damn helmet, and this was after I'd wasted an hour and a half painting it.

By this point, it's Saturday night, and I don't have the helmet, the centerpiece of any Boba Fett costume. Now, in a pinch, I might've been willing to use my own full-size Don Post helmet, but I knew that whatever helmet I used, I'd have to cut away the back to fit it on Nik's head so that he's looking ahead rather than down. And my helmet is one of only 500 autographed in gold ink by Jeremy Bulloch. So that idea was obviously out–I need to preserve the helmet for my sister's children, and her children's children, to gaze upon.

Needless to say, my only option was to try to get the helmet Big Mel had on display at Forbidden Planet. Yes, the helmet was a bit faded because that moron displays it in the front window, and the targeting rangefinder looked like it was ready to break off at any second, but this was an emergency.

So I sauntered in all cool, trying not to let on just how desperately I needed this helmet. But Big Mel must have had some kind of mind probe working, because in the end, I had to trade him my original vinyl Star Wars Christmas Album, my C-3PO boner card, and my complete Crimson Empire collection.

Well, modifying the helmet didn't take too long, but Nik seemed to have trouble seeing out of the viewplate, and his head sagged a lot, like the helmet was real heavy, even though it was just vinyl. I think Nik might be getting a little old: He was already an adult when I adopted him, and that was way back around the time Dark Force Rising came out.

I'm not saying the costume wasn't a hit, but it definitely could have been better. It took so long to get the helmet together, I had to forget about the wrist gauntlets, and I even had two perfect wristbands set aside to dye maroon for them. Once the helmet was finally modified, all I had time to do was make some Wookiee scalps out of $8 worth of thrift-shop wigs. And that still meant half an hour of braiding before I had to take off like Mars Guo just to get to the party on time.

It was, frankly, the biggest mess since the Bacta War party. I'd had this perfect idea to dress up Nik as R5-D4, but those jerks at KFC wouldn't give me a bucket for the head, so I had to buy a 14-piece bucket, then empty it. So R5-D4 had a grease-stained head that reeked of chicken.

I certainly learned some valuable lessons from the whole experience: Plan everything meticulously, work ahead, and expect the unexpected. My new policy will be to "dry run" all costumes at least a week before the party. That will ensure that Nik's Tusken Raider costume won't be a big disappointment next month (Hero's Trial). I've already got a whole roll of Ace bandages, some used spark plugs, and a pair of jeweler's glasses for the eyes. This is going to be the best one yet!